Convent of Jesus & Mary Language College

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Convent of Jesus & Mary Language College'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 Convent of Jesus & Mary Language College 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 Louise McGowan
Spiritual education creates
confident, articulate, well-
read and knowledgeable
The Convent of Jesus and Mary Language College is
committed to combining academic achievement with a
wide-ranging cultural curriculum. In 2018, they became
the first state-funded Steinway school in the UK, with concert
pianist Philip Fowke acting as their patron. They have also
established the school’s own Student Parliament, which holds
an annual meeting at the Houses of Parliament. Headteacher
Louise McGowan explains the history of the school and how
they have supplemented their existing curriculum.
Located in one of the most ethnically diverse boroughs of the capital, we pride
ourselves on academic rigour and a broad creative curriculum. We provide our
1,000 girls with a depth of spiritual education, grounded in the unique charisma of
St Claudine Thévenet, the brave and determined founder of the Religious of Jesus
and Mary in the years following the French Revolution.
The school may not now be educating the poor and orphaned children of the
post-revolution, but the essence of our work is to ensure that students grow and
develop with a high standard of academic and cultural education. We ensure that
they become confident, articulate, well-read and knowledgeable about the world
and find their place within it as spiritual beings: young women on a pathway to
becoming important leaders.
I have introduced three new and very different initiatives in the first years of my
tenure, each forming part of my vision to establish the convent as a catholic school
that fully embraces its universal values and enables its students to be the people
they were created to be.
»Headteacher: Louise McGowan
»Established in 1888 by the
Religious of Jesus and Mary
»Based in Willesden
»Type: Catholic secondary
»No. of pupils: 1,000
Convent of Jesus & Mary
Language College
Highlighting best practice
Academic rigour is underpinned by
a desire to question the world and
to seek solutions to problems within
a catholic context. With a strong
research background and an education
doctoral thesis near to completion,
I have established the first school-
based Centre for Research in Catholic
Education in London and the south
of England at the convent. Staff join
the research team as associates, some
studying for master’s degrees with St
Mary’s University, and there are teams
of young researchers now active within
the student body.
All students in the sixth form study
for the Extended Project Qualification
and are encouraged to undertake their
chosen projects within a structured
academic research framework.
Embedding a culture of inquiry
The research centre is headed up by
Assistant Headteacher ChristopherDoel,
who is charged with embedding a
culture of inquiry among the students
from year 7 upwards. Teams of
lower- and upper-school students
work individually or together on small
action research projects. We hope
to publish our findings later this year
and are planning to host a research
conference in catholic education next
year that will involve staff, students,
external research partners and
It is important for young academics to
find a channel to share their research
findings and for them to propose
solutions to what they see as key issues
today. Students are exposed to the
research of a number of high-profile
professors and academic doctors who
regularly visit to talk about their work
and to encourage the students in their
own research. In this way, the sixth
form is viewed as an experience that
provides a window into pre-university
life. University research teams and PhD
students use the school as a hub in
which to carry out their own research
linked to areas such as education,
social media, cyberbullying, social
exclusion, pedagogy and catholic
leadership. One of the current projects
focuses on the perceptions of refugees,
specifically highlighting the exclusion
of refugees from wider society.
Developing the Student
The school’s quest to grow and develop
the next generation of female leaders
is encapsulated in a new platform
for developing the student voice.
The Student Parliament is built on a
framework of democracy that mirrors
the structure and workings of the
British political system. It is very different
to a school council. The school’s six
houses battled and campaigned to be
elected as the convent government.
Echoing the first-past-the-post system
of calculating votes, the leader of the
winning house was duly sworn in as
the convent prime minister. She then
appointed her cabinet, which consisted
of secretaries of state and associated
ministers for education, health, the
environment and fun. The other five
houses then assumed their roles as
opposition parties, scrutinising the
work of thegovernment.
The Catholic Research
School: igniting the
minds of young people
The school’s
quest is to
grow and
develop the
generation of
female leaders
With the full support and backing
of the local MP, alongside a visit
to the Houses of Parliament to see
government and politics in action,
the Student Parliament now holds
one meeting a year at the Houses
of Parliament. Students are not only
learning about politics and British
democracy but are also actually
Each year, the school holds a
great debate. The school hall is
transformed into a formal debating
chamber, configured based on the
House of Commons. Topics have
included the funding of education,
women and equality, wellbeing, and
Academic achievement and
cultural development
The spirit and ethos of the convent
are reflected in the equal emphasis
placed on academic rigour and the
building of cultural capital. The
creative curriculum encompasses art,
photography, textiles, drama, dance,
digital media and music. In 2018, we
became the first state-funded Steinway
school in the UK. World-renowned
concert pianist Philip Fowke became
our patron and gave the inaugural
recital at the school in May of this year.
Capital investment in three Steinway
pianos, one of which is the prestigious
model D full-size concert grand piano
that normally graces the finest concert
platforms in the world, has opened
the school to hosting the Brent Young
Musician of the Year and Choir of the
Year competitions. They visit regularly
to give recitals at lunchtimes and
after school, exposing our students
to a world of music culture normally
only seen in the country’s top
The emphasis on the creative
curriculum not only enriches the
students’ educational experience but
also provides a conduit for young
people to express themselves, to
connect with their feelings and
emotions and, above all, to develop
resilience that enhances their
wellbeing. Life within faith is to
be lived to the full, embraced and
enjoyed. Above all, it is the faith
foundations emanating from the
values of St Claudine that define
this wonderful and unique school
community. By continuing to develop
the resources at our disposal and
promoting a wider curriculum, we
are confident that we can continue
to provide a deeply effective and
enriching learning experience.
The spirit and
ethos of the
convent are
reflected in
emphasis on
rigour and the
building of
cultural capital
Our full-size concert
grand piano

This article was sponsored by Convent of Jesus & Mary Language College. 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