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 Bellfield Junior School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Bellfield Junior School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles
1BELLFIELD JUNIOR SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher Nigel Attwood
Learning to cook simple
Bellfield Junior School is a popular and successful community-
based school in a deprived area of Birmingham. With 54
per cent of students qualifying for pupil premium and 33
per cent identified as vulnerable, they employ two dedicated
members of pastoral staff who allow children to learn,
unencumbered by potential external issues. Headteacher Nigel
Attwood discusses the improvements the school has made in his
first two years at the helm to support children’s resilience.
Founded in 1957, in Northfield, Birmingham, our school is a busy and vibrant place
that aims to offer every child the best education possible. We serve an area that has
deprivation within Birmingham, and we work with children and families daily who
are facing issues beyond the classroom. Despite these challenges, we continue to
strive to excel in a range of extracurricular areas, such as music and sport.
Building on strong foundations
I became headteacher in 2016, following four years as deputy head. Having built
experience in a senior leadership role, I already knew what made the school a
special place in which to work and learn, but I also had a clear insight into the areas
in which we could improve. The staff I have around me are loyal and supportive,
and I may not have survived my first term if it wasn’t for their help. This is one of
the many factors that makes this school unique.
Our previous head had been an excellent servant of the school and was willing
to help guide me through the early stages of the role and allow me to develop
BELLFIELD JUNIOR SCHOOL
»Headteacher: Nigel Attwood
»Founded in 1957
»Based in Northfield,
»Type of school: Junior
»No. of pupils: 277
»No. of staff: 23
»Awards: Healthy Schools, Gold
Award for School Games,
Music Mark, Philosophy for
Bellfield Junior School
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| BELLFIELD JUNIOR SCHOOL
an understanding of what the job
really entailed. An important factor
was that we were rated “good” by
Ofsted in the March of my first year as
headteacher, which provided us with
an excellent foundation upon which to
create our vision for the future.
Around 33 per cent of our students
have issues at home and require
additional support, while 29 per cent
have special educational needs. In
order to help our children thrive, we
wanted to build on three strengths
that our knowledge of the children
had showed many lacked: resilience,
aspiration and social communication.
This wasn’t to say that they didn’t
want to succeed or couldn’t deal with
some of the pressures they faced,
but we wanted every child to believe
that no level of success was beyond
them. As such, “love of learning” has
become our priority. By researching,
reviewing and implementing new
strategies and methods, we increased
our children’s engagement in their
own learning and we have seen
how, when a child truly takes hold of
their education, the best outcomes
“Yes I can”
One of the first things we hoped to
achieve was the creation of a “Yes I
can” attitude throughout the school.
During the Paralympics in 2016, I came
across the song “Yes I can”, which
celebrated people achieving incredible
things, despite circumstances that
could have caused them to give up.
This really inspired us, and it received
a fantastic reception from the children
when we showed it to them.
We then looked to further empower
and encourage our children by
giving them an increased stake in
their own learning and amplifying
the student voice. Now, as well as
the school council, there’s eco and
garden committees, digital leaders,
play leaders and a library committee,
and children help organise community
events during the holidays. For
example, a group of children hosted a
Christmas dinner for the local homeless
community, where they prepared and
served an entire meal, before cleaning
up afterwards, as well as entertaining
and talking to their guests. This was
great to witness, and it is testament to
how our children have embraced the
new culture we have tried to instil.
A broad and balanced
Creating a delicate balance between
academic excellence and vocational
ambition is a challenge for any school,
but by adapting the existing curriculum
we are finding an equilibrium.
Subjects aren’t held to be superior
over others and classes such as PSHEE
and Philosophy for Children are not
pushed aside. As a result, outcomes in
behaviour, engagement and completed
work are improving.
It is evident that the children want
to be part of the school culture and
this has been clearly shown by the
number of students signing up for our
visit while looking to
develop a link with
We wanted to
build on three
3BELLFIELD JUNIOR SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
sports clubs. We now run numerous
sports and fun clubs every week
and employ a dedicated PE teacher
every afternoon. Furthermore, the
engagement of girls in sport has
risen. Outcomes beyond the fields
of core subjects are crucial for the
well-rounded development of any
young person, and one way we have
looked to address this is through
our outstanding music provision.
Approximately 130 students are
currently learning a musical instrument
– that is nearly half of the student
body – and this was recognised when
we received the Music Mark Award
after the local music service put in an
application on our behalf.
Centre of the community
As a school serving a deprived area
we do encounter families that are
struggling, and this often has a knock-
on effect on our children. To help
these families, we are always looking
to enhance our community impact
and increase parental engagement –
we consider ourselves a “family”, all
striving for the best outcomes for our
children. This has been building more
over recent years.
Recently, we hosted an assembly on
racism with the intention of broadening
the understanding of our children
over complex issues. Assemblies on
democracy and other important issues,
as well as e-safety, healthy family
and cooking workshops take place
and these are then made available
to all the families via our website,
so they can discuss the issue with
their children and help answer any
questions they have. If families know
what their children are learning, they
are more likely to engage and take an
Sadly, the work we do in the
community is limited by funding.
We spend around £100,000 a year
on supporting families, through a
psychotherapist, pastoral staff, home
support and community events. We
are picking up the “slack” from
where other services have been cut,
but we cannot continue to afford
this ourselves. To support our staff,
children and families to the extent they
need, the government therefore needs
to reassess funding restrictions. With
correct and fair funding, we can do so
much good in our community and we
welcome the opportunity.
striving for the
Developing basic first
The Rt Hon Professor The Lord Blunkett's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review
A new Prime Minister, a new Education Secretary and, as we're all painfully aware, a deeply uncertain future. It is in this context that the education service continues to deliver for individuals, communities and of course for our nation.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the education service as a whole, schools, post 16/Further Education, and yes, lifelong learning, needs the most enormous injection of cash. Independent analysis shows that there has been at least an 8% average reduction in the amount of spend per pupil in our schools. Those damaged most by this have been pupils with special educational needs, whose voices are sadly rarely heard. The necessity of urgent action was underlined in July by the report of the all-party House of Commons Select Committee on Education. They could not have been clearer about the need for substantial funding and a long-term 10-year commitment.
At the same time, there are a number of reviews taking place. One of them, in relation to post-16 qualifications, is in danger of a classic mistake by politicians and officials who have little or no understanding of the complex territory they're dealing with. Namely, the ridiculous proposition that BTEC National Diplomas might be set aside because 'T Levels are the gold standard'!
I'm in favour of T Levels, but in the right context and for the right outcome. They are intended to be extremely focused specialist qualifications in defined areas of employment. When and if they eventually take off – there is predicted to be just a thousand students in 2021-22 taking up the qualification – they will not replace the BTEC, which has been the workhorse providing a general and high-quality education for decades. The BTEC has equipped young people for a variety of opportunities in a very changing employment market where the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, and changed working practices makes confining the choice of vocational pathways to one narrow focus, frankly ridiculous.
Meanwhile, her Majesty's Opposition continue to throw out titbits which do not give, as yet, a very clear idea of what, if elected, Labour would do in office. What is needed is positive proposals. Abolishing this, that or the other – assessments/tests for those leaving primary school, for instance – is not the same thing as a very forward-looking agenda for radical improvement in standards and equity between those who can and cannot afford additional help for their children.
There are a handful of Labour Party members, supported by some people who ought to know better, who have decided that a full-frontal assault on private education would be a good idea. For those worried about this, stop worrying. A party that put this in its manifesto wouldn't get elected, and if by some fluke it did, it would be challenged in the courts to the point where all the contradictions would be exposed for everyone to see.
Just contemplate one simple fact. 20% of secondary schoolchildren in the borough of Hackney attend private schools! Yes, Hackney. This is because a large number of parents, some of whom scrape the money together, are sending their children to private education in London which happens to be the area of England with the best academic outcomes from state education. What's more, very large numbers (again, particularly in London) pay for private tutors. At the last estimate 40% of parents in London had at some point over the last year paid for a tutor for their child!
Perhaps therefore an opposition party, hoping to provide unity rather than division, opportunity for all rather than a futile class battle against educational privilege, would seek ways of ensuring that those who can't afford tutors have the kind of support outside school that would put them on equal terms.
One thing is very certain, no government would be able to stop parents buying additional tutoring for their children.
So, a practical agenda for equalising opportunity, for investing where it's needed most, for transforming the pipeline from school through college, apprenticeships, or university, is a goal worth fighting for. A positive way of linking business and education through political decision-making, with the delivery by excellent professionals in the education service, to the children of today and the economy of tomorrow. Surely that is a much more progressive and less negative way forward for both government and opposition.