Teacher Talk

Barbara Jones is head of Combe Church of England Primary School, in Witney, Oxfordshire, which came top of the league tables
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The Independent Online

What is the secret of your success?

It's many things. High expectations count. It's good to have experienced teachers who have set themselves high standards and pupils who join in. Having lots of fun while learning and not just sticking to the core curriculum. We go on lots of visits and I've invested in teachers who just teach their subjects throughout the school, in design technology and art, and in music. It's about teaching to our strengths rather than trying to be all things to all people. It helps to have a head teacher who teaches and so knows what's going on in the school.

What do you think of the league tables?

They're just one aspect of things. They are important because they do show parents how a school performs. But they're not enough on their own. You must visit a school and feel the ethos before sending your child there. Look at Ofsted. Look at the curriculum, and ask if it's just the core subjects that they're providing.

How do you explain the fact that 14 of the top 20 schools are faith schools?

It might be partly because they are in middle-class areas. But it's also because church schools have an ethos of sharing and caring, and high standards of work and commitment. We are a very old building and have few facilities, so the church becomes a school hall. This involves us in the church more. It takes us back to the Middle Ages when the local church served many purposes.

Are you in a middle-class area?

Oh yes, although we have the full range of children here. All the local children come to our school. But by and large it's a very leafy, expensive village. Even though they could afford to go to prep schools they don't. They come here instead.

Are you worried about the National Union of Teachers' boycott of SATs?

I was a member of the NUT before I became a head, but we haven't any NUT members in our school so it's not an issue for us. And my children don't get anxious. They take it as another challenge and even look forward to seeing how they will do. The anxiety comes from teachers and parents not from pupils. These tests are just part of ongoing assessment. It's important that they're prepared for the real world. It's competitive out there, it's no good pretending that it's not.