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From ‘Tig on the Roof’ to ‘Heroes of Maths’ with Chris Dyson – 162

Chris Dyson
Chris Dyson

Chris Dyson is Headteacher of Parklands Primary School in Leeds. Chris loved school himself and always wanted to be a teacher. He worked in Stoke on Trent and York before moving to several different schools in Leeds and helping one of them move from Special Measures to Outstanding. Finally, he became headteacher at Parklands.

How do you build a culture where learning is admired and children are heroes because of their learning?

Chris points out that shouting at kids who are already shouted at for most their lives doesn’t work. When he reached Parklands, staff morale was at rock bottom, there had been many exclusions and 5 heads in the past year and the first thing he did was to ban shouting. He believed in the children, he listened to them.

Incredibly, lunchtime had been banned in order to improve behaviour. Chris asks us to imagine what the afternoons were like without a lunch breaks for the children. The real problem was there was nothing for the children to do at lunchtime, nothing to play with and no structure.

“Tig on the roof was a very popular game before I started.”

Children would climb up onto the roof of the school at lunchtime and chase each other around. As soon as Chris arrived he said that if anyone went on the roof he would call the Police to get them down. Within 20 minutes a child was up on the roof and 5 minutes after that the Police arrived. No-one has been on the roof since.

To combat the lunchtime problems, Chris collected all the children who had been been excluded for behaviour at lunchtimes together and gave them a £10,000 cheque from Pupil Premium money to design their own playground. They invested the money really well in football pitches and basket ball courts. It had a huge impact because the children now wanted to be out playing at lunchtimes.

Was taking hold of behaviour and making sure kids were safe the best thing to do first, before innovating on teaching and learning?

Chris believes 100% that this was the right way round.

“As soon as you get the behaviour right, the children are ready to learn.”

How does Chris create the ‘Maths Heroes’ in his school?

Paul is amazed by the level of maths knowledge and skill in Parklands Primary. Chris says that he has always had a focus on times tables from the moment he started teaching. He started by creating a ‘Times Table Knockout’ competition in his class and then when he became a headteacher he could transfer this to the whole school. He now has weekly competitions with the winners able to sit on ‘winners’ row’.

The children take part in national competitions against secondary age children on times tables and Andy believes that when you understand times tables, maths becomes straightforward.

How important is competition in learning for your school?

Chris is unashamedly keen on competition. He manages the times tables competitions so that the same children don’t win all the time and the culture he has developed means that the children who don’t win are spurred on to win themselves next time.

Are parents involved?

Chris thinks it’s essential to include parents. He is dogged and unrelenting in encouraging parents to come to the assemblies and from a very low baseline he now has 80-90 parents attending regularly. A lot of these parents didn’t have good experiences themselves so Andy believes it’s very important to include them.

Christmas at Parklands

Chris realised that a very small proportion of the children at his school had ever had the chance to go to a Christmas Grotto. He contacted local businesses and managed to give out over 300 presents to children as well as providing over 300 Christmas Dinners on Christmas Eve. One company even arranged for reindeer and a sleigh! This was two years ago. This year they managed to raise over £15,000 worth of gifts in two weeks. This meant they could give away 798 presents and serve the same number of meals – including to children from the local secondary school who turned up as well!

What are the hard decisions for a head today?

Chris says that funding cuts are the most difficult things to deal with. He managed to avoid redundancies through persuading local businesses to do building work for free but the pressure is a huge difficulty.

Chris on Twitter

Parklands Primary School website


3 thoughts on “From ‘Tig on the Roof’ to ‘Heroes of Maths’ with Chris Dyson – 162

  1. After my visit to Parklands last week I left feeling very inspired. The children were such enthusiastic learners. It’s good to know that you can be a supportive, approachable and encouraging head and still achieve fantastic results and a successful school.

  2. I love this idea of the ‘best seat in the house’ I would be eager to attend an assembly and to speak to students to see why exactly they strive to get a seat on the best seat in the house… what is it that makes it so special? What happens at assembly that gives them the motivation to want that seat? I love this idea of parents attending assembly, i just think unfortunately our school assemblies are too boring – notices about whats happening, run down of conduct points good and bad and some messages from the principal, and if you are in year 11 you might be lucky enough to be shown a motivational video (They have prob seen the same video ten times!!!) I am delighted to see that some schools are cashing in and taking full advantage of this assembly time!

  3. I attended Parklands earlier in the year and had a wonderful time. The children are well- motivated, friendly and eager to learn. There is a real sense of fun from the moment you enter the building. Music playing in the corridors, laughing and chatting children (we arrived at break time) and more surprisingly, engaged and cheerful teaching staff. This was no fake atmosphere – this was the best platform for learning that I have ever seen. The speed at which the children, some as young as five, could recount their times tables made my colleague and I gasp, while wondering at own lack of answer!
    We had a fantastic visit and would highly recommend for anyone within the teaching profession to attend!

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