Batley Girls High School - Visual Arts College

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

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 Batley Girls High School - Visual Arts College is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Highlighting best practice
Batley Girls’ school leaders,
parents and governors celebrate
Student Citizenship Awards Batley Girls’ High School, serving the Batley and Dewsbury
communities, has a very strong track record of challenging
poverty of aspiration, strengthening community cohesion
and responding to local and national challenges through a
proactive approach to critical thinking. It has an above average
number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, a
high percentage of girls for whom English is not their main
language, and attainment at entry is below the national average.
However, progress scores at GCSE are consistently significantly
above average for all students and in the top 10 per cent or
significantly above average for disadvantaged ones. Elaborating
on this are the two co-heads, Julie Haigh and David Cooper.
The school is passionately committed to securing the best possible academic
outcomes, but also deep and transformational character-based education. We
are national leaders in careers education, information, advice and guidance. Our
work in this field featured as one of eight case studies of good practice nationally
in the Ofsted Key Stage 3 curriculum survey 2015, and we also have a case study
published on the Careers England website.
Batley has two equally ranked head teachers. Julie links to the achievement
deputy head, staffing, finance and timetable, while David links to the teaching
and learning deputy head, transition, sixth form and careers and represents the
school in the Leeds Wider City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP). They also work
jointly on shaping the “character education” and “critical thinking” agendas for
»Co-head teachers: Julie Haigh
and David Cooper
»Founded in 2012
»Based in Batley, West Yorkshire
»Type of school: Secondary
»No. of students: 1,271 pupils
»No. of staff: 88 teaching staff
and 110 associates
»Students from an Asian, Indian
or Pakistani background:
89.16 per cent
»Pupil premium: 34 per cent
Batley Girls’ High
the school. This system illustrates the
central tenet of developing distributive
and sustainable leadership throughout
the school.
Securing strength in leadership
has been achieved by honing
opportunities to enable our staff, at
all levels, to develop initiatives and
strategies to improve the school. We
have embedded a deep, reflective
culture and have a leadership
structure that is “flatter” than is
typical nationally. Deeper, reflective
practice enables well-considered
decision-making and embraces a
genuine willingness to consider the
views of others. Our senior leadership
team have the autonomy to lead and
have ownership of strategy; this, in
turn, has led to the development,
with passion, of their expertise and
knowledge base. Our teachers and
leaders are encouraged to be risk-
takers and our staff actively engage
with and lead our in-house continuing
professional development (CPD)
programme, with an endless drive
for school improvement and personal
growth. Leading a School Direct
teaching alliance enables us to train
and secure the next generation.
This approach is also reflected in the
student leadership culture of the
school. We empower our students
with the autonomy to actively lead
initiatives and become key change
agents within the school and wider
community. Whether this is through
working with local higher education
institutions to construct degree
programmes, leading on our charity
initiatives, sitting on interview panels,
or making key decisions through our
school council, we involve students at
every possible opportunity.
We have built a strong capacity to
cover national priorities by delivering
workshops for staff, students
and parents, and have featured
on the BBC’s Sunday Politics.
Ourstudentshave also represented
their views in parliament and through
our partnership with “The UK in a
Changing EU”. We are recognised
as a beacon of good practice and
our co-heads have represented the
UK education system at a European
Parliament conference in Strasbourg,
where they were asked to share the
school’s strategies on engaging young
people in discussion of controversial
issues. Our commitment to spiritual,
moral, social and cultural education
means that we are continually building
our school as a community through
open and democratic dialogue on all
the major contemporary debates. Our
guest lecture ensures that our students
are challenged by cutting-edge
academic research, while events such
as “East Meets West” confirm that we
bring a global, faith-based dimension
to our work.
Batley Girls’ High School
has a strong visual arts
culture which underpins
its transformation as a
Deeper, reflective
practice enables
and embraces a
willingness to
consider the views
of others
Highlighting best practice
Our curriculum model is designed to
achieve breadth and balance in an
increasingly academic environment.
We have an open structure where
the English Baccalaureate is available
to all and, in addition to academic
and vocational GCSE courses, we
offer enrichment without formal
examination in a range of character-
building programmes, including
leadership, salon services (vocational
training) and “Food for Life”. Our
Progress 8 scores are in the top
quintile nationally for all and for
disadvantaged students. We believe
we are striking the right balance with
our curriculum. However, as always,
we constantly look to improve. We
invest heavily in Key Stage 3 and
have worked hard to build a strong
foundation for learning here while still
securing outcomes for older students.
With a cohort that has a middle-to-
low ability skewed intake, it has been
vital to accelerate progress in English,
mathematics, science, modern
languages and the humanities.
English and mathematics progress
scores are now consistently in the
top 20 per cent – significantly
above average. In terms of the
humanities and modern languages,
we are now also well above average.
Underpinning this achievement is a
drive to secure excellent teaching and
learning through mastery, embedding
learning and seizing opportunities
to get out of the classroom to
learn, such as our “Big Day Out”.
Enrichment opportunities such as
humanities visits, Debrett’s visits,
student work experience placements
to the Department of Business,
Energy and Industrial Strategy
(BEIS) and our award-winning
research initiatives, we believe, are
We never assume that stereotypical
life experiences of children feature
in the lives of every student. Thus,
we seek to enhance their experience
through such provision as supporting
learning about the gothic genre
by visiting Whitby and the Abbey,
understanding coastal erosion by
visiting the seaside, ensuring a deeper
understanding of the arts and culture
through our international and British
visits – in short, by providing real
world connectivity to our learning at
every possible turn.
We recognise the challenges posed
by Social Emotional and Mental
Health (SEMH) issues and are
seeking to build on current strengths
within our school. We intend that
our partnership research project
with Leeds Beckett University, and
our work across the local HUB (17
primaries and 3 secondaries) will,
by prioritising early intervention
through a coherent, multi-agency
approach, lead to significant
improvements, particularly in early
years and primary. We plan to secure
a stronger platform for students’
success by providing early proactive
support. Proactive, rather than
reactive, practice is a key strategic
driver in all that we do.
We were rated “outstanding” by
Ofsted 2013/14. For us it is the quality
of what we do, day in, day out, and
how that transforms lives, which is
such as
humanities visits,
Debrett’s visits,
student work
placements to
the Department
of Business,
Energy and
Strategy (BEIS)
and our award-
winning research
initiatives, we
believe, are
Batley Girls’ High School’s
annual Question Time event
has had a significant impact
on the level of debate in the

This article was sponsored by Batley Girls High School - Visual Arts College. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.