School Focus: The Palterton school where pupils are taught key life skills to prepare them for adulthood

Palterton Primary School headteacher Ros HorsleyPalterton Primary School headteacher Ros Horsley
Palterton Primary School headteacher Ros Horsley
Teaching pupils essential life skills such as responsibility and money management is seen as a vital aspect in learning at Palterton Primary School.

Alongside the broad and balanced curriculum, children are encouraged to try out a number of roles on offer throughout the school which help provide them first-hand experiences that set them up for later life.

These are varied and range from being the bank manager, who is key in the management of the all-important Palton system, to the pets crews, whose job it is to take care of the school pets – including 11-week old Silkie chickens Whitney, Billy and Blue, and giant African land snails Slip and Slide.

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Headteacher Ros Horsley believes that taking on these roles helps pupils develop skills for life and are inkeeping with the school’s four core values.

Hardwick class playing basketball at Palterton PrimaryHardwick class playing basketball at Palterton Primary
Hardwick class playing basketball at Palterton Primary

She said: “We’re a small school, we’ve got 97 pupils on roll which is four classes all named after Derbyshire halls - Renishaw, Ilam, Chatsworth and Hardwick.

"Those four letters tie in with our core vales of respect, innovation, challenge and happiness. So, everything is centred around those four core values and our decision making is around the children and making sure that they are embracing those four values.

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"We firmly believe that unless the children are happy about coming to school, they’re not going to learn.

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Chatsworth class pupils holding giant African land snails Slip and SlideChatsworth class pupils holding giant African land snails Slip and Slide
Chatsworth class pupils holding giant African land snails Slip and Slide

"Part of that is learning about life alongside it all, that’s why we have the ‘Paltons’.

"The Paltons are a reward system so when the children do great work or have great attendance, or do something we’re proud of then we reward them with Paltons, we pay them with the Palton notes.

"They save their Paltons, pay them into the bank and then can choose whether they continue to save and therefore save for a bigger item in the shop or spend more frequently and buy a little item each time – we start with little things like pencils and sharpeners and build to bigger things like cuddly toys.

"We’re trying to just teach them about life skills in that, the sense that you earn something.

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Pupils at the school shop and bank where they can shop with their PaltonsPupils at the school shop and bank where they can shop with their Paltons
Pupils at the school shop and bank where they can shop with their Paltons

"We also take away Paltons. If children break our schools rules they’re then fined so they know that sense of having to give back if they haven’t done what they need to be doing.”

Roles with responsibility are open to older pupils who, when applying, are asked to write a letter of application and take part in an interview – much like the process they will go through as adults when trying to secure a job.

In doing so, some will succeed in gaining the job they hoped for while others will face rejection, with staff on hand to help them deal with their emotions and learn from the experience.

“Through those roles we try and teach them responsibility, organisation, communication – all of those skills that are harder to teach in some ways but we try and make it a real life experience for them so that they learn them more naturally and can relate them to something,” Ms Horsley added.

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Renishaw class pupils pictured making breadRenishaw class pupils pictured making bread
Renishaw class pupils pictured making bread

"It’s about keeping it fun but also purposeful. They love taking that sense of responsibility.

"Covid has spoilt it over the last couple of years because we weren’t able to do that but what we were noticing – and what I’m sure will happen again – is that the children coming up the school started to get a sense of aspiration after seeing older pupils in a role such as bank manager.

"They start to think ‘when I’m in Year 5 or 6 I’m going to be the bank manager so I need to know about my maths’ and they start to build those skills which is really good in terms of trying to build that aspiration for jobs for the future as well.”

Elsewhere and Palterton Primary School recently gained the prestigious afPE Quality Mark with distinction, putting them among only a handful of schools in Derbyshire to be awarded this.

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The afPE Quality Mark is a prestigious award that evidences the strength and quality of physical education, school sport and physical activity within a school.

Ms Horsley said the award is an indicator of the priority put upon physical activity at the Back Lane-based school.

Chatsworth class with Mrs Rossi at Palterton PrimaryChatsworth class with Mrs Rossi at Palterton Primary
Chatsworth class with Mrs Rossi at Palterton Primary

"We see the benefits that it has to childrens mental health, as well as their physical health,” she said.

"It aids their ability to concentrate, their self esteem, their self belief – all of those things that we know physical activity does for you, it’s there in the classroom and that impacts what they can do with their learning across all of the subjects.

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"I think PE is unique in that. PE isn’t a core subject but we have it as a core subject here.

"We start with the youngest children, looking at the fundamentals of movement so they’re doing all about balance, they’re throwing, they’re running, they’re jumping, they're skipping.

"We build that up through the school to increasingly competetive games like basketball.

"That is then linked with our house teams which are named after the Olympic venues from 2012 – Riverbank, Copper box, Hyde Park and Wembley.

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"Right across the school the children are in a house so when they're doing physical activity they can be earning points for their house.

Ms Horsley added: “Our children like that competitive side. I know some schools have shied away from competitive sports day and things because of the children being disappointed but actually, we’ve never shied away from that.

"We’ve always said that the children need to learn that you will lose in life like the job applications, there’s only one bank manager so some of them won’t get the job.

"There’s only five of you in a running race, only one of you is going to win. I think it’s really important they learn that.”

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