How we did it

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
A primary school on a disadvantaged housing estate in north London has reinvented itself by looking to the stars, says its head, Chris Flathers

In December 1999, Grahame Park infants' and Grahame Park junior schools were closed after failing their inspections. The schools were amalgamated and reopened as Orion primary school the following month.

Changing the name gave us a great opportunity to take a fresh approach. We looked at the concept of "recognising the star in everyone" and chose to feature the Orion constellation. We introduced some key practices, taking new educational ideas and putting them across in a way that works for teachers and children. At the centre of it is the "Orion way" - our own way of doing things with positive attitudes.

We set up a behaviour code - a set of six basic points to encourage a positive attitude to work and consideration for other people. It gives the children tools to deal with poor behaviour, saying, "this is the Orion way, how can I achieve it?"

The second key point involved ways of dealing with staff. I found this school challenging at first. So I put myself in their position and asked, "how can I make it work for them?" We set up what we call the "Orion experience"; it's about quality teaching, the experiences you give the children and how you develop your teaching. I tell people, "If you come and teach at this school, you will learn so much, and you will have terrific opportunities."

We call our day the "Orion learning journey", and relate it to the idea of a train trip so it's an easy concept for the children to understand. We travel through, say, literacy, and we can stop our journey and go into a brain gym session; we refresh ourselves with a break, during which the children get up and do a series of short exercises. Teaching and learning have become so much better; the children's attitude to learning is really positive. You go into a class and they're just getting on with it.

In November 2001, an Ofsted inspection classed this school as good. And our SATs results have seen a huge leap: in 2002, our key stage 2 results were 83 per cent in English, 96 per cent in maths and 96 per cent in science.

We interviewed children at the end of last term about what the Orion learning journey is and what they're learning on it. The response was incredibly positive. They loved the fact that learning was a bit more fun than it had been before.

Chris Flathers is head of Orion primary school in the London borough of Barnet. He was talking to Martin Whittaker. Do you have a success story to share?Email:

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