Balshaw's Church of England High School

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Balshaw's Church of England High School's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Balshaw's Church of England High School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Headteacher Steven Haycocks
Spirituality is actually
distinct from faith and
Founded in 1782, Balshaw’s Church of England High School
is a voluntary controlled high school for students aged 11 to
18. Voluntary controlled schools make up only about three
per cent of all secondary schools in England, and Balshaw’s
is the only such secondary school in Lancashire. Headteacher
Steven Haycocks explains that the school has outstanding staff
and extremely supportive parents and governors, who work
together to ensure the best possible education for each student,
enabling them to grow in a Christian environment and utilise
their talents and skills.
When you are stepping into the position of being only the 14th headteacher in
the school’s 237-year history, the role can feel daunting. It also raises a question
about how longevity can be attained, given the discussion about the stresses and
pressures that educational leaders find themselves under. At Balshaw’s, mental
wellbeing follows on from spiritual health, something which underpins every
mentally healthy school.
Spiritual development
Promoting the spiritual development of children in English schools has been a
requirement since the 1988 Education Act, but the idea of spirituality can feel
rather nebulous. What is spirituality? Can it be taught? What does it look like in
an educational context of high-stakes accountability that places emphasis on the
number of students who take the range of subjects that make up the EBacc –
where religious education is not classed as a humanity?
»Headteacher: Steven Haycocks
»Founded in 1782
»Based in Leyland, Lancashire
»Type of school: Church of
England high school
»No. of students: 917
»No. of staff: 90
Balshaw’s Church of
England High School
Highlighting best practice
We have been giving careful
consideration recently to developing
an understanding of what we mean
by spirituality. With Church of England
in the school’s title, this may seem
to be something that might come
more readily than it would in a secular
school. The most important initial point
to make is that spirituality should not
be confused with faith or religion. For
the majority of its history, Balshaw’s
has not been a faith school. Although
voluntary controlled schools often have
a faith ethos – about half are Church
of England schools – they are entirely
maintained by the local authority,
who employ the staff and manage the
admissions. This means that there are
no faith criteria for entry to the school
and no form of selection other than
geographical location.
Being a faith school with many
students of no faith, we considered
it fundamental to the continuing
development of mental wellbeing and
pastoral excellence that we identified
a clear understanding of what we
mean by spirituality, separate and
distinct from religion and faith. We
want all of our students to be able to
see themselves as part of something
greater, with value and purpose.
Such a purpose would be shared by
In, out and up
The first stage of this journey was to
develop a way of explaining what
spirituality is. There are many scholarly
articles about the nature of spirituality
that deal with it from any of the
three definitions in the Oxford English
Dictionary: the spirit as opposed to
matter; as concerned with sacred or
religious things; or of a refined and
sensitive soul.
To create individuals of refined and
sensitive nature would certainly
seem a desired outcome of the
national curriculum via, at least in
part, the development of students’
understanding of things other than
matter and awareness of the sacred.
However, expressed in such a way,
this seems hard to grasp or achieve for
adults, so the next question we had
was how to frame this in a way that
young people would understand. We
broke spiritual development down into
a three-part process, which we call “in,
out and up”.
In – the development of the self:
Young people continually re-evaluate
the question: “Who am I?” They
explore this aspect of themselves
in many areas of the curriculum as
they consider ideas of self-worth,
race, gender identity, body image,
nationality and ethnicity. In particular,
this happens in PSHE, geography,
English, RE, history and MFL, but
across all subjects at different points.
Out – understanding of the self in
the world: Young people rationalise
their sense of self-worth, emotional
wellbeing, self-realisation and sense
of fulfilment when looking out to the
world. They develop an understanding
of death, birth, the interrelated nature
of societies, economies, concepts
of cultural paradigms and history.
This is perhaps the aspect of spiritual
development which is most closely
associated with the acquisition of
Phil Jones and World
Champion Freestyle
footballer Liv Cooke are
among sporting alumni
We have been
giving careful
recently to
developing an
of what we
mean by
knowledge or delivery of curriculum
content. The acquisition of knowledge
alone is not the end, but also fosters
a better understanding of the self and
provides a framework for the next
stage of spiritual development.
Up – developing a teleological sense
of wonder and purpose: Teleology
is a sense of purpose and design
that goes beyond physical form. For
example, a fork is metal and has
prongs; what it
is help humans
to eat. At Balshaw’s, as a Church of
England high school, we would hope
that ultimately the sense of awe and
wonder is linked to the majesty of the
Christian God. For those of other faiths
it would be their own god. However,
for all students of faith or no faith, a
teleological wonder will be fostered at
the immensity and complexity of life,
the universe and beauty in music, art
and literature: ultimately, a sense that
there is something greater than self
and a sense of a world that provides a
spiritual purpose.
Future pathway
This article began with a question
about longevity in leadership and
the foundations for mental health
and wellbeing in a school or other
organisation. We may have designed
our “in, out and up” definition as
a way of helping us think about
spirituality as distinct from the faith
values that underpin our school, but it
has made us realise that sound spiritual
development at Balshaw’s, since
1782, has always been a culture of
the school and is a good place to start
when promoting the mental health
and wellbeing of people within our
We cannot care for others until we
know ourselves and are comfortable
with our identity. That is when we can
begin to place ourselves in the world
and develop knowledge of others
through curriculum content and our
experiences. From there, we are able
to develop a sense that we are part
of something greater and wonderful.
This does not require schools to teach
something different, but it requires
us to remove all obstacles that
prevent these things happening such
as adverse childhood experiences,
social and cultural poverty and a lack
of space to reflect. Steering a way
through the financial and curriculum
balancing act will be the subject of
much more strategic reflection, but our
spiritual pathway is clear.
We cannot
care for others
until we know
ourselves and
with our
Creative arts are an
important element in
spiritual development

This article was sponsored by Balshaw's Church of England High School. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development