Superb... yet below average

5th December 2003 at 00:00
Pupils at Benson community primary in Birmingham are progressing faster than almost anyone else in the country, thanks to a curriculum that taps into specialist secondary skills.

The progress of children at the 266-pupil school is among the fastest in the country.

More than half of its pupils have English as a second language, but there is no dominant ethnic group.

Chris James, deputy head, says: "We have a lot of children whose parents have arrived fairly recently in the country and want to see their children doing well.

"We are an area where we don't get brilliant results. But we think children have the potential to be successful. We give pupils lots of opportunities to be successful in areas such as arts, drama and science. That keeps self-esteem high and then we bring in as much English and maths as possible."

The need to provide pupils with opportunities to shine in areas not dependent on language - such as arts and PE-prompted the school to employ a secondary PE specialist, Sue Betteridge. She shares responsibility for the Year 4 class with Andrew Sheehan, a secondary science teacher.

In the mornings Mr Sheehan teaches science across the school, while Mrs Betteridge teaches their class maths and English. In the afternoons Mrs Betteridge teaches PE across the school, while Mr Sheehan takes Year 4.

Benson primary is the only non-special school that combines high value-added with below-average raw results. The value-added measure has finally highlighted the scale of its achievement. "Value added is a fairer test than looking at raw data," says Mr James.

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