Headteacher brings ‘love and smiles’ to Leeds school that had padded cell for punishing children

A primary school in one of the most deprived areas of Leeds is now among the best in the country after its headteacher set out to transform the classroom culture.

Parklands Primary School in Seacroft went from being ranked in the bottom five per cent to the top one per cent of the country’s schools in just four years, earning an ‘outstanding’ rating from education watchdog Ofsted.

Headteacher Chris Dyson celebrates with teachers and students at Parklands Primary School. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Headteacher Chris Dyson celebrates with teachers and students at Parklands Primary School. Picture: Tony Johnson.

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The school had gone through five headteachers in 2013 alone before current headteacher Chris Dyson arrived.

Back then, Parklands had the UK’s highest number of annual exclusions, a padded cell was used as a form of punishment and children would even climb on the school roof.

“The padded cell was the first thing I ripped out,” Mr Dyson said. “I banned shouting and told the children that if anyone was seen on the roof, I’d call the police. Someone was up there in the first 20 minutes, the police were called and they were put in the back of a van. It hasn’t happened since.”

The teacher of 24 years said that he wanted to bring “love and smiles” back to the school, with his success in achieving that goal down not just to his own efforts but also the value he places on his staff.

“I kept the same teachers that were once deemed inadequate by the same organisation which now says that they’re outstanding,” Mr Dyson said.

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It is estimated that more than a third of children in Seacroft grow up in poverty, with 84 per cent of those at Parkland eligible for the pupil premium funding to help disadvantaged children.

And Parkland is not the only school proving that there is hope of a brighter future for children in the area.

Mr Dyson said Parklands results, which are above the national average, match those of neighbouring primary Seacroft Grange.

He added that his advice to any others wanting to make a difference in their school is to “follow your dreams and always give things your best go”.