The head who took Streatham Wells, her neighbourhood school, and made it outstanding 

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A south London primary, where pupils attend book restaurants, grow and sell their own produce at Borough Market and go out and paint bollards on the street has gone from good to outstanding.

Streatham Wells is part of only four percent of schools in the UK to rise from ‘Good’ to ‘Outstanding’ between 2022 and 2023.

Much of this rise in excellence has come under the leadership of the school’s new head Sarah Wordlaw.

It is an apt surname for a teacher who has already made a name for herself in challenging and transforming the primary school curriculum, having penned a book last year that showed how overlooked some communities are in education.

‘Time to Shake Up the Primary Curriculum’ was published with rave reviews; people proclaimed that “this book has really given me hope that there is a change coming” and that it is essential reading for “anyone who cares about real inclusion”.

Streatham Wells’ curriculum teaches the virtues of reading.

The author come head teacher is now on a mission to get pupils reading more. While the amount of young people reading continues to fall, the school has launched an event every half-term that engages its pupils with literature. 

“We create a restaurant, and instead of taking food, students take books,” she said. “We make sure that we’ve got a wide range of texts, so every student knows what they are interested in.”

Another project highlighted by Ofsted inspectors stemmed from a request from a parent to help restore a local spot near the school that had become grotty. At Streatham’s Huggins Corner, Sarah said that pupils “worked with a local artist to create space-related designs and they went and each painted a bollard.”

Getting out and about appears to be part of the school’s new mantra s ‘Pledge to grown Hearts and Minds’ of its pupils.

Recently they were part of a number of schools to head down to the word-famous Borough Market and sell produce they had grown a Streatham Wells. They raised over £100, but Sarah said the main object of the exercise was for the “children to find out where food comes from, and what a healthy sustainable diet can be”.

Sarah also relayed how a large proportion of her children use extended services at school, including their breakfast club and after-school club, with such generous facilities undoubtedly contributing to the schools’ exceptionally high 96.8% attendance rate.

Her appointment in September 2022, came after four years as Deputy head a Comber Grove Primary school in Camberwell and as assistant head at Forest Academy in Croydon, while starting her career at Christ Church Primary School in Brixton.  

A Streatham native Sarah says she is determined to realise her “own vision for the future of education” at Streatham Wells.

Students learn inside and outside of the classroom.

“My lived experience of education as a student was one of not feeling like I belonged and never seeing myself in the curriculum,” she told us.

With a curriculum entrenched in the belief in the value of diversity and inclusion, Sarah said that at Streatham Wells “pupils are represented in their classrooms and in our library”, “every child can see themselves or their family in a text and it really does help with children being engaged,” she said.

Considering the ‘Outstanding’ status bestowed upon the school, you could be forgiven for thinking Sarah believed her work was done. But, keeping in her conquest for improvement she argues that “you can’t take your eye off the ball, oh people are represented now, now leave it for five years.”

Following on from her first book, she has a future ambition to publish more on “how schools can tackle misogyny,” evidence of Sarah’s continued desire to contribute to the restructuring of schools nationwide.

Regarding her foray into educational literature, Sarah articulated that she finds writing “deeply exciting and it complements my job, and vice versa.”


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