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 Field Lane J I and N School is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.
Field Lane J I and N School
Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP
1FIELD LANE J I AND N SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
Headteacher Hilary Towers-Islam
Building strength, resilience
and curiosity in the
Field Lane Junior and Infant School have been rated
“outstanding” for the last ten years and are committed to
promoting the positive physical and mental health of their
students. This is allied to a varied curriculum that incorporates a
large amount of outdoor learning. They also work closely with
the parents of their pupils, investigating how small changes to
daily routines can affect learning outcomes. Headteacher Hilary
Towers-Islam discusses this focus and how they have maintained
their “outstanding” status.
Our motto, “Together we learn”, describes much more than the acquisition
of knowledge and skills. Rated “outstanding” for the past ten years and
“outstanding” in all areas since 2012, we have embedded practices that empower
children, parents and staff members to learn about themselves and develop their
creativity in order to make a positive impact upon our world.
Achieving gold standards for Food for Life, schools’ games and The Green Tree
Woodland Trust reflects our commitment to the mental and physical wellbeing
of our school community and the care we give our young people. Our weekly
attendance is regularly between 96 and 98 per cent.
Primary schools play a vital role in building the foundations for good mental health,
and we are becoming increasingly aware of this need as a society. This is difficult,
however, in a climate of budget cuts and stretched mental health services. As with
most schools, we have to do more with less. The wellbeing of our pupils and staff
must therefore be at the heart of everything we do.
FIELD LANE J I AND N SCHOOL
»Headteacher: Hilary Towers-
»Established in 1879
»Based in Batley
»Type: Junior and infant school
»No. of students: 240
Field Lane J I and N
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
2| FIELD LANE J I AND N SCHOOL
Although not our sole responsibility,
nurturing good physical health,
encouraging a balanced diet and
promoting regular exercise are aspects
of a child’s life that we have a huge
influence over and can form the
bedrock for positive mental wellbeing.
Tasking key members of staff who
have a passion for sport, cooking
and gardening to lead the process of
achieving gold standards has been
pivotal in galvanising the school
community. This decision was difficult
for our governors and the leadership
team, as it meant a reduction in
available staff for interventions and
sacrificing other resources. We have
a teaching assistant dedicated to
cooking classes, a gardener who
works alongside teachers to support
outdoor learning and a specialist PE
teacher across all classes who also
coordinates progress towards the
A smart curriculum
Having the time and freedom to play
and explore, indoors and outdoors,
is recognised as being of benefit to
mental health. We believe that our
commitment to a curriculum that is
rich with challenges and opportunities
for investigation and problem solving,
in both environments, enables our
young people to develop the resilience
to cope with whatever life throws at
them and grow into well-rounded,
A key driver for our success is Smart
Time, which is based on an early years
continuous curriculum approach.
Smart Time encompasses a mixture of
targeted group work and independent
learning based around a half-termly
concept. Children have the freedom
to use and apply knowledge taught
in discrete lessons but without the
constraints of a strict timetable. This
allows for greater depth in learning,
the development of personal style
and nurturing a passion for enquiry.
Children write scripts, poems and
reports; create animations, sculptures
and PowerPoint presentations;
choreograph dance sequences; and
perform plays. Our children have
control over their learning. Students
who may struggle to succeed in
traditional lessons flourish as they
become the den-building expert,
the actor or the potion master. Self-
motivation and a sense of success
permeate these sessions.
It is not only our young learners who
treasure this freedom – our teaching
and support staff say that it is their
favourite time. Benefits to pupils
»Working outside the constraints of a
»Engaging in independent research
and following their own lines of
»Honing their self-management and
»Involving family members through
With a redesigned playground
featuring a treehouse, construction
area, mud kitchen and digging area,
Gardening has become
a community activity at
to succeed in
actor or the
3FIELD LANE J I AND N SCHOOL |
BEST PRACTICE REPRESENTATIVE
learning outside has brought a new
dimension to how even older people
learn. Some teachers are researching
the positive effects that this outdoor
environment can have on engagement
and vocabulary development.
Our teachers appreciate the freedom
and creativity that initiatives such as
Smart Time allow. It maintains our
passion for teaching and supports our
mental health – so important when
teacher retention is at an all-time low.
Everyone has a voice
All children, from nursery to year 6,
are expected to speak in front of an
audience at least three times a year
in assemblies, school performances
or special events. Children learn to
build campaigns though projects such
as “My Country, My Vote” and our
biannual “Soup Event”. Having the
confidence and ability to express your
ideas or feelings is necessary for a
One research project involves a group
of parents investigating how small
changes in home routines and lifestyle
can contribute to greater progress at
school. This group of mums discusses
family time, screen time, routines and
diets with a view to helping others to
make changes that will have a positive
effect on family wellbeing.
Feeling loved, trusted, understood,
valued and having a sense of
belonging gives children the security
they need to thrive. Parents are
welcomed into school for healthy
cooking classes, craft and gardening
clubs, assemblies, and subject
workshops. They join us for our
year 6 aspirations programme
“Reach for the Stars”: ten talks with
inspirational people from the local
area, culminating in a graduation
ceremony at Leeds Trinity University.
Over the years, we have become a hub
When things go wrong
Supporting children and families
to have the strength to cope when
something goes wrong is well
established at our school. Skilled
mentors work with vulnerable children
to provide effective conditions to work
through concerns and worries. This
work continues for as long and often
as required. Parents also need support
through crises and often do not know
where to turn. Referrals to other
services can take too long, and they
trust us to make time to listen. Staff
members have independently chosen
to do Level 2 courses in understanding
mental health and counselling –
testament to their commitment.
Recently, we have become an academy
in order to join the Batley Multi
Academy Trust, an organisation that
is allied to our focus on supporting
children’s positive mental health. This
will help us to develop new techniques
while strengthening what we have.
By continuing to adopt innovative
approaches, we are confident that
we can continue to provide a rich and
varied learning experience.
and ability to
a healthy life
Problem solving in the
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.