Category Archives: Education

School staff crisis forces Revoe nursery to close “until further notice”

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A Blackpool pre-school has been forced to close as staff are needed to cover for Covid-related teacher absences


A Blackpool nursery was forced to close for the week amid an ongoing staff crisis in schools.

The latest data shows 8.6% of teachers and school leaders were absent – and 4.9% were absent because of Covid, up from 3% on 16 December 2021.

Revoe Learning Academy opened for spring term on the fourth of January 2022. Staff absences due to Covid led to nursery staff being redeployed to cover classes in other parts of the school. 16 staff were absent on Monday; 15 were Covid related.

Revoe headteacher, Dayle Harrison

Revoe headteacher, Dayle Harrison

Headteacher, Dayle Harrison, decided to close the nursery for the week beginning 10 January so that other classes could remain open.

Mr Harrison said: “We had to prioritize to ensure safe provision. We made the decision to deploy staff that are healthy and fit for work to enable us to stay open for statutory age children.”

Schools across England have been reporting teaching-staff absences of more than 20% and the government itself is planning for 25% staff-absence rates.

Rates of teacher absence were slightly higher in primary schools than in secondaries, where face masks are now required for pupils in class.

The education secretary says he’s making contingency plans as schools struggle with staff absence.

Revoe nursery is set to reopen on Monday 17th January 2022, but Mr Harrison said it’s impossible to plan as Omicron is transmitting so rapidly.

“We have staff due to return this Friday, but we’re juggling it every day. As soon as one teacher comes back, another goes off.”

He said that closing for the week was fairer to parents, as it allowed them to make short term plans while the nursery is closed.

Laura Potts had considered keeping daughter Lily at their home on Caunce Street as she saw Omicron cases rise over Christmas. But she sent her back to Revoe nursery when term started.

She said Lily misses the routine and is eager to go back and see her friends.

“The school is trying their best to control the spread, and keep as many kids in class as they can.”

She said the same thing happened when the school reopened in September 2021 and had to close due to staffing levels.

“The nursery is a breeding ground for illnesses. I sometimes notice a break where they don’t get ill because they are not picking up bugs from school but as soon as they go back infection rates blow up again.”

National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Paul Whiteman said staff absence in the first week of term was significant and likely to worsen.

“While schools will do everything they can to manage the situation, there is a reality that needs to be acknowledged here.”The staff absences will have a serious impact on schools’ ability to remain open, particularly in primaries, where there is usually one teacher per class.



Devonshire Primary Academy closes pre-school as staff numbers hit hard by Covid-19

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Another Blackpool pre-school has been forced to close due as staff numbers have been hit hard by Covid-19.


Devonshire Primary Academy

Devonshire Primary Academy

Devonshire Primary Academy on Devonshire Road, closed its pre-school last week just one week after it reopened following the holidays.

In a newsletter sent to parents and guardians, head teacher Daniel Simm said: “Unfortunately, this week we have had to close our pre-school. This very difficult decision was taken due to a number of pre-school staff testing positive for Covid-19. ”

The pre-school is expected to reopen on Wednesday, January 19, with lessons continuing online until then.

Mr Simm said: “The school is under an increasing amount of pressure with regard to staffing and continues to be so. Please be assured that we will always do our very best to remain open to all of our pupils and to continue to provide the very best education that we can. This week we have resumed our ‘Wake Up and Shake Up’ sessions in the hall prior to school. We have done so in a safe way and we have had to reduce the number of children and groups involved.”

The pre-school is the second in Blackpool to be placed in lockdown due to increasing staff absences due to Covid-19.

Revoe Learning Academy’s pre-school closed on January 10 after a lack of teachers led to nursery staff being redeployed to cover classes in other parts of the school. Some 16 members of staff were absent on Monday, January 10, with 15 being Covid-related.

Head teacher Dayle Harrison said: “We had to prioritize to ensure safe provision. We made the decision to deploy staff that are healthy and fit for work to enable us to stay open for statutory age children.”

Recent data published by the Department for Education has revealed that 8.6 per cent of teachers and school leaders were absent during the first week of the 2022 term, and 4.9 per cent were absent because of Covid-19.

This marked a three per cent increase since December.

Meanwhile, 315,000 (3.9 per cent) pupils were absent for Covid-related reasons, up 14,000 on the end of last term.



Amazing defibrillator fundraisers hand over latest device to Fleetwood school – their tenth in just six months

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A Fleetwood primary school is the latest location to be included in an impressive campaign to provide lifesaving defibrillators across the community.

Sharon Cliff (left), acting head of Larkholme Primary School, with school parent Helen Crane (centre), Debbie Atkinson, chairman of governors and two pupils, as Helen presents a defibrillator to the school.

Sharon Cliff (left), acting head of Larkholme Primary School, with school parent Helen Crane (centre), Debbie Atkinson, chairman of governors and two pupils, as Helen presents a defibrillator to the school.

Since last July, Fleetwood women Helen Crane and Gill Gallagher, supported by pal Debbie Atkinson, have raised enough funds to have no less than 10 defibrillators installed at various locations around the town.

Already one of these devices has been used in a serious health incident in the town.

A defibrillator gives an electric shock to the heart of someone suffering a cardiac arrest and can help save their life, especially as the first few minutes after the attack can be vital.

The latest device was presented to Larkholme Primary School, on Windermere Avenue in Fleetwood, but the the school says it has been registered with the ambulance service and can also be used to help people in the area, not just the school itself.

So successful has the women’s campaign been that they are now busy fundraising to obtain some defibrillators for Poulton as well.

Rebecca Sims, deputy headteacher at Larkholme Primary School, said: “We were delighted to receive a defibrillator from these amazing ladies.

“Mrs Crane is one of our school parents and Mrs Atkinson is our chairman of governors and this will benefit not only our school but the surrounding community.

“When there is an emergency incident involving someone having a heart attack, the ambulance service will direct the caller to the nearest registered defibrillator.

“We have trained First Aiders in the school who know how to quickly use the defibrillator and it also works well with our curriculum – the pupils know about the importance of the defibrillator and parents waiting outside school know we have it here too.”

Helen Crane and Gill Gallagher originally only wanted to raise funds for just one defibrillator close to Fleetwood’s boating and model yacht lakes.

The pair knew the area, close to where Gill runs Dolly’s Beach Kiosk on The Esplanade, was particularly busy in summer, yet the nearest defibrillators were too far away in the event of an emergency.

They were prompted to raise money when an elderly visitor fell ill and was wrongly thought to be having a heart attack.

They set the target of raising £1,600 via online raffles on their Facebook pages – but they ended up raising more than needed and just kept going with their amazing campaign.


Lottery grant joy for Blackpool park

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A Blackpool park has clinched a National Lottery grant of almost £10,000 which will be used to install wheelchair-friendly play equipment.

The funding has been awarded to the Friends of East Pines Park in Anchorsholme, where work will begin this spring on the third phase of redevelopment.

The money will be used to install a wheelchair-friendly roundabout which will be the playground’s first wheelchair-friendly piece of equipment.

Phase three of investment will also see the playground railings painted blue and tangerine by volunteers to make it an even more inviting space.

The playground at East Pines Park

The playground at East Pines Park

Chairman of the Friends of East Pines Park Coun Paul Galley said: “We are so grateful to the Lottery for backing us with this project.

“The roundabout will make our playground and park a place for children of all physical abilities to feel valued and most of all enjoy. This in turn will allow more families to enjoy the benefits of being in a great green space.”

The previous two phases of work have included the installation of a new play ship, swings, slide and new tarmac surfacing including a world map.

The friends group has raised more than £75,000 for the three phases since 2015 as part of a wider £150,000 raised for the rest of the park in that time.

Funding has included a £4,000 grant from the Swallowdale Children’s Trust as part of a community competition run by The Gazette.

Two years ago a grant of £16,000 was also received from an anonymous benefactor to install the new slide and safety surface and resurface the base of the playground.

Anyone interested in volunteering to join the painting team at the playground can contact Coun Galley on 07904 12161 or email


Blackpool school chosen for books donation thanks to literacy campaign

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Pupils at a Blackpool primary school are delving into new books thanks to a donation as part of a literacy campaign.

Westminster Primary Academy was among 37 schools in the country to receive a donation of books from a campaign led by Business in the Community (BITC), the Prince’s Responsible Business Network.

In total, 15,000 children’s books worth £100,000 were donated across the schools.

Roger Farley, headteacher at Westminster Primary School, Blackpool, with pupils and their new books

Roger Farley, headteacher at Westminster Primary School, Blackpool, with pupils and their new books

Roger Farley, headteacher at Westminster Primary Academy on Westminster Road, said: “The children at Westminster are thrilled to receive these books.

“Gifting of books is becoming increasingly rare which is such a shame.

“Who can forget the smell of a new book? There is a special thrill about being the first person to open and read a book.

“The crack of the spine as the cover unfolds and the crispness of each, perfect page.

“That’s before you get lost in the wonderful worlds that are created within the covers.

“Many of our children will not have experienced this excitement and we are very grateful that we can provide every child at Westminster with a book to read and enjoy. Thank you to

everyone who donated to make this possible.”

Given by Miles Kelly Publishing and partially funded by Literacy Capital through BITC’s partnership with Bookmark Reading Charity, the donated books range from fiction to non-fiction.

Baroness Jo Valentine, director of Place at Business in the Community, said: “It’s in BITC’s DNA to support transforming communities that are at risk of being forgotten and what better way

to do that than to help children improve their literacy skills.

“Leaving primary school without fundamental reading skills can have a long-term impact on a child’s future prospects, and it is a fact we cannot ignore.

“By arranging for these books to be distributed, we aim to improve the literacy of students, and give these young pupils a chance for a better future.”


Hydrogen fuel cars power lessons on skills of future

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Lancashire schools are being urged to take part in a scheme to get pupils ready for local careers in the green energy market by building model cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells.


The free lessons are the first in a series of ‘in-a-box’ activities designed and funded by Future U and are designed to inspire students to take an interest in careers in the energy and low carbon sector when they finish school.

Schools can apply for the boxes to be delivered free containing a self-assembly model car with a fuel cell that produces hydrogen from water to power the car motor.

The box also includes a lesson plan on low carbon energy sources of the future, plus details of careers available and the education paths available to land a job in the growing sector.

Oliver Norris of Future U testing one of the Hydrogen fuel cell cars

Oliver Norris of Future U testing one of the Hydrogen fuel cell cars

Other boxes in the series will include advanced manufacturing, where students will learn the basics of building jet planes on a limited budget, plus lessons focusing on digital skills, food and agriculture, health, tourism and culture.

Energy and low carbon makes up one of the six industrial sectors identified by the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership as ‘Pillars of Growth’ where the local jobs of the future will be focused, with students being trained up and encouraged to explore career paths to secure jobs in the industries.

Andy Foulds at Future U said: “These identikit boxes are a full careers lesson for teachers and get students to think about future careers in sectors which we know will grow and require local workers very soon.

“It also allows student to get excited about what the low carbon agenda can offer Lancashire and the opportunities that come with that. Hopefully colleges can use these kits to get children thinking about their next move after school and pursuing a quality career in the green energy sector.”

Future U works across Lancashire to increase career and higher education aspirations for young people and encourage teenagers to think about studying at university and their career aspirations.

Since the start of the project in 2017, Future U has delivered over 1,100 careers activities across 70 schools and colleges in the area.

It involves institutions and organisations across the county including University of Central Lancashire, Lancaster University, Edge Hill University and the University of Cumbria. Its list of partners include: Blackburn College, Blackpool Sixth Form College, Blackpool and the Fylde College.



Anchorsholme Academy teacher launches new book to teach children about the environment

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A teacher at Anchorsholme Academy has launched a new children’s book, to teach kids how to improve the environment.

‘What’s Wrong with Mrs. Earth?’ was independently released by Catherine Powell, a Year 2 teacher at the Thornton-Cleveleys school, on December 15th. The story is based around the character of Mrs Earth, who falls ill due to the state of the world, and needs everyone to come together to help make her better. The book is aimed at children aged three to eight years-old and gives plenty of useful tips on how to help the environment.

Catherine was inspired to write her first book after the Cop26 conference last year. After the feedback she received from Mrs. Earth story, Catherine has plans to release even more children’s books based on helping children cope with the feeling of loss.

“I got started on October Half Term. I have always wanted to write a children’s book, but it was Global Climate Change week in October and with the Cop26 stuff going on as well. And I thought the children don’t really know that much about it. So being inspired by the likes of Julia Donaldson, writing in rhyme, I thought it would be an easy way for kids to understand hard topics.

Catherine Powell

Catherine Powell

“I want to teach kids more ethical, taboo kinds of topics, on a level that they will understand. So for my next one, I have written it already, and in a couple of months it is coming out. It is about grief, bereavement and loss. Then stuff like bullying, peer pressure, poverty and families that come in different shapes of sizes, homophobia and stuff like that.”

If you wish to purchase ‘What’s Wrong with Mrs. Earth?’ by Catherine Powell, click here.



Boy, six, scarred for life by bully who ‘split his ear in half’ – but school says it cannot exclude her

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A six-year-old Cleveleys boy whose ear was split open by a bully who chased him down and threw him into a bench has been forced to continue to share a school with his attacker, as teachers say they cannot exclude her.


Freddie Hughes was seriously injured by another pupil at Anchorsholme Primary Academy on November 22, when it is alleged she ‘hunted him down’ during playtime and ‘took a grab at him’ before pulling him and causing him to fall into the picnic bench.

He was rushed to hospital and had to have emergency surgery to repair his right ear, which was split open in the attack.

Horrified, his mum Sian complained to the school – but was told that the girl who injured her son would not be excluded from classes, as ‘the intention was not to cause such a severe injury’.

Freddie Hughes and mum Sian

Freddie Hughes and mum Sian

She said: “Freddie is paying every price, while the child who hurt him remains in the classroom. I strongly feel like she has just gotten away with it because of her age. But she’s clearly capable of causing such a serious injury; there has got to be some sort of repercussion for that.

“I don’t believe she should be at that school at all. Not only has she put my son in the hospital, but he had to have surgery. His ear was practically split in half – it went through the cartilage. There was so much blood we couldn’t see where it was coming from.

“I don’t feel like this is the end of things. From what I’ve been told by other parents, the girl’s behaviour is no better than before, and I don’t think this will be the last instance of violence from her.

“Freddie was simply her target for that day, and she has caused these horrific injuries, and I don’t believe she won’t do it again.”

Freddie in hospital

Freddie in hospital

Freddie was forced to miss three weeks of school while he recovered from the attack, and only recently went back.

Following the incident, Sian, 32, said the girl received a week-long suspension, but returned to the school long before Freddie was well enough to return – and has allegedly returned to her bullying ways.

Freddie was not known to be one of her regular victims, but he had told his mum that she had called him names and scribbled on his work in the past.

“This could have happened at any school,” Sian, who lives on North Drive, said. “I’m not slating the school or the head teacher at all; it’s a situation any school could have been put in. But surely for something like this, there should be stricter rules in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Freddie needed surgery to repair his ear

Freddie needed surgery to repair his ear

“Understandably there were a lot of tears when I arrived at the school. Freddie was very distressed. Other than that, I’m in awe of him and how brave he has been. He hasn’t complained – but over the past week he’s started calling out in his sleep, shouting ‘no’ or ‘help’, and he’ll wake up sweating.

“As a mum, I feel like my job is to protect him, and I wasn’t able to do that Now I feel like I have to do everything possible to get him some form of justice.

“She has done this to him, and yet everything seems to be about protecting her, not him. Everything seems to be about her – but what about my son? What is being done to protect him?”

She added that she had reported what happened to police, who promised to visit the school – but no such visit was made, and officers are now ignoring her calls.

Due to the girl’s age, she cannot be held criminally responsible for her actions and so the matter was left with the school.

“I would like to see her parents own up to what she has done,” she said. “If we can’t hold her accountable for her actions, why can’t we hold her parents accountable?

A petition called ‘Justice for Freddie’, urging Anchorsholme Academy to take further action, has been signed more than 400 times.

Graeme Dow, head teacher at Anchorsholme Academy, said: “We are all saddened that a pupil has received an injury while at school and have continued to offer him and his family support.

“An investigation was carried out by the school in consultation with Blackpool Council and the Sea View Trust to ascertain the cause of the injury. The investigation concluded that the intention of the pull was not to cause such a severe injury. As such appropriate consequences were put into place in response to the incident.

“School will continue to monitor both children involved and give the necessary guidance and support as required.”



Blackpool Sixth Form College teacher named one of the UK’s best personal finance teachers

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Online investment company reveals the winners, as chosen by personal finance experts.


Danny-Topping (left) has won the prestigious national award, pictured with Charles-Randell of the Financial Conduct Authority.

Danny-Topping (left) has won the prestigious national award, pictured with Charles-Randell of the Financial Conduct Authority.

A Blackpool teacher has been announced as one of the winners of the Personal Finance Teacher of the Year Awards, a national competition judged by leading figures in finance.

Danny Topping, who teaches at The Blackpool Sixth Form College, won the ‘Ambassador award’ in the competition, which was organsied by Interactive Investor, the UK’s second largest ‘DIY’ investment platform.

The competition was set up to recognise teachers across the key stages who have actively sought to instil good financial know-how among their pupils, awarding cash prizes to winning schools to help fund their efforts.

Danny has received £5000 for The Blackpool Sixth Form College by winning the ‘Ambassador award’, a new category this year which recognises teachers who create and provide resources on financial education for other teachers to adapt and use in their classrooms.

A business and finance tutor by trade, Danny has developed courses on financial education aimed at providing teachers with a set of high-quality resources that require minimal planning, while still bringing the subject to life for their students.

His attempts to ‘jazz up’ existing courses on financial education led him to create more task focussed lessons for his students in 2018, which Danny later made available for purchase after receiving enquiries from teachers, and he says his his resources have now been acquired by over 50 schools and colleges around the UK.

Danny said: “It’s great to receive the recognition for the work that I’ve put in developing my resources over the past few years. It has taken many hours during evenings and weekends, but it has been well worth it.

“I am passionate about helping young people develop their personal finance knowledge – a valuable life skill – especially the dangers of getting into unnecessary debt. I get a real buzz knowing that teachers at schools and colleges around the country are using my resources to help their students.

“I am very grateful for the cash prize for our college – an unexpected and pleasant surprise! I look forward to developing and promoting the subject further.”

This year, there were cash prizes for seven schools, with the winning teachers and ambassador each receiving £5,000 for their schools, while the schools of the runners up receive £3,000, and the highly commended teachers, £2,500.

Interactive Investor say that they are particular proud to announce the winners of the Personal Finance Teacher of the Year Awards 2021 as it as a time when the cost-of-living crisis has brought the importance of financial literacy into sharp focus.

One of the judges of the competition, Richard Wilson, CEO of Interactive Investor, said: “We have much admiration for teachers, whose hard work and inspiration makes a difference every single day.

“This year’s winners have raised the bar on previous years’ entries, having delivered the highest quality financial education we have seen. We’re delighted to see how they inspire children to learn about money with such fun and engaging lessons. And we were impressed by the dedication of those teachers who were championing the financial education mission not only in their own schools but in other schools in their areas.

“Financial education from a young age is so important – to help forge a healthy relationship with money from the beginning. Congratulations to all our winners.”

The others judges were Guy Rigden, Chief Executive of charity MyBnk; Dominic Vallier, Head of Financial Education Relationship Managers at the London Institute of Banking and Finance; Russell Winnard, Director of Programmes and Services at Young Enterprise; Jeff Prestridge, Personal Finance Editor of the Mail on Sunday; Claer Barrett, Consumer Editor, Financial Times; and Moira O’Neill, Head of Personal Finance, Interactive Investor.



Unity Academy pupil accomplishes seemingly impossible task to treat every child at this school this Christmas

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A Year Six pupil at Unity Academy has undergone a challenge so mammoth it’s hard to imagine anyone else his age completing.


Year Six pupil at Blackpool's Unity Academy, Lynden Anderson, and the school's headteacher Stephen Cooke (Picture: Unity Academy)

Year Six pupil at Blackpool’s Unity Academy, Lynden Anderson, and the school’s headteacher Stephen Cooke (Picture: Unity Academy)

It was surely harder than climbing Everest, tackling 10 marathons in three days, or climbing the Three Peaks while dressed as a fire extinguisher.

Plucky Lynden Anderson actually – and this is no April Fool’s Day prank – gave up all his electronic devices for a full 30 days!

Deputy headteacher Beth Latham said the feat came as youngsters at the North Shore primary and secondary school, in Warbreck Hill Road, thought about how to support others.

“[Lynden] has undergone this tricky challenge to ensure that he raised enough money to buy treats for every child in school so they all receive a Christmas surprise,” she said.

Unity’s children also took part in a Christmas jumper day and Elf Run to raise money for Save the Children; and Brian House Children’s Hospice, in Low Moor Road, Bispham.

With a school carol service impossible this year, pupils also recorded their own festive album, which has a song or poem from each class and is available to listen to on the school’s website here.

Focus is on Blackpool’s neediest children – including free visits to Santa

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Support aimed at improving the lives of Blackpool’s most vulnerable children is being focused on the resort’s most deprived areas, a new report says.


Blackpool Better Start has produced an action plan to monitor how its programmes are focusing on the poorest parts of the town.

It comes in response to criticism earlier this year over the way resources had been targetted .

A council scrutiny report of the £45m Lottery funded scheme warned in June some vulnerable families might be missing out on help.

Better Start's community connectors transformed themselves into 'elves' as they offered support to families

Better Start’s community connectors transformed themselves into ‘elves’ as they offered support to families

It revealed more than half of those benefitting from the 10-year project lived outside the seven wards originally identified “to exclusively be in receipt of funded intervention.”

When Better Start was launched in 2015, its aim was to target funding in the seven wards of Bloomfield, Brunswick, Claremont, Clifton, Park, Talbot and Victoria where families were in most need.

A Better Start action plan presented to members of the council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee said the way funding was distributed throughout the town was being monitored.

It also said key services were being delivered exclusively in the seven Better Start wards including support given as part of a baby feeding programme, and the community connectors scheme .
Jersey-Hope meeting Santa at a Better Start festive grotto

Jersey-Hope meeting Santa at a Better Start festive grotto

Around three quarters of participants in a project to protect babies from the threat of domestic abuse also live in the Better Start wards, while funding for Family Nurse Partnership is only for mothers in those wards.

The action plan adds: “The access to services is closely monitored to ensure those with the highest need are receiving the support they need.”

Blackpool Better Start has helped more than 160 children aged under four to enjoy free festive grottos in December.

The mobile Santa visited Revoe Family Hub, Mereside Freedom Church and @The Grange with story telling, crafts and a free book from Santa.

Better Start ‘elves’, made up from the community connectors team, were on-hand to chat with families about organisations which can help with issues of food and fuel poverty.

Clare Law, director for the Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development, said: “We knew lots of families in Blackpool may struggle to pay £10 to £15 to see Father Christmas this year and this can put a lot of pressure on parents.

“We hoped that by providing our community with a free Better Start grotto, we could give local children a magical experience they will remember for a long time.”

Jayde Cunliffe, who took her two-year old daughter Jersey-Hope to the Mereside grotto, said: “Jersey-Hope had such good fun and it was made magical by all the team interacting with all the children so nobody felt left out.

“It really was like a Christmas Wonderland and Santa made it special by not rushing anyone. It was an amazing experience for her and the lengths all the staff went to to provide this for free to the children in the community was fantastic.”

More information is available on at



Blackpool school so good people move to the resort from across the UK

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

“It’s a fantastic achievement,” says the headteacher of Highfurlong School in Blackpool


School business leader Lisa Tuckman, teaching assistant April Blunt, headteacher Neill Oldham, school governor Susan Strother, teacher Shelby Mercer and assistant headteacher Jasmine Short (pictured from left to right) of Highfurlong School, Blackpool, with the School of the Year award in London
School business leader Lisa Tuckman, teaching assistant April Blunt, headteacher Neill Oldham, school governor Susan Strother, teacher Shelby Mercer and assistant headteacher Jasmine Short (pictured from left to right) of Highfurlong School, Blackpool, with the School of the Year award in London

A Blackpool special needs school has been crowned School of the Year in a prestigious, national awards ceremony.

Highfurlong School in Blackpool scooped the top spot in the government-backed National Schools Awards prize which took place on Wednesday (December 8) at the House of Lords.

Staff and pupils at the school, which has also been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted on four occasions, are delighted with the accolade.

Headteacher Neill Oldham said the achievement had ‘not sunk in’ and said pupils, families and staff were thrilled with it.

The school, which currently has 112 pupils on roll, stayed open throughout the lockdowns, he said, paying tribute to the dedication and hard work of staff.

He said: “It’s a fantastic achievement. The fact that we have had such national attention for our work and that we have won this is amazing. Not only is it a lift for us as a school, but also for the families and for the parents of these children who have complex needs, who have struggled through the last 18 months.

“And for the North West winning something like this is massive – it’s incredible for the area.”

He said staff had worked continuously throughout the last 18 months, with the school being a demonstrator for the Department of Education on special needs, and being based on an inclusive family ethos.

He added: “We do so much work nationally, it’s all built around an inclusive family ethos.

“We have gone from 51 children on roll in 2018 to 112, and now the demand for what we offer children and families is enormous. We get three or four more requests every week for our provision. There are parents who have moved to Blackpool to try and get their children into this school from all over the country.

“To get this kind of national award is really the icing on the cake.”

Highlighting how the school had risen to the challenges of the pandemic, he said the school had stayed open throughout the lockdowns, with the school taking on additional duties such as community visits, becoming a hub for a food bank and providing an equipment bank and training to support families with remote learning.

He added: “We have had to manage all the additional rigour and routines to keep everyone safe as well as carrying on teaching them and making everyday count for them. It has been a pressure point, and the staff have been in every day.

“It’s just been a demand on everybody’s time that’s unprecedented – but everybody just gets on with it and comes through it, and knows that they’re doing it for the children and their families.

“It’s really hard to describe, but it’s amazing.”

Adding how staff from the school had received their award at the same time as Wednesday’s national briefing, he said: “We were in one room in the House of Lords and Boris was in another room in the same building. It was all happening whilst we were in the awards ceremony, so it’s a nice story at the other side of that.”

He added: “We will need to grow in the near future to meet demand, because there are more and more children with complex needs coming into the system, who want and deserve what we offer.”



Free books for hundreds of Blackpool children

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Schools across the resort to receive books ahead of Christmas


Thousands of free books are to be given to children across Blackpool this Christmas

Get Blackpool Reading is gifting 5,000 books to children at 24 primary schools this Christmas.

The books will be served up with fun literacy activities as part of festive school dinners – provided by Blackpool Council Catering Service – to inspire children to continue reading over the Christmas holidays and beyond.

Pupils at St Kentigern’s Primary School, in Blackpool, with their free books courtesy of Get Blackpool Reading

Pupils at St Kentigern’s Primary School, in Blackpool, with their free books courtesy of Get Blackpool Reading

St Kentigern’s Catholic Primary School was one of the first schools to take part in the project which is part of a campaign from the National Literacy Trust, Blackpool Opportunity Area and Blackpool Council,

Headteacher Frances Wygladala said: “The books look amazing! Thank you so much, what a difference they will make to our children”.

The books were donated by publisher HarperCollins and include Grandpa Christmas by Michael Morpurgo, The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, Paddington and the Christmas Surprise by Michael Bond, and Father Christmas Heard a Parp by Olaf Falafel.

Blackpool Library Service is also supporting the initiative by providing schools with a festive video reading of The Elves and the Shoemaker delivered by library staff to entertain pupils and encourage them to visit their local library during the school break.

Pupils at St Kentigern’s Primary School, in Blackpool, with their free books courtesy of Get Blackpool Reading

Pupils at St Kentigern’s Primary School, in Blackpool, with their free books courtesy of Get Blackpool Reading

Stephanie Wood, manager of Get Blackpool Reading, said: “We are delighted to be working with Blackpool Council to give local children the gift of reading this festive season.

“Pupils’ Christmas school lunches will be served with extra special trimmings this year as we know that children who have books of their own enjoy reading more, do better at school and are happier.

“We wish everyone in Blackpool a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and encourage all to borrow, buy or gift a book to start their own reading adventure this festive season and beyond.”

Coun Jim Hobson, Blackpool Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Care and Schools, said: “This initiative is an excellent way to share the joy of reading and to encourage children in Blackpool to keep reading during the Christmas holidays.

Pupils at St Kentigern’s Primary School, in Blackpool, with their free books courtesy of Get Blackpool Reading

Pupils at St Kentigern’s Primary School, in Blackpool, with their free books courtesy of Get Blackpool Reading

“Books bring families together and so with Christmas classics such as Grandpa Christmas and The Night Before Christmas, children can enjoy reading with their parents or older siblings and get into the festive spirit.

“Our Blackpool 30 reading challenge encourages everyone in Blackpool to read for 30 minutes a day for pleasure. We want people to discover the joy of reading, which is why we’re asking families to take part in our challenge.”

Find out more about Get Blackpool Reading by visiting or




Bispham primary school shuts early for Christmas due to suspected norovirus outbreak

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A Bispham primary school has announced a last-minute closure due to a suspected outbreak of norovirus – just a few days after a secondary school closed its doors in similar circumstances.


Bispham Endowed Primary School will close early today (December 16) due to the infectious virus, which causes sickness and diarrhea, and will not reopen until after the Christmas holidays, on January 4.

The last day of term was supposed to take place tomorrow – with some children missing out on Christmas parties and a visit from Father Christmas as a result.

In a letter to parents and guardians sent out today, head teacher Michelle Warburton said: “School has been advised to close early today as we have a high percentage of absence due to sickness. This sickness may be norovirus and to reduce the risk of possible transmission school will close today to enable a deep clean to take place.

Bispham Endowed Primary School

Bispham Endowed Primary School

“Please collect your child from their usual door as soon as possible.

“This was not the end of term that we envisaged for the children as some were yet to have Christmas parties and a visit from Santa, however the safety of our children must come first. Reducing the transmission over the Christmas period is our priority to try to keep everyone well and safe.”

On November 30, South Shore Academy on St Anne’s Road announced a three day closure due to an outbreak of ‘highly infectious’ norovirus.

Children who had suffered from sickness and diarrhoea were instructed not to return to school until 48 hours after their symptoms had disappeared, and they had received a negative PCR test result.



Blackpool apprentice wins gold in the ‘Skills Olympics’

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A Blackpool apprentice in the automotive sector has struck gold in a top national skills competition.


Ryan Lowrey, works for the Blackpool based Vella Group and who studies at Blackpool and Fylde College picked up the top award in the World Skills UK Competition finals held across the UK.

Ryan was one of six young Lancashire trainees who undertook months of intensive training and who were revealed by TV journalist, Steph McGovern, in a live podcast.

The event, known as the Skills Olympics, supports young people across the world via competition based training, assessment and benchmarking, with members’ national teams ultimately testing their ability to achieve world-class standards in the biennial Skills Olympics.

Ryan Lowery

Ryan Lowery

Colleen Hickson, Head of Apprenticeships at Blackpool and The Fylde College said: “This is a fantastic achievement for both Ryan and The Vella Group. Ryan has shown the dedication and commitment to succeed from day one of his apprenticeship.

“The Vella Group have delivered excellent on the job mentorship and this award highlights the great collaborative partnership between B&FC, employers and their apprentices.

“This partnership with industry experts is essential to provide the technical and professional education needed for young people.

“Well done to all the team who have supported Ryan through his apprenticeship.”

Richard Hutchins, Competitions Manager at the Institute of the Motor Industry, said: “It was utterly awe-inspiring to see the determination and commitment of the IMI Skills Competition entrants in World Skills UK finals.

“Despite lockdowns, reduced opportunities for hands-on learning and the general uncertainty of the pandemic, these young apprentices stepped up and demonstrated their focus.

“With these accolades they can now go on to forge successful careers across the automotive sector.”

The other Lancashire winners were:

Mitchell Proctor (Bricklaying) from Preston College;

Owen Nelson (Electronic Security Systems) at EFT Systems Ltd in Southport;

Jack Talbot (Furniture and Cabinet Making) from Burnley College;

Cameron Barker (Landscaping) who works for Steven Foxcroft Landscapers in Bury;

Sam Dean (Plastering) from Wigan and Leigh College.



Fleetwood school beats rivals to cash for playground

Home | Blackpool Gazette

A Fleetwood primary school is planning a revamp of its playground after winning a North West contest.


Chaucer pupils are celebrating after the school won a funding competition - which means the playground will be revamped

Chaucer pupils are celebrating after the school won a funding competition – which means the playground will be revamped

Chaucer Primary School entered the Rock FM Cash for Kids fundraising competition, hoping to win the £3,000 prize to make playtime extra special.

And the school triumphed in the North West final after raising the most funds – an impressive tally of £2,831.

It means the school now has a grand total of £5,831 to spend on the playground, including exciting playground equipment.

Catherine Lea, Chaucer’s Special Educational Needs (SEN) coordinator, organised the funding bid.

She said: “I spotted something about the competition on Facebook and thought it might be a good way of raising funds for the school.

“We have an old Victorian building and our site is limited for space, with a fairly small playground, so we could do with a way to make more of it.

“After six weeks of fundraising as a school community we found out that we won.

“We are so proud of our children and families for the amazing effort we put in.”

The school thought up some fun ways to raise funds.

Older pupils worked with parents to stage an after-hours movie night at the school, with pizza and popcorn, which raised £450.

Early years youngsters took part in a sponsored ‘scoot’ on scooters and bicycles, which raised an impressive £600.

There were also book sales, cake sales, a grand raffle and many other fundraisers over the six week period.

Now the Chaucer Road school is drawing up plans on how to revamp the playground and is looking at child-safe climbing walls, balancing beams and climbing frames.

Once the plans are finalised, work will get under way next year.



Fleetwood nursery gets positive rating but downgraded from outstanding

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

Toddle Inn could improve, the inspector noted, by strengthening staff interventions during small group experiences


Toddle Inn Nursery in Fleetwood
Toddle Inn Nursery in Fleetwood

A Fleetwood nursery has been given a ‘good’ rating across the board by Ofsted after its latest inspection.

The Toddle-Inn Nursery, on Lofthouse Way, Fleetwood, had previously been given ‘outstanding’ rating after an inspection in 2017.

Inspectors on the latest visit were positive about the nursery, which has 82 youngsters on its roll, and said there were many things it did well, including staff wellbeing and listening to the views of parents.

Although in August, Ofsted was alerted that Toddle Inn needed to improve its fire safety schedule, the watchdog was satisfied that the nursery had taken the appropriate action by the end of that month.

Ofsted issued its latest report after inspectors visited the site in October.

Inspector Charlotte Bowe noted: “The inspiring manager values her whole staff team.

“She prioritises staff’s wellbeing and provides them with access to resources, such as useful relaxation techniques and weekly motivational quotes.

“This contributes towards staff’s positive energy within the nursery.

“Staff undergo regular supervision sessions. They source a wide range of training to extend their good knowledge and skills.

“Partnerships with parents are good. Staff keep parents informed about their children’s learning and progress and share ideas with parents, such as counting everyday items and observing numbers in the environment, to build on children’s mathematical skills at home.

“The well-qualified staff place a sharp emphasis on supporting children’s communication and language development.”

The report said parents reported that staff listened to their views and took on board their aspirations for their child’s future development.

It added: “Overall, staff plan a broad range of fun and challenging experiences for children to engage in, that build on their knowledge and skills.”

Toddle Inn could improve, the inspector noted, by strengthening staff interventions during small group experiences and providing more ways for children to explore freely and lead their own learning.

The inspector stated: “During the small group tasks, staff intervene too often and hold too many discussions about a variety of different aspects.

“This results in children becoming a little overwhelmed and limits their ability to lead their own learning and concentrate fully on what they are doing.”

Toddle Inn did not wish to comment on the latest report.



Blackpool music students’ show was a success

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Deputy mayor said the Blackpool Music School fundraiser was ‘absolutely outstanding’, and raised £500


Students of Blackpool Music School performed their first show in two years after missing out in 2020.

The deputy mayor gave out certificates on the night of the fundraiser, which marked the young artists’ achievements after a challenging year.

Coun Paula Burdess said: “The performances were absolutely outstanding. It was so professional and it showed how much incredible talent our young people have. I encourage them all to keep up their hard work.”

Blackpool music school performers

Blackpool music school performers

John Shaw, head of the academy, said online classes helped students to keep learning during the pandemic, but weren’t perfect. He said: “Some kids really shied away on Zoom. They missed being face to face with a tutor.

Blackpool Music School’s online lessons are a success for students

Students played to 150 people at Stanley Ward Conservative Club.Tickets were limited to allow for social distancing, but raised £500 to help fund the community-focussed music school.

Coun Burdess said: “We should encourage our children to develop their talents in the arts. Not everyone is academic. It made me feel extremely proud to be a part of that event.”



Education secretary ‘truly inspired’ on visit to Blackpool

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi declared himself “truly inspired” after meeting pupils at a Blackpool school to take a first-hand look at how they are benefiting from the Government’s Opportunity Area programme.


The resort is one of 12 areas around the country where a particular focus is being put on ensuring the best opportunities for all.

The scheme was introduced in 2017 and manifests itself at local secondary schools with a particular focus on literacy, numeracy and attendance, with projects such as Get Blackpool Reading.

Along with school management, Mr Zahawi met pupils involved in the programme, which includes 30 minutes being specifically set aside every day for reading for youngsters in the first four years of secondary school.

Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi talks to pupils at St Mary's Catholic Academy.

Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi talks to pupils at St Mary’s Catholic Academy.

Campaign to get Blackpool reading

“I was incredibly impressed by the way the Opportunity Area programme is manifesting itself in Blackpool.

“The investment means that the schools in Blackpool can collaborate and evidence through really robust research where the need is and where the resources best need to go.

“Good literacy opens the way to all other subjects and that evidence gives the teachers and the school leadership to continue on this path, which has already produced figures such as a 32 per cent improvement at Key Stage 3.

St Mary's pupils Karol Korzekwa, Audrey Hulme and Anabel Higgins love the reading sessions

St Mary’s pupils Karol Korzekwa, Audrey Hulme and Anabel Higgins love the reading sessions

“This programme also helped protest education through this enormously difficult time we have been through, with the pandemic, so I want to place on record my thanks to all teachers and support staff for their hard work.”

Mr Zahawi said the current funding for the Opportunity Area programme runs until next summer and the Government is looking at how they take it forward and make the most of the local leadership which has made the most of the current scheme.

An announcement is expected in the coming months, he added.

“The Prime Minister is great believer in developing talent, which of course is spread across the country, whereas opportunity is sadly not,” he said.

The Secretary of State found his visit to Blackpool was 'truly inspiring'

The Secretary of State found his visit to Blackpool was ‘truly inspiring’

“Blackpool was chosen as one of the opportunity ‘cold spots’ and I am delighted to see what a difference it is making here.”

Among the pupils Mr Zahawi met was 14-year-old Karol Korzekwa, who is in his third year on the scheme.

“I love reading and always look forward to the 30 minute session set aside every day,” he said.

“I enjoy drama and I find that the reading helps my confidence as well as my diction.”

Assistant headteacher Becci Jones said: “The Blackpool schools all work together and share ideas on how to make the most of opportunity and it is going so well we are often approached by schools in other areas which are keen to find out more.”

Mr Zahawi was joined in Blackpool by children and families minister Will Quince and further and higher education minister Michelle Donelan, with Mr Quince visiting Highfield Leadership Academy, which has sustained attendance levels of an average of 95.1 per cent through the pandemic, significantly above the national average.

Highfield has been taking part in a project as part of the Opportunity Area called ‘Continuum of Provision’ which focuses on reducing permanent exclusions and moves between schools by understanding the underlying causes of behaviour issues.



Youngsters from a Blackpool youth club paint a picture of sexual harassment – just like a French master

Home | Blackpool Gazette

Young people at Blackpool Boys and Girls Club got out the paints and brushes to follow in the footsteps of a top Paris painter and put abuse in the the frame.


The group have been looking at harassment and abuse at all levels following this year’s special Ofsted report which concluded that such behaviour had become “normalised” in schools up and down the country mainly driven by social media.

Ofsted’s inspectors visited 32 schools and colleges and spoke to more than 900 children and young people about the prevalence of sexual harassment in their lives. They found that 9 in 10 of the girls said that sexist name calling and the sending of unwanted explicit pictures or videos was common.

Schools have since been asked to tackle the issue and Blackpool Boys and Girls Club decided to discuss it with their members too – using a technique of third-party conversations all based around Henri Toulouse-Letrec’s portrait of his favourite sitter Carmen Gaudin.

The painter featured the poor and working class woman Carmen, famed for her bright red hair, in many of his works and later found out she had suffered abuse, mistreatment and sexual harassment at the hands of men in her past – but only after Carmen had plucked up the courage to tell him about it.

The older members of the club went on a trip to Ormside Mill in Cumbria and worked on a project called Carmen’s Dilemma – on whether to speak out about abuse and harassment and he work including the painting they did in the style of Toulouse-Letrec, has been seen by Coun Gillian Campbell, Blackpool Council’s Cabinet Member for Inclusion, Youth and Transience.

Youth worker Dave Blacker said: “It is a difficult subject, but important to talk about it in an appropriate way. We asked them to talk about relationships, how a boy should treat a girl and the other way round for the younger ones and for the older ones we looked at the story of Carmen who was helped by Toulouse-Letrec

“We got them to talk about the issues while creating a piece of art work. We have found that the experience’s of our young people pretty much matches the national picture expressed in the 2021 Ofsted special report.

“We always encourage our young people to talk freely about any issues that might concern them and offer help and support in dealing with them appropriately.”

Youth worker Ashleigh Threlfall said: “One thing that stood out for me was that lots of our young people had a clear understanding of what the project was about from the start to the finish and have each shared their own opinion or experience of what they feel about bullying or peer-on-peer sexual harassment.”

Coun Gillian Campbell said: “It was a pleasure to visit the club and see again for myself the work they are currently doing around feelings. Just like their previous exhibition, ‘The Joker in Me’, their current one ‘Carmen’s Dilemma’ has allowed the young people to open up on paper about their feelings and opinions around subject matters that they may feel uncomfortable talking to others directly about.

“It concerned me deeply the number of young people who admitted that they had been a victim of harmful sexual behaviour, a shocking statistic that we must tackle.

“We need to work with schools and youth groups to help give these young people a voice, so they can tell trusted adults what is happening to them, and get the help and support they deserve. Well done to the Boys and Girls Club in helping their cohort of young people to do so in a safe environment.”