Jim Parker: Totally inspirational academy reaches out across the globe - and brings the memories flooding back

Joseph Bulmer

So there I was ‘back’ at my old primary school and the memories started flooding back even though it was almost 60 years ago.

I loved going to Barton Primary School. The majority of us were from the Hele and Barton council estates. I can remember the headmaster Mr Knapp? And I can remember the school Christmas plays and making mum proud when I stole the show one year as Father Christmas. I can remember walking to Windmill for our football matches. And I can remember our PE teacher and ‘manager’ Mr Sanders. He didn’t like losing – looking back that’s probably where I got it from – in particular one match, the Bewley Cup final against our arch rivals Sherwell Valley, led by the then golden boy of primary school football Chris Penford. Mr Sanders decided we needed some extra energy for the big match, so we were given sugar sandwiches to eat – it’s probably why I have hated sugar ever since., We put on a good show but lost with Chris leading the way for Sherwell..  I honestly don’t remember taking any exams or 11-plus to get into the grammar school, but that’s where I was heading. There were just two of us selected.  So there I was off to grammar school while all my council estate friends were heading for what was then Audley Park secondary. I hated the grammar school and ‘mitched’ for the first six months. It was football and Chris Penford that were going to have a major impact on my school life. Chris was taken from us at far too early an age - a victim of the dreadful multiple scelorosis illness All that is for another day. Let’s get back to Barton and what is now the Barton Hill Academy. They are still looking after children like I was and have been showing other colleagues from around the world just how they do it and how blooming good they are at doing it.The Academy has just hosted a three-day World Education Summit with schools from around the globe. During normal times they would have welcomed 30 teachers and 12 children from Latvia, Turkey, France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Finland to share good practice, showcase our naturally inspiring Bay and work with children from all over the globe.Obviously, Covid got in the way of that so the summit was staged totally virtually.An inspirational school needs an inspirational head. Step forward Chris Taylor who leads a totally inspiring team at Barton.I was lucky and privileged to be invited to the opening 'ceremony' and live tour.Chris shows so much pride and joy in what he does and in the school itself.His welcome was warm, bubbly and effervescent.  There was a hint of the Eurovision Song contests with Chris saying before the final curtain up on proceedings: "I think we are still waiting for Spain and Finland!"Torbay MP Kevin Foster was there 'addressing international communities from his living room,' praising the academy and inviting the schools to visit Torbay when the time was right.He said: "There have been challenges but there are also opportunities." Reflecting on one of Barton's many rich values, he added: "It does not the matter what the background or where the pupils come from. It is about where they could go."I must mention a lovely 'welcome to the Bay' video produced by Year Five pupil Samuel who wanted to show 'how beautiful our town is and how he is so happy and to live here'.The 'summit' comprised virtual training sessions led by specialist teachers at the academy and live Lessons for the children in all the countries to join and learn together and communicate live with each other.The impact of COVID on children’s well-being, what it means be a dyslexia friendly school and the school's  ‘Empathy for Bullying’ were all part of the programme and three days of truly international and wonderful collaboration.Barton have won awards for the way they have looked after their children and parents during Lockdown and they won national acclaim when they were able to reach out to teachers and children in an Italian school when the Pandemic was at its worst to give them hope.Simply a blooming Naturally Inspiring school - despite the memories of those sugar sandwiches!