Paul Jackson, Headmaster at Gallions Primary School, talks about Gallion's partnership with Eton College and Penn House.
28 March 2014
(Images courtesy of Gallions Primary School)
I guess you could argue that the partnership began in
early 1999. I stumbled across an advert
for a teaching position in a brand new school.
I applied, was interviewed and got offered a job by the original
Headteacher of Gallions Primary School, Bernadette Thompson. Along with around 8 or 9 other
over-enthusiastic teachers, I was one of the founding members of staff at a
school which had an incredible vision and was all about innovation, creativity,
creative arts, creative thinking.
Bernadette taught us to think differently, to challenge
what was ‘normal’ for schools.
My first real personal connection with Creative Partnerships
came after I re-joined Gallions; having left to take up a deputy post for two
years; from January 2007, I job-shared the headship for 2 years. One of the tasks during this spell was an
application to become a school of creativity.
We were unsuccessful, but I remember a follow-up meeting with Steve
Moffitt and Rebecca Branch from A New Direction, sitting in the Garden of Life
and reflecting on why we were not successful.
We left the meeting with a promise that ‘we must talk again’; ‘there
must be something we can do together’.
Time passed, I took over as full-time head in 2009. I kept sending invitations to Steve and
Rebecca to various events and kept asking them to keep us in mind for any
opportunities that might come up.
Then, out of the blue, the offer to apply to become an
International Change school came about.
We did this, we took six children to Oklahoma with AND for the
World Creativity Forum and the Gallions / AND relationship was struck
up again. On the back of this, and on
many conversations and ‘chance’ meetings at various creative education events,
AND invited me to speak at an event to discuss the concept of the London
On the same programme was Tony Little, Headmaster of Eton
Is it terrible to say that for the life of me, I can’t
remember what Tony said in his presentation?
But we had a brief conversation during the coffee break. Nothing more than an introduction and a
swapping of business cards, and Tony saying, you should come for a visit. I didn’t think much more of it and assumed
that Tony was just being polite.
I took a chance and followed the conversation up with an
e-mail. My initial visit to Eton was
arranged. And following this visit, Tony
came to visit Gallions. What I will
always remember are Tony’s words as he left Gallions following his walk of the
school and time with us, "Inspiring, Paul, very inspiring."
I still didn't think it would really go anywhere. Why would a prestigious organisation like
Eton want to engage with a Primary School that sits at the last stop on the DLR
on an estate that is recognised as one of the 5% most deprived areas in the
But they did. My
relationship with the Housemaster of Penn house, Stuart McPherson has developed
at an astronomical rate. Gallions and
Penn house are now firmly part of each other’s daily life and I feel most
certainly part of each other’s future – not just short-term, but long-term, and
When Stuart and I first spoke, there were a million ideas
in my head, and I think in Stuart’s too.
Because there was nothing to lose – this relationship surely wasn’t
going to last anyway – we went for it, with all our ideas:
experience at Gallions for Eton boys?
children visiting Eton?
for Gallions boys?
helping to fund some of Gallions creative arts provision?
In summer 2013, four Eton boys spent a week each at
Gallions, working with children, participating in events, acting as fantastic
role models. The four boys then returned to
Eton and have built a year-long fundraising campaign for Gallions’ Music
Provision and new Music Centre. These four boys will very soon be helping to select the next set of boys to come on work
experience at Gallions in summer 2014 and so it continues.
In November, the four boys made a presentation to Eton
Parents during the annual St. Andrew’s Day Open day. After the presentation, I had the privilege
to speak to many parents. I was overwhelmed
at how much the parents valued the relationship. How desperate they were for
their sons to be chosen to spend time at Gallions – how they saw the
relationship with us as a life-changing opportunity for their children.
In November 2013, the four boys and Stuart attended a
Philosophy for Children training course led by Gallions.
In March 2014, 31 Year 6 pupils from Gallions spent the
day at Eton, a chance to experience outstanding facilities – a story teller in
the chapel, a session in the Music Tech lab, a group activity in the Art
Penn House are organising a fundraising concert in
January 2015 in aid of the Gallions Music Programme. Penn House will be sponsoring a creative
writing annual award for Year 6 children at Gallions.
We are at the very start of a very exciting journey,
there is so much still to come in this partnership. It’s the partnership that will help us to not
only realise the Gallions vision, but ensure that the vision becomes
sustainable - the partnership that we’ve
been waiting for ever since 1999.
Many schools would have given up on the A New Direction
relationship, might not have been brave enough to even have the cup of coffee
with the Eton headmaster, but what time at Gallions, Bernadette and Oklahoma
have taught me is that we have to be brave, to be innovative, to think
One of the Gallions children, during the Oklahoma visit
said to me, “We don’t think outside of the box…At Gallions there is no box.”
The Gallions – Eton/Penn House partnership shows that
anything is possible. Rip up the rule
book – live your dreams…