Westminster primary school that prioritises well-being and is strict on uniform ranked 9th in the UK

By Hannah Neary, Local Democracy Reporter

A Westminster primary school where designer trainers are banned for pupils has been rated one of the best in the UK – with youngsters excelling to be two years ahead in maths.

The strict rules imposed at Hampden Gurney CofE Primary School, on Nutford Place, has led to it being ranked the ninth best state primary school in the UK for 2022 by The Times.

Headteacher Evelyn Chua said she was surprised to find out her school in Westminster had been ranked so highly.

She said she and her staff has built a school culture where the pupils arrive ready for learning and even badly behaved youngsters transferred from other schools soon respond .

She said: “We were very delighted to get the ninth rating.

“The staff were very diligent and we feel that we have provided a very secure learning environment for the children, despite the closures during the pandemic.”

Mrs Chua has been headteacher for more than 20 years and said it took many years of hard work to make Hampden Gurney one of the UK’s best.

She said: “When I took it on, it was a school where no one would want to come.

“The pupil numbers were just failing and the education was failing.

“So I hope I’ve made an impact. It’s one of the loveliest jobs you can have.”

The school has a strict uniform policy. All pupils must wear the same black shoes and if anyone turns up wearing branded trainers their parents are called in to bring the correct footwear.

Mrs Chua said: “We don’t allow trainers simply because I don’t want competition in the school.

“Everyone has the same leather shoes without having parents spend a lot of money and comparing.

“We just want to look like they’ve come to school and they are ready for learning.

“They feel a collective belonging that they are part of something that is worth recognising.”

She added: “If their uniform isn’t right, no one gets away with it.

“Or if someone’s behaviour is not as it should be it is tackled almost immediately.

“We have children who come into school who are very poorly behaved from other schools.

“But once they are in class and they see the rest of the other children with their heads down, getting on with the work and listening to the teachers, they soon conform.”

“Everything is consistent and there are very high expectations.”

While the school takes a no-nonsense approach to its dress code and bad behaviour, few pupils are ever excluded.

Mrs Chua said: “Our exclusion rate is pretty much nil for the last ten years.

“We try not to exclude children. If they misbehave it’s always positive reinforcement.

“It’s not just about getting the academic results. We also make sure that the children’s wellbeing is our prime consideration because if they are happy children you will get everything else from them in the best possible way.”

Mrs Chua said the school was special because pupils were very keen to learn. Staff worked hard to ensure standards did not slip during the pandemic.

She said: “With virtual learning it is almost twice as difficult to get the children engaged.

“We made it quite formal. We told them, ‘We don’t want you in pyjamas or in bed’.

“The children are always wide-eyed and ready to learn.”

Mrs Chua, who teaches maths, said every year group was working two years ahead of the national cirriculum.

She added: “Last year, 75% of our children gained top places in secondary independent schools, even in the pandemic when we were doing virtual learning.”

Mrs Chua said learning outside the classroom was also important.

She said: “Practical experience is a fundamental part of learning.

“The list of places they’ve been is endless. They go to lots of museums and art galleries and places like Greenwich Park, the Imperial War Museum, and Hampton Court.”

Hampden Gurney school pupil Esmail said: “It is a good school because we get work that we like and we do fun activities. We also get to do more challenging work to increase our knowledge.”

Pupil Tobi added: “I love Hampden Gurney because I have a thirst for knowledge and it is excellent at this. It is also a very friendly environment.”

The Times report ranked schools in outcomes on standard assessment tests (SATS) in reading, grammar, punctuation and spelling and maths between 2017 and 2019.



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