Brackenbury School

Talking Heads | An interview with Dave Collins from Brackenbury Primary School

Brackenbury Primary School head Dave Collins, who has been in post since 2016, was recently appointed to lead a new partnership embracing Kenmont, Wendell Park and his school, to pool expertise and resources. 

It’s a major step for all three schools, with staff reacting positively to their first joint training session. Kenmont and Wendell Park already had the experience of working together under retired executive head Julie Howarth. 

“I’m excited to have been appointed to lead the partnership,” said Dave. “There are huge opportunities for the children and communities of each school to work together and learn from each other. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement.” 

The three schools will keep separate governing bodies, but benefit from collaboration in many areas, including professional development of teachers – something that appeals to a head inspired to enter the profession by observing Mrs Bassett’s teaching skills when he was a Year 3 pupil at Lacey Gardens junior school in Lincolnshire! “And that was me! I said that I was going to be a primary school teacher!” 

Under the partnership arrangement, each set of pupils will still go to their own school, but there are more opportunities for inter-school sports tournaments and possibly meetings of the school councils. 

While he was working on his own A levels, Dave gained teaching work experience every Wednesday at local schools. 

Now he hopes that teachers and senior leaders will be able to share projects at Brackenbury, Wendell Park and Kenmont, spreading costs across three budgets.  

Community and diversity

Dave taught for 15 years in Hampshire before being appointed as headteacher of Brackenbury Primary five years ago. He has also served as interim executive headteacher across Bayonne Nursery and Melcombe Primary in Fulham, and James Lee Nursery in Barons Court. 

The big difference between teaching in Hampshire and teaching in the Hammersmith & Fulham and Chiswick areas is, says Dave, the diversity in London. 

“The reason I went for the job at Brackenbury was mainly the community aspects to the school, and the diversity,” he said. “It’s a school of children from all different backgrounds, working together. It’s got a really good community feel.” 

Brackenbury Primary School

He feels that another reason why the three-school partnership is working so well is that all three schools have wide diversity; far more than he experienced when working in Hampshire. 

Turning to Covid, Dave said that restrictions for schools had eased considerably during the summer. If there is a case of Covid there’s no longer the need to spend an entire year home. 

“It means we have far more children attending school and having face-to-face learning, and parents back on site, so they can come into the school to pick up and drop off children.” 

The measures that remain in place include enhanced ventilation, regular extra school cleaning, social distancing where possible, and outdoor learning at every opportunity. 

Dave is convinced that the hand-washing and sanitising routines that the children rigorously follow will remain lifelong learnt skills. “It’s life now. When you come into school in the morning, you wash your hands. When you leave or enter the classroom, there’s sanitiser… and I think that will stay with children forever.” 

Dave believes that improved hygiene will also reduce the spread of the common cold and other infections, adding that school life had returned to something more like pre-Covid times. “So far, cases are not where they were. It’s manageable. Staff are double-vaccinated now, and we’re not affected by the ‘pingdemic’ which caused problems before.” 

Mental health and wellbeing

Turning to issues faced by youngsters growing up in west London, Dave highlighted mental health and wellbeing, including the effects of Covid. 

“For us, it’s about working with parents to increase opportunities for children. From the school’s perspective, we still have quite a few transient families who move into the area, then move on. So it’s about how we can support families if they’ve just moved into the country and are then moving elsewhere.” 

In terms of the school budget, it’s about doing more with a little bit less, but Dave is confident that partnership working between three schools will bring financial savings, for example with catering contracts and photocopying costs. 

Quick facts about Brackenbury Primary School

  • Brackenbury had 280 applications last year for 60 places. 
  • There are 418 pupils at the school 
  • And 50 staff  
  • There is an active PTA which, over the last couple of years, has provided 18 new screens in classrooms to replace old interactive boards, and supplied new audiovisual equipment in the halls. 
  • The percentage of pupil premium placements is 38%  

Find out more 

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