A school built on love

By: Chris Dyson


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PublishedApril 2022
Size234 x 156mm

Written by Chris Dyson, Parklands: A school built on love is a heartwarming account of Parklands School’s transformative journey towards becoming a safe, loving environment in which all of its learners can thrive.

If anything can bind together nearly 400 pupils and 100 school staff in challenging circumstances, it’s love. And love is in plentiful supply at Parklands.

The pupils at Parklands Primary School, located on the Seacroft estate in Leeds, often face significant hardship. Children start at the school significantly behind their peers nationally, especially in terms of their language and literacy. Yet the school is famed for outstanding learning – both in terms of Ofsted judgement and, more importantly, in achieving amazing outcomes for its learners.

In this inspiring book, head teacher Chris Dyson shares the story of how he has steered the school towards the seemingly impossible educational dream of high achievement, personalised support and complete inclusion. He explains how the school setting can be a place where there is love but also hope and relentless ambition for children, and reflects on the steps that he and his staff have put in place to make this a reality for Parklands’ pupils.

Chris delves into how this culture and climate of love drives behaviour and decision-making throughout the school – and, as a result, how this creates a safe, loving environment in which all of its learners can thrive.

Chris also provides insights into how the leadership team goes about raising funds for the school, and how they choose to spend it on both curricular and extracurricular projects. And, furthermore, how the school broadens its pupils’ experiences and cultural capital by means of residential trips, in-school productions, and sports and arts provision.

An uplifting read for all teachers and school leaders.

Picture for author Chris Dyson

Chris Dyson

Chris Dyson was the proud head teacher of Parklands Primary School in Seacroft, Leeds for over eight years. Having been raised in a single-parent household, receiving free school clothes and free school meals himself, Chris' connection between his early life and that of Parklands’ pupils is rooted in common experience. He is now Deputy CEO at Create Partnership Trust, and believes that education is the key to making the future brighter.


  1. Offering a wealth of practical insights and examples, Parklands: A school built on love has a great deal of value for classroom educators and school administrators – especially in districts with high numbers of underprivileged students, underfunded resources, and stressed-out faculties. Inspired and inspiring, ‘real world practical’ and informative, Parklands is especially and unreservedly recommended for school district, college, and university library Teacher Education collections and in-service training workshop curriculums.

  2. Wow! Just finished the incredible Parklands: A school built on love. A must read for anyone interested in education, inspiration, and leadership.

    Every page illustrates the importance of collaboration between school, community and business, and how an inspirational leader with a vision (and a lot of energy) can change the lives of hundreds of young people and a few old ones. I’m truly grateful to have played my small part in this story. What a story!

  3. Parklands: A School Built on Love captures the energy and empathy that you experience when you visit the school. It offers an insight into the wholehearted and warm-hearted commitment of everyone who works in the school and illuminates how and why every child at Parklands develops a love for learning and achievement. It also highlights what is possible when a school connects with, and responds to, the lived experience and needs of their community. Chris Dyson’s love for what he does shines throughout.

  4. Not only do the Parklands primary school staff exude a passion for working at the school, but Dyson himself embodies in his leadership how a school can be led with rigour and love, rather than accountability and discipline. Not all schools are led in this way, and sadly not every teacher loves the school they teach in.

    Parklands is a stand-out memory for me and I encourage you to visit; this book provides only a glimpse into the miracles that happen there day-to-day, behind the scenes.

  5. I have been in education for 57 years and have worked in so very many wonderful schools with outstanding staff, leadership and ethos, yet I can honestly say – hand on heart – I have never experienced the consistent and absolute belonging and love that envelops every single child in Parklands Primary School. The joy, when within school, of the many impoverished children at Parklands is overwhelming and brings a huge smile to my face and an occasional tear to my eye.

    This book celebrates the saving of a school in one of the most deprived districts in the country, after years of crisis and conflict. It tells the story of how the absolute love and commitment of one head teacher won over the hearts and minds of the children, the staff and the families the school serves. It tracks the journey of not only changing the culture of the school but of instilling a huge love of learning and a shared pride in the amazing standards of achievement now seen in all they do.

  6. This book is an easy read, full of useful tips for aspiring leaders. Chris shares the journey of the Parklands team in turning around a school and its community. A turnaround based on love – and not the fluffy kind, but a ‘love that is full of hope, ambition and the highest expectations’.

    The book is also brought up to date with a postscript which reduced me to tears then made me howl with laughter.

    Highly recommended.

  7. What a book! What a school! Having been lucky enough to have tears of joy streaming down my face at hearing the whole school roaring out ‘Sweet Caroline’ not once, but twice, with the entire crowd swaying and dancing, I can testify that Parklands is a school truly built on love.

    You’ll find more than love in this book, though. There are fundraising ideas, pedagogy ideas, curriculum ideas, competitions, reindeer and fake snow aplenty – and that’s only the half of it. An education book to savour! And, finally, upon reading the postscript about Jason, another great big happy tear dribbled down my face too, because what Parklands did for Jason is what they would do for any member of their community.

    A stunning achievement, Mr Dyson. My hat is off to you and your school!

  8. Poignant, punchy and practical, Parklands: A School Built on Love is a hard-nosed take on love as a driver for school improvement – and it is heart-warming and heartbreaking in equal measure.

    We can’t all be Chris, but we can all learn from the way he works.

  9. There is an honesty, a passion and an integrity that shines throughout this book, sprinkled with snippets of humour – and these combine to make for a fascinating and engaging read. It provides an in-depth insight into what makes Parklands such an exceptional school for children, staff, parents and governors; teamwork, the enrichment of experiences, and the securing and allocation of resources are notable features. A visit to this school totally validates the book’s key messages – the sharing in an atmosphere of engagement and challenge, of innovation and variety, of care and warmth – a school that serves, supports and challenges its community in equal measure, where love and safeguarding go hand in hand, where children are happy, flourish and excel.

    This is the sort of school I wish I had attended as a child when growing up in what was euphemistically described as ‘an education priority area’. If only the Parklands’ priorities described in this book had been similarly identified and addressed then! Parklands is a school that every child deserves.

    To every teacher, to every aspiring leader (whatever area you work in), read this book – and, if possible, visit the school. You will not be disappointed!

  10. The Parklands story is an incredible example of the power of great leadership, lots of laughter and (in the very words of the author) big love! For all leaders, and not just those working in education, this book is a must-read if you’re interested in creating transformational change.

  11. Having had the privilege of working as SENDCo at Parklands for just over three years before retiring, I am one of the lucky ones to have experienced and contributed to the love that underpins and drives the school. 

    This book beautifully sums up the force of nature that is Chris Dyson and the full-on journey of the Parklands team to turn the school around with high expectations, consistency, respect, inclusion, team work, music and hearts full of love. There is something for everyone working in schools today to take away and adapt for their own setting. 

  12. Parklands isn’t just a school; it does everything it can to be the beating heart of the community, a heart filled with love. Not the saccharine Valentine’s card love, but the deep unconditional love you reserve for family. That’s because everyone who is in the Parklands Community is family.

    And Chris Dyson invites everyone in to be part of that family.

    Locking your community outside the school gate builds barriers; getting them through wide-open doors and making them feel welcome builds trust, relationships and a sense of belonging. This book shares how Chris and the staff at Parklands have built all of that and used it as a launch pad for the success of their pupils.

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