A Pendle primary school has attracted a storm of national criticism over its radical philosophy which has banned punishments for pupils and replaced rules with values.
Barrowford Primary School headteacher Rachel Tomlinson, who took the helm seven years ago, has barred teachers from shouting and gradually introduced what she described as an ethos of values rather than rules in to the classrooms. She believes this produces more “emotionally aware” children.
However, the approach has led to criticism after the school was featured in a national newspaper and described as being “New Age”.
But Mrs Tomlinson (39) is unrepentant and said that more parents than not agreed with the philosophy.
She said: “I think our school motto underpins our whole philosophy and that is ‘learn to love, love to learn’.
“The sanction-free approach is intrinsic to what we do. We are punishment-free but that doesn’t mean children run riot. We have very strict boundaries and try to foster the notion in our children that they are part of our community.”
The school, which is in the process of converting to Academy status, has come under fire from some quarters because traditional sanctions such as lines and detention are replaced by pupils and staff “talking through” their issues.
But Mrs Tomlinson revealed her philosophy had been shaped by her life and career experiences, as well as current educational research.
She added: “I’ve driven these changes but the staff are massively involved. I admit that it is not for some people – we initially had some parents take their children out of school but there have been many more who have sought us out because of our ethos.
“I have recently been on a headteachers’ conference and have had a similar response. Some think it is plain daft while others agree.
“Lots of schools support our values although no two schools are the same. Our values are plastered all over our classroom so everyone knows what we stand for.”
Opponents to the Barrowford ethos say that the “softly softly” approach runs the risk of wrapping children in cotton wool and not preparing them for the different environments of high and the workplace.
Mrs Tomlinson again refutes this idea and says her pupils are better equipped for modern life.
“Last year we sent children to 12 different high schools and I am a governor at a local high school.
“I have heard lots of anecdotal evidence that these schools enjoy having our children because they are energised learners and intrinsically motivated.
“I believe the evidence suggests that our children are able to cope with the move to high school.
“One of the biggest issues in the world at the moment is poor mental health. This is partly because people aren’t able to recognise or acknowledge their problems and then work through their emotions.
“I believe our way makes children more fully-rounded individuals and more resilient to the pressures of modern life.”
Mrs Tomlinson said that Government inspectors Ofsted had, importantly, not found fault with the school’s discipline.
The last inspection took place in September, 2012, and found the school to be “good”, including the behaviour and safety of pupils.