How Ben Levinson OBE has helped turn around Kensington Primary School
- Credit: BBC
In Ben Levinson’s time at Kensington Primary, the school has gone from a "requires improvement" rating by Ofsted to winning awards.
But the headteacher’s impact has extended far beyond the Kensington Avenue gates of that school in Manor Park and the Plaistow-based The Tapscott Learning Trust.
Mr Levinson has also made significant contributions to the wider Newham community and education sector, including considerable work with the local authority and Department for Education (DfE).
This is why he has been made an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2021 for services to education.
The turnaround of Kensington Primary since Mr Levinson took over as headteacher in 2014 speaks for itself.
The school went from a requires improvement rating by Ofsted that year to being assessed as outstanding two years later.
Last year, it was named primary school of the year in the prestigious Pearson National Teaching Awards 2020.
“We’ve come a long way,” Mr Levinson said.
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“Our ethos is very much about wanting our children to love coming to school, but our team and our parents and everyone to love being there.
“Our vision is a place everyone loves to be because we fervently believe that if the children love being there, then the staff love being there and the parents love being there. That is what will ensure the children learn most effectively and make the best possible progress.”
In receiving the Pearson primary school of the year award, Kensington was recognised for its “trailblazing curriculum” encompassing academic success, pastoral care and healthy living.
The school developed this curriculum built on years of private and public sector research.
Mr Levinson said Curriculum K, as it's called, is a “very significant departure” from the national curriculum.
“The roots of that national curriculum are really back in Victorian times - it hasn’t massively changed, the core of it, since then,” he said.
“The curriculum we’ve created is based around a huge amount of research and looking at what children really need for the 21st century and the challenges they’re going to face.
“So a huge amount of work on physical health and emotional health for our children and curricula for both of those areas, as well as really looking at the communication skills they’re going to require as they go on to secondary school and university and their knowledge of technology.
“All of that is to make sure they get the best possible start in life.”
In 2020, Kensington Primary also won the TES Schools Award for wellbeing and mental health as well as receiving a silver Pearson award for excellence in special needs education.
“It’s just been an incredible year, really,” Mr Levinson said.
“The school has obviously had some huge challenges and like any school we’ve had our losses in our community and some very sad and difficult times.
“At the same time, it has been a year for us of huge success: it’s the primary school of the year, the mental health and wellbeing school of the year in the TES awards at the same time and now this recognition, so there’s a lot to celebrate as well as a lot to reflect on.”
From a personal perspective, Mr Levinson said he was “immensely proud” to receive the OBE.
“It’s slowly sinking in. It’s a slightly surreal thing but it’s a huge honour,” he said.
Mr Levinson is currently a member of the DfE expert advisory group on wellbeing and the primary school representative for the Newham Safeguarding Children Partnership (NSCP).
He is also a board member for the children’s social care improvement board and the NewDAy Legacy Project.
Mr Levinson is chair of both the performance and quality assurance sub-group for the NSCP and the Newham headteachers' safeguarding and social care sub-group.
He is headteacher ambassador for the Youth Sport Trust and board member of the Well Schools movement.
Newham Council's director of education, inclusion and achievement for children and young people, Anita Stewart, said: “A huge congratulations to Ben and recognition for his contribution for services to education.
"This OBE is testament to the quality and impact of the leaders we have within our education community in Newham."