Outstanding Primary School of the Year

18th June 2010 at 01:00

Winner: St Thomas of Canterbury RC Primary, Salford, Greater Manchester

Three years ago, it was in special measures. Now the value-added league tables indicate that St Thomas of Canterbury is the most improved primary in the country.

Situated in a deprived ward in Salford, the school suffers from a high pupil turnover, and its children are over three times more likely than the national average to be eligible for free school meals or to speak English as an additional language.

Yet that has not stopped it from being rated "outstanding" by Ofsted this year. Instead of freezing in the face of its challenges, it has created an ambitious, fun-packed curriculum, giving pupils a lively insight into topics from the Tudors to African tribes and Bollywood dancing.

To help its inventive lessons, the school has knocked down walls to double the size of its classrooms. Even the structure of its terms has been altered: pupils in key stage 2 start the new academic year in June, rather than September, to avoid the summer term "dip".

Dedicated work by its staff has helped transform the teaching of every year group, right down to the early years foundation stage, where days are filled with "meaningful chatter, purposeful play and a sprinkle of glitter".

Judges' verdict: The panel was highly impressed by the innovations St Thomas introduced in challenging circumstances. But what dazzled them even more was that its innovations made a difference - as proven by its dramatic increase in contextual value-added scores between 2006 and 2009. "They've packed a lot in - and have the evidence to show it has worked," the judges said.

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