The Trust at the heart of the Batley community
Here you can read stories from across our Trust family of schools about the fantastic initiatives, work and support that takes place.
Its purpose was to use creativity to spark confidence, conversation and connection by sharing a different creative challenge, from a different source, every day in January.
January is perceived, by many, as a rather bleak month and the idea is that through this inspirational initiative, people have a focus for five, ten or more minutes a day and feel connected with their own thoughts as well as with others undertaking the challenge. There is an online community for The January Challenge and, in a similar way to The Great Winter Get Together, the idea is to tackle loneliness in lots of little ways that are accessible by anyone and everyone.
As part of this year’s challenge, Field Lane’s Year 6s were invited to join the renowned poet, Michael Rosen for an online poetry writing workshop. They joined 200 other participants from around the world; India, Ireland, Switzerland and more, to make this already cultural experience even more enriching.
“We felt very honoured to be one of only two schools to share our poems and chat to Michael, who set the challenge for Day 10 and the children loved it!” said Hilary Towers-Islam, Field Lane's Headteacher.
One Year 6 child acclaimed; “It was a once in a lifetime experience. I was so excited and surprised to be selected to participate in this live session. I learned some valuable tips!”
Year 6 also provided the creative prompt for Day 17: An Important Date, representing the Jo Cox Foundation. The challenge involved bringing memories and creativity together through the creation of a number grid, which becomes an abstract piece of artwork, by linking the letters together to form a personal and unique design.
Being part of an initiative like this, that can also be shared with others, is an enriching and engaging experience for anyone taking part - young or old - regardless of ability and it’s important that inclusive work such as this is celebrated.
You can find out more about The January Challenge 2024 here.
Parents and carers of children in the school, as well as others in the local community, attended the sessions to learn more about how to best interact with young children with different needs.
It was extremely popular; there were over 200 applications and only 30 places for people to experience the training, which was run by Kirklees Council. The course ran for 8 weeks and Healey now has Speech Stars champions in school including Claire Virr, Key Stage Leader for Early Years, another Early Years teacher and volunteer, Chloe Gardner.
Speech Stars is a fully funded, high quality programme to boost children’s early language and communication skills. The people who undertake the training are then able to deliver this with three to seven year olds to support children’s communication and language development.
Chloe volunteers at Healey two days a week and found the training really worthwhile. She has heightened her knowledge ready to put into practice and has already used some of what she’s learned with her three year old nephew, who is non-verbal and has autism. Not only has the course armed her with techniques that she can use both in school and in her home life, it has also improved her confidence. She said; “I have learned a lot and the tutors were really lovely and helpful, I would definitely recommend it.”
Assessing children’s speech and language needs is vital for learning in early years and the training provides the tools with which to assess a child’s needs and support them tailoring to their individual requirements.
Chloe, who has a BA in Young Children and Development and a BA Hons in Early Years joined the team at Healey in 2023, initially volunteering one day a week to put something back into her local community and give her a sense of moral purpose, but this soon increased to two and she’s now an invaluable member of the team. “It has given me a focus and a feeling of real purpose, and I'm not treated any differently being a volunteer. I love it here!”
Luisa Lang, Headteacher said; “Chloe is a motivational individual and we’re really lucky to have her. She really makes a difference to the children here.”
Given the success of Speech Stars, it’s likely the course will make a return next year - watch this space.
The Great Debate is a public speaking competition, which is run by the Historical Association, where candidates have five minutes to present their case in response to a specified question. This year young people from Year 10 to 13 were asked to explore the local history of their area for contributors to the world that we live in today.
Young people from the three secondary schools in our Trust family came to pitch their rationale for why an historical person, place or business in the Batley area held local historical significance and should be recognised for their revolutionary status. We heard about many fascinating people and places including: Benjamin Law the inventor of the shoddy process who set up his business at Howley Mill, the founder of Fox’s Biscuits, coal mining in the area and Howley Hall, the site of fighting during the English Civil War. All distinctive and innovative in their own right.
There was a panel of independent judges from Leeds Beckett University, University of Huddersfield, University of Bradford and University of Newcastle. They had an extremely tough job on their hands as the candidates were excellent, well-prepared and articulate.
The judges observed candidates to review the clarity, consistency and interesting content of their presentation against pre-specified criteria: the quality of the argument – its structure, clarity and power to persuade. The use of historical argument and detail; the links between their chosen topic and its wider historical context and the overall presentation of the speech.
Our winner was a Year 12 BG6 student who spoke about Batley Variety Club and how it had been a central focus for the community, bringing people together and a key pillar of Batley’s local history for a number of years, according to her research.
Amy Wilby, Assistant Head at Batley Girls’ High School said;
“It was a real honour to be one of two sites in Yorkshire to host this brilliant event. It was the first time that we have taken part in The Great Debate and we hope it will become an annual event for the Trust, with other schools in our Trust family hosting in future years.
“Building literacy and oracy skills is a real focus for all our schools and is a necessary life skill for our young people’s futures. We’re so proud of all our young people and especially, Lindsay, wishing her all the best for the National Final!”
To keep a Guide unit running it must have two fully trained and qualified Leaders. Emma Rodrigues, Director of Yorkshire Rose Teaching Partnership is the other current leader and Batley Girls' was in need after the previous leader left so Rebecca stepped up, as she’d been supporting Emma with Guides since 2019.
Rebecca has been working towards the qualification for the past two years and attained the accreditation at the end of September. The Batley Girls’ High School 26th Guide unit is very successful and popular and Rebecca now leads the unit, with the help of a volunteer, and Emma oversees at a more strategic level; they certainly make a formidable team.
This a tremendous achievement for Rebecca, the school and our Trust community, as this Guide unit is seen as a model of modern flexible Guiding. It runs at Wednesday lunchtimes so mosque commitments aren't impacted after school. The leaders are creative with their implementation of different themes to attain badges and work within the parameters of being based in school with limited time constraints. During 2023 the Guides have earned Confectionery, Photography and Craftivism badges alongside learning new skills, such as self defence.
The confectionary badge consisted of a Bake Off concept, decorating gingerbread as well as a bake sale where over £150 was raised and donated to Batley Food Bank. The attainment of the photography badge enabled the Guides to to learn new skills and allowed the school’s GCSE Photography group to collaborate with Guides allowing Year 7s, 8s and 9s to have a glimpse of what studying photography would be like, and see if they’d be be interested in choosing it as a GCSE option. There was also a focus on world issues; with a task to create a gift based on a world issue which was really important to them, and then give it to someone they care about, which delivered their final badge of the year; Craftivism. There was also an opportunity to work with an eternal provider and hold a self defence session, which allowed the Guides to become more confident in themselves as young women. A special event, which is always on the Guides’ calendar is indoor camping, as many of the young people have not experienced camping activities before. A tent is set up, a campfire is displayed via the whiteboard and marshmallows are enjoyed as well as telling stories and playing games to give them a taste of camping life.
Emma Rodrigues said; “We are really proud of what we continue to achieve with our Guides unit, which goes from strength-to-strength and has been running for more than 12 years, since 2011. Rebecca has demonstrated both commitment to Guides as well as her own self-development in achieving the Guide Leader qualification. We are extremely lucky to have her as part of our team!
Chloe Llewellyn, SEND Educational Teaching Assistant, was named Secondary Teaching Assistant of the Year and Vicki Graham, Assistant SENDCo’s work was also highlighted. BGHS is the only school nationally to have two staff recognised with National TA of the Year awards.
Representatives from Teaching Personnel came to the school to present the award and the event was attended by the Headteacher, Chair of Governors and Trust CEO, as well as the wider SEND staff team and a group of students who have benefitted specifically from the work of these two amazing ladies.
Susy Ingle, SENDCo provided written nominations for these staff members, which led to these awards. Chloe has worked with long-term persistent absentees and ‘has transformed student lives with her consistently positive approach and genuinely caring nature. Mental health in school has improved, those with visual impairments are more confident to accept help and support and this has led to higher aspirations and plans being made for the future.’
One student said, “You are kind of like my superhero.” And another, “thank you for understanding me. No one deserves this award more than you.” It was truly moving and inspiring that these young people wanted to do this. Although it was out of their comfort zones, they volunteered to speak at the Award ceremony, overcoming their own anxieties to recognise the impact Chloe has had on them. This is another example of how students have grown in confidence and resilience through their needs being consistently met.
The entire team had kept this presentation secret from Chloe so she was completely surprised and overwhelmed saying, “I’m literally shaking!” As Secondary Teaching Assistant of the Year she received a voucher, certificate and trophy inscribed with her name and new title ‘TA of the Year’ , but the real accolade was what the young people had to say, standing up in a room of people to speak from their heart. Chloe commented; “They are the reason I do this, they make the job absolutely amazing.”
Susy’s nomination for Vicki read; ‘She has become the go-to person for vulnerable learners, a pillar of strength! Her passion, approachability, and the confidence students have in her support, has enabled them to engage in learning and enjoy a positive school experience.'
It is also imperative to recognise the work of everyone in the SEND Teaching Assistant team and Susy was keen to stress the importance of this stating; “I wouldn’t have achieved all that we have without this amazing team. I am proud everyday; we work together with staff in school to meet the needs of all the young people in our care. We are collectively focussed on making a positive difference to their lives.”
Gary Kibble, Headteacher added; “It is a real testament to Susy that her team members have been recognised in this way. She has built a great culture during her 18 months with the school and her optimistic approach is contagious. Together, the team is positively impacting individual students, which has an impact on the rest of the school. Well done to our SEND superheroes!”
We recently spoke to a daughter, mum and sister/auntie who all work and trained within our Trust. They have all lived in Batley their entire lives and are invested in the community, with many other members of their family also living locally.
Afeefah Karolia is a former Batley Girls’ High School student and School Direct Trainee with Yorkshire Rose Teaching Partnership (YRTP) and Leeds Beckett University. She completed her training as a Primary School Direct Trainee in June and is a strong advocate for working and learning by being in school full time, saying; “I gained the experience of a class teacher as well as knowing I had the support of YRTP available whenever I needed them.” It also meant she was placed in the same school for a significant time period so that she was able to learn more about the class and children without being moved around multiple times, as with many other courses elsewhere.
Her mum Sumayya Jogee who works as an Educational Teaching Assistant at Batley Grammar School, having also previously been a student at Batley Girls’ High School. Sumayya believes community is important, and says; “I also believe being part of a diverse community is just as valuable.” And that, working in a Trust which is focussed on a small area of schools is beneficial to collaborative working and support.
Sumayya’s sister and Afeefah’s auntie; Khadija Makda, is a Higher Learning Teaching Assistant (HLTA) at Healey Junior, Infant and Nursery School having recently undertaken the course with Yorkshire Rose Teaching Partnership and Leeds Trinity University. Khadija’s previous role was leading in a private Early Years setting for 10 years, before joining Healey Junior, Infant and Nursery School. She wanted to change her career and began working there in 2015. She says; “Batley Multi Academy Trust has helped me to pursue my career further by supporting me and training me to become a HLTA through links with Leeds Trinity University.”
Speaking about the Trust being at the heart of the local community, Khadija went on to say; “The Trust is a family of schools that ensure all children receive a first class education and the very best care. I think it’s very good that we have both primary and secondary local schools in our trust. This is beneficial for parents with children of different ages allowing good partnership links within the schools in the Trust.”
Afeefah reinforces this viewpoint commenting; “it seems all [schools] have the same values and beliefs of providing support and help to one another and share the same outgoing, upbeat personalities which ensure they all work well together.” Going on to say, “This is beneficial, as the schools all provide a sense of community between each other and use this to support each other.”
The Yorkshire Rose Teaching Partnership is a vital arm of our Trust; not only introducing people to our organisation and adding to our already brilliant staff team, but also providing training for people already working across the Trust or enabling those who went to school in the Trust, to transition to training and working here.
Emma Rodrigues, Director of the YRTP said; “We began recruiting in 2013, so we are celebrating our 10 year anniversary of training this academic year, and have worked with around 300 trainees to date, with 64 of those going on to work in the Trust. Currently there are 43 former trainees within our Trust family - across both primary and secondary schools.”
She went on to say; “Since I’ve led the Higher Learning Teaching Assistants (HLTA) course in 2018, there have been around 50 people who’ve attained the accreditation who either work in the Trust or other schools in the area (including several BBEST schools). 22 of our HLTAs have been employed within the Trust ranging from SEND, mentors, cover supervisors, administration, apprenticeships as well as volunteering. We’re looking forward to meeting this year’s cohort in December!”
The purpose of the project, run by Near Neighbours, was to bring young people together to give them a voice about current issues as well as other issues that are important to them and provide a platform to voice their concerns to people that have the power or means to help make change. Sessions took place with partner schools and the final meeting brought all the schools together at Dewsbury Minster.
During the day each group presented their thoughts as a culmination of the work that had been done, and received feedback from Alison Lowe, Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime and Sam Vickers, our Trust CEO; they also had the opportunity to network. The video showcases this body of work, which has been so important for developing oracy and formal presentation skills, and from here; the aim is that schools will continue networking and working together in the future.
For the past five years, the Yorkshire Rose Teaching Partnership has been working with Exceed SCITT to deliver high quality school-led Initial Teacher Training (ITT). This has focussed on Primary Teacher Apprenticeships; of which there are currently two at schools within our Trust family - Manorfield and Batley Grammar School, Primary Phase, as well as at schools within the wider BBEST network.
It’s due to the culture, our brilliant staff and how we work in a collaborative and innovative way, that we’ve been able to offer this brilliant opportunity to benefit both the individual undertaking the training as well as our Trust family of schools through investment in staff.
Sarah began working at Upper Batley High School in November 2020 alongside two other Creative Educational Teaching Assistants; working together to support learners in lessons as well as collaborating with departments to create displays and other resources. She observes; “I have been able to see the benefits of a positive education on the learners and how it can create a well rounded individual throughout their time in school. I love that every day is different in this job and you never quite know what is going to happen.”
The creative aspect of her role has allowed her to explore the development of her skills across a range of different items for the school including photography, videos, sculptures, as well as displays, resources and much more. Drawing on her own experiences, the enthusiasm and passion of her textiles teacher is her driving inspiration to do the same for future generations of young people; to show them how accessible creative subjects are for everyone. “I want to change the mentality of learners,“ she comments, “to teach and inspire them to understand that everyone can enjoy art, it's about finding something for you.”
As the training is school-led it means she is still working in the same place, with the same team, which is one of the real benefits according to Sarah. “For me, this route is perfect. I get to work at UBHS, alongside everyone who has supported me for the past couple of years. The apprenticeship allows me to have my own classes straight away without having to shadow other teachers, whilst also being supported by people within my team to help me develop as a teacher. I think this route is ideal for people who have worked in a school they know and love and want to further their career there.”
Retaining great people who can maintain the educational levels for our young people is crucial. If we can invest in our own staff to deliver the best for our children we can continue to achieve our vision that every school, within our Trust family, is a great school.
“We are so proud to be able to offer Sarah this opportunity and really excited to see what she will achieve in the months and years to come. We are a truly supportive community and recognise the talent we have here.” - Emma Rodrigues, Director of the Yorkshire Rose Teaching Partnership.
Two of our secondary schools are currently training their young people to be Mental Health and Wellbeing Champions. This means that not only are they being trained to support others, but first and foremost they must look after their own mental health.
As the oxygen mask analogy advises; you should put on your own mask before assisting anyone else because if you don’t help yourself first, you won’t be able to help anyone else. This is a great principle for life; it’s about self-care and it benefits everyone.
Young people at Batley Girls’ High School took part in a one day training session with OneGoal, further to some online training, to become Mental Health Champions. The day’s session was followed by a 10 day challenge to fulfil their qualification and they also completed a Mental Health Champion scorecard to gauge their status or stage of mental health both at the start and the end of the challenge so they could reflect on any changes.
They were taken through a series of tasks by a trained coach, to gain a deeper understanding of mental health and its four stages (healthy, unsettled, struggling, unwell), discover the skills and qualities needed to be a mental health champion as well as how to help others whilst remembering that a Mental Health Champion looks after their own mental health.
Understanding that we all move up and down the scale of; healthy, unsettled, struggling, unwell was an important insight as was learning strategies for how to improve or change your situation or mindset.
One Year 9 student said; “It’s important because there’s a lot to think about; we’re under so much pressure to think about our options and our futures.” A Year 8 student added; “Social media encourages bad mental health, especially when you’re judged by the way you look or affected by what others think.”
Jodi Ramsden, Head of PE and Computing, led the partnership; “Physical health is important of course, but mental health is equally important, if not more so, as it’s often unseen. We’ve seen an increase in the need for this peer-to-peer approach particularly as social media has increased its impact on young people and especially through the aspects of isolation the pandemic caused. Being aware and knowing where you can go for support is vital for all our young people.”
At Upper Batley High School (UBHS); they are working with the MHST (Mental Health Support Team) Wellbeing Champion Pilot Project of which UBHS is one of three secondary schools. The MHST have previously worked with primary schools in Kirklees and are now looking to expand their offer to secondaries so will be taking crucial learnings from this pilot.
For the young people at UBHS this involves two half day training sessions which will raise awareness of mental health and emotional wellbeing, reduce stigma and, as a result, build a friendlier and kinder community.
By helping them tune into their own feelings; they will become positive approachable role models and practice kindness and empathy; have supportive conversations and signpost others appropriately, understanding the boundaries of their role, as well as safeguarding and confidentiality. In addition, they will build their self-confidence and improve their communication and interpersonal skills. They were also given access to a mood diary to allow them to check-in on their feelings, on a regular basis.
Suzie Shenderey, School Counsellor said; “It is crucial for our young people to have awareness of their feelings, particularly in an all-male environment and to have the confidence and intuition to express themselves in the right ways. Acceptance plays a big role in that respect, of themselves and others.”
Through these initiatives we hope that our young people will gain greater compassion, which will not only help them now but throughout their lives and supports our vision to create remarkable people.
Jemma Wroe, our Trust Designer, worked closely with the team at Field Lane to design the space. She explains; “Sensory rooms are a place where children can go to meet their sensory needs, whether they need stimulation or relaxation. They are a fantastic provision and aid to learning for those with Special Educational Needs.”
The space has been designed as a ‘blank canvas’ that can be adapted according to the unique needs of each child through lighting, projection and other stimulus. The lighting can be altered to create a specific mood, or as an extension of the projection. The projected animations can be tailored to the interests of the child and there is a variety of sensory equipment that can be brought out as and when needed. Existing equipment has been retained as well as investment in new resources, such as a bubble machine.
There is also bespoke, discreet storage to keep the room clear from sensory overload, which is crucial for this type of space to ensure we’re aiding, not aggravating, the emotional state of the child. We also have a ‘cuddle hammock’ for children to enclose themselves within the fabric, which can be used for comfort, relaxation or to stretch and swing.
The work has very much been insight-led. The graphic projections were inspired by an exhibition called ‘Arboreal’, where a room was transformed into a 360 projection that children could interact with. The design depicts a magical forest where creatures hide behind trees, digital fireflies land on you, and you can chase glow worms across the floor.
Ideas were also inspired through researching informative articles addressing a number of special needs (such as; An Architecture for Autism: Built Environment Performance in Accordance to the Autism ASPECTSS™ Design Index (Mostafa, M. 2015) and Designing Schools for Students on the Spectrum (Altenmüller-Lewis, U. 2017)). This research, which provided real-life case studies, informed the design development and creation of the sensory room.
As a Trust we have further plans to continue this work for SEND provision across our Trust family of schools, drawing on technological advances to help us develop sensory spaces further. Jemma says: “I would love to bring the interactivity of Arboreal into our sensory spaces; so that children can physically interact with what is going on around them. Whether that be popping bubbles, chasing butterflies or creating digital art.”
Hilary Towers-Islam, Headteacher at Field Lane said; “We are thrilled with the work that Jemma has done. She has created a beautiful space from an empty shell, which will benefit both the children and staff within our school."
Last year we welcomed a group of Erasmus partners from Greece, Norway, Portugal and Spain, to our Trust family of schools and, a year on, two of our friends from Norway made a return trip to continue the conversation and work collaboratively in the interests of wellbeing and resilience for young people and staff.
The project began in 2019 and is due to be finalised this summer and this trip, which took place just before the Easter holiday, added further insights for our Norwegian colleagues, as to what’s being done to support wellbeing in our Trust family of schools.
Ole Mangen and Trond Anvik talked about how fortunate they have been to visit and observe best practice in our schools in Batley, that have really excelled in how they support Teacher Trainees and Early Career Teachers (ECTs) in particular, during the crucial early years of teaching. They are very impressed with the organisation, structure and follow up in our approach to wellbeing; especially in the way we reach out to the community, which differs from the role of schools in Norway. During this visit they met with staff in a variety of roles to understand how wellbeing is approached linked to safeguarding, SEND, with trainees, ECTs and staff across the Trust.
Subject teaching and wellbeing should go hand-in-hand, said Ole; “We’re teachers of subjects and we believe education is important for wellbeing and learning for life.”
Trond said; “The focus now is on mental health and wellbeing for students, but there definitely needs to be more done for staff, due to the pressure and demands of modern education.” He added: “Building resilience has to come from good leadership, building a team and respect for teachers from day one in their careers, so they are well-equipped to meet the needs of young people.”
In a post-Covid world, the importance of being able to visit teams in different cultures and share thoughts with colleagues on an informal basis has provided nuggets that may not have been discovered over Zoom, they affirmed. Stating that the better outcomes from this Erasmus project will be the bits and pieces from these face-to-face sessions or classroom activities.
Ole affirmed; “Hopefully we will be left with a bunch of teachers across Europe that have a bit more enthusiasm and a little more knowledge and are still keen to share. That’s what this is all about.” Adding; “It doesn’t end this July.”
Emma Rodrigues, Director of the Yorkshire Rose Teaching Partnership (the Trust’s Initial Teacher Training (ITT) provider); has been a key driver for this partnership as well as ensuring support for trainees remains a high priority on the broader wellbeing agenda. Emma said; “We have built such strong foundations, I am confident this collaborative working will continue in the months and years to come, beyond the formal end of the project. We will continue to be dynamic, and meet the need when it’s needed.”
Sandeep Kaur, Senior People and Talent Advisor who was heavily involved in this visit commented; “As a Trust, we are committed to wellbeing for all and we have established a Trust Wellbeing Group with half-termly meetings to ensure that we give everyone a voice to fully address all needs.”
Currently the Yorkshire Rose Teaching Partnership is facilitating a Higher Learning Teaching Assistant (HLTA) course, which is being delivered by Leeds Trinity University. HLTAs do all the things that teaching assistants do, but they have an increased level of responsibility. For example, they teach classes on their own, cover planned absences and allow teachers time to plan and mark. Many HLTAs have a role to play outside the classroom too; they may manage other classroom-based staff, develop a specialist curriculum area within school and provide liaison with parents/carers.
Leeds Trinity University has been providing Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) courses for many years and is one of the most established and highly regarded providers in the region, as well as being part of the HLTA National Assessment Partnership. They are also a key partner in the HLTA North Consortium, which provides assessment and information for existing and aspiring HLTAs.
There are 22 trainees on the course, from the BBEST schools in the Birstall and Batley area, 12 of whom are from our Trust schools, with all six schools represented. 64% of the trainees are over 30 and over half are working mothers, which is representative of our community and demonstrates how we endeavour to support the women in our local community with the careers pathways open to them.
Emma Rodrigues, Director of The Yorkshire Rose Teaching Partnership Director says; “Over the last 10 years I have seen lots of changes in how teacher training has developed. We customise our programme to work alongside our partnership providers in order to ensure our trainees are well equipped to teach and lead, enabling them to enhance the lives of the children and young people they teach.”
As each session takes place, it’s brilliant to see all the HLTA trainees together collaborating and supporting each other. Our Trust community and wider BBEST community is so important and we can only achieve greater things together. TEAM; together everyone achieves more.
Along with more than 150 other schools across the country learners explored their shared history and engaged with ideas around how we can make racial justice a reality in the future - as well as their own power to create change. This empowered them to develop their thoughts and options, communicate effectively and have their voice heard.
They were challenged to decorate a fibreglass globe sculpture, with a 1.4m diameter and a total height of 1.7m, to convey a message of social justice and strength for our community.
Each young person designed a motif based on these themes and they collaged the ideas together to create an initial plan of how our globe might look. The learners sketched their ideas onto the globe and special pens and acrylic paint were used to add colour. Written ideas, quotes and inspirational sayings, plus visual representations were included to bring the ideas and sentiments to life.
The finished globe was varnished and then displayed in The Tetley in Leeds, during the summer, alongside globes from other schools. Professional artists also took part in this project and their work was displayed in Leeds as well as at other venues across the UK.
The sculpture arrived at Upper Batley High School in time to be exhibited at the school’s main entrance during the Great Winter Get Together to continue to share the message of hope for the future and for a 'World Reimagined'. The piece conveys that humanity can grow through compassion, friendship, respect and community and is emblazoned with the ethos Jo Cox lived by; how we all have far more in common than that which divides us.
Reading for Learning takes place at the beginning of each school day to actively foster a love of reading. These sessions also help students to develop their reading skills; fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and confidence, when reading aloud and by reading a range of fiction and non-fiction texts with their Form Tutor.
The range of texts which form the BGHS Literary Canon cover different genres, cultures, traditions and time periods. They have been carefully chosen to explore some of the key protected characteristics and themes related to personal development and PSHCE, as well as building the cultural capital which students need to access the curriculum and understand the world around them. Six key themes have been specifically selected for each year group, to be explored through the relative texts, to give students a varied reading diet and encourage them to empathise with a range of characters and individuals from different time periods, places and cultures.
The Reading for Learning programme has been designed based on the Reciprocal Reading strategy. Reading comprehension strategies, which focus on the learners’ understanding of written text, are rated as having a high impact on students’ progress and attainment by the EEF (Education Endowment Foundation). Reciprocal reading is a structured approach to teaching strategies (questioning, clarifying, summarising and predicting) that students can use to improve their reading comprehension.
Students are expected to participate and engage fully in the sessions by volunteering to read and contributing to class discussions. To use their bookmarks to follow the text, whilst reading, and enjoy the time dedicated to reading for pleasure!
There are many other activities that take place within the school, which complement the Reading for Learning programme. These include half-termly Literacy competitions to encourage students’ to read more frequently and widely, book groups and a paired reading scheme to support students with their reading skills. This provides Year 7 students with the opportunity to read with their older peers from BG6 (sixth form college) who have received training from Kirklees Council on guided reading.
“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” - Malala Yousafzai
The session was well-attended with all Trust schools represented and colleagues sharing strategies they currently use in their schools to promote wellbeing and raise staff morale.
We are a family of schools, but we are siblings, with differing characteristics. Therefore each school has unique traits and ways of doing things that can be shared with and adapted by others.
Attendees talked about a number of techniques such as; the ‘Tree of Kindness’, which is has treats and other items hanging from it for colleagues to help themselves to when needed; a daily bulletin the ‘Daily Buzz’ to streamline communication and reduce all staff emails; as well as feel-good acts of kindness such as Golden Ticket (allowing staff one wellbeing day per academic year), Eudaimonia (a secret supporter who shares small tokens and gifts based on personal preferences) and other Trust/school-wide tokens shared for National Thank You Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day to recognise every individual.
It was also recognised that whilst much of the aforementioned are seen as the ‘nice things’ they actually mean so much more than their seemingly small gesture. These acts help to embed a culture of wellbeing and provide a foundation, which can be built upon, but we know that fundamentally wellbeing is so much more than simple gestures.
Our culture is founded on the organisation treating people with respect and following the Nolan principles of working in public life; honesty, integrity, respect, selflessness, objectivity, accountability and leadership.
These qualities are for everyone across our Trust to take on board and, at a more granular level, it’s also about leaders optimising their approach by considering the impact it may have on individuals. For example, reducing data collections from six to three times a year; being evidence-informed, working smarter not harder, and using research to structure new initiatives. Essentially, being reflective and always evaluating and evolving to improve ways of working.
The main takeaway of the session was centred on ethical leadership; which is about always doing the ‘next right thing’ so we provide the very best education for all our young people and that our staff enjoy their place of work.
If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
From here we will develop an effective wellbeing strategy, which includes the creation of an ethical leadership document and a workload charter, which focuses on the core aspects of what affects our wellbeing, such as working practices and culture.
We will continue to meet every half term to build on this work so it becomes intrinsic within our Trust family and it will form a vital part of our talent attraction and retention.
Luisa Lang, Headteacher, has instilled a love of learning and a real passion for reading across the whole school since she joined and the RWI training programme was a natural next step. Huge success has been evidenced; children are motivated and engaged with the lessons and the resources as they respond well to the routine and structure. Parents/carers are impressed by the progress children are making in school. The stories are engaging and fun, and children enjoy re-reading the stories, which builds their fluency.
Luisa advocates the success of the training, saying: “[It] has transformed our teaching throughout the school. What’s more, the children’s behaviour and learning culture have both improved.”
Furthermore, the half-termly data is used to drive improvements throughout the school, to inform next steps and to look at groupings, as well as individual progress and attainment. During their Ofsted visit earlier this year, it was noted that Healey has a team of leaders who take responsibility for phonics and reading and that this team coordinates a whole-school approach, making sure staff are well trained and supported to teach the phonics programme.
Reading is a key life skill, and its benefits are wide-reaching; it is fundamental to wellbeing, it develops vocabulary and imagination as well as aiding relaxation. Healey really does embrace reading as central to its purpose both within the school walls as well as at home. Upon your arrival at the school, one of the first things that greets you are the lovely displays about the current books being read in school, and the well stocked library. Each week parents/carers have the opportunity to come in with their children and borrow books to read at home with the whole family.
Quite simply put by Frederick Douglass, who escaped from slavery and became an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer and statesmen; ‘“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
We work closely with WOVEN Careers and this partnership allowed some Year 10 students to have a brilliant experience visiting businesses who work in various aspects of the supply chain of the textile industry.
The schedule included visits to: the Textile Centre of Excellence in Huddersfield, which was an eye-opener to both the range of careers available as well as the global links of the textile industry in West Yorkshire. W.T. Johnson & Sons provided a behind the scenes peek at the breadth of the technicalities as well as the premium brands the materials are produced for: Burberry and Hugo Boss, to name a couple. Camira Fabrics then gave them a technical understanding of the fabrics around them in their day-to-day lives.
The experience truly showcased the career and apprenticeship opportunities on offer in their local area, exploring how their interests could apply to this industry and planting seeds for progression routes for Year 11 and beyond.
"It really was a wonderful opportunity for them to see what is out there, for them, in the real world." - Lucy Swierczynski, Head of Art at Batley Girls' High School.
The ambition was realised after a successful application for a Wolfson Foundation grant to allow the significant investment, which was supplemented by school funds to enable them to bring their oldest three labs up-to-date.
There has been an immediate impact of the learning environment, Sam Kimberley, Head of Science, says: “The refurbishment has given a new identity to the department. It has given us a wow factor and now fosters our pupil’s curiosity of the subject.
"Our newly designed corridors bring our diverse community together. Designed by our KS3 pupils, we can now expose our learners to the importance of history and religion in Science. Our pupils are able to explore how their religion in the past is so important to what we know today.
"The new laboratories have given the department a real buzz and immediately developed a positive atmosphere between staff and pupils both in the classrooms and on the corridors.”
The contemporary designed space encourages a greater emphasis on creative and hands-on learning. As the new practical areas are much more spacious, the processes of setting up, conducting and clearing away experiments and equipment is much smoother now there are facilities that are fit for purpose.
Pupils responded positively immediately, demonstrating a greater respect for their surroundings. The brighter, more welcoming laboratories have evidently allowed the young people to become more focused in the classroom and appreciate the opportunities they have. This now, newly refurbished department, equips every pupil to aspire, thrive and prosper in their scientific studies.
Staff across our Trust family of schools were awarded runners up at the University of Leeds inaugural Research Culture and Impact awards in the Widening Perspectives category.
The award recognises activities where multiple views from different knowledge holders (including seldom-heard voices) are brought together to inform, reframe, or change public debate, and to inspire learning and sense-making that leads to empowerment. All applications were judged by an interdisciplinary and entirely external panel.
Staff from Batley Girls’ High School, Batley Grammar School, Field Lane and Upper Batley High School partnered with Dr Briony Thomas, Associate Professor in Design Science at the University of Leeds for the ‘Keepin’it Real’ project, which provided an innovative educational programme during the Summer Term.
The initiative began life 18 months prior as a seed of an idea with a small budget and has flourished due to the drive and dedication of everyone involved at the University and in the schools, demonstrating collaboration at its best.
The project brought together art and science to create hands-on classroom activities with the aim of improving children’s understanding to build science literacy. The children articulated their exploration of viruses and our immune system creatively, using different media. Their work was showcased in an exhibition where parents and the community could see this wonderful display of creativity.
The awards ceremony took place during the summer and consisted of a photo shoot and lunch, then onto the celebration event where the Chancellor of the University; Professor Dame Jane Francis and Professor Nick Plant, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, presented the trophies and certificates.
It was wonderful to be able to celebrate this partnership and see the results of collaboration in practice!
During the Summer Term of 2022 our family of six schools joined together with other local schools to take part in this wonderful project, which has now been running for ten years. In total, 17 schools were involved in the project, which connects science and the arts. Two of our fantastic school staff are members of The Change Project board; Hilary Towers-Islam (Field Lane) and Louise Farrar (Upper Batley). Many superb members of staff from across our trust family of schools were involved in bringing this project to life, with lots of creative and artistic genius along the way.
The Change Project provides rich educational and inclusive learning experiences for young people across the Batley and Birstall area. Sponsored by Cummins Turbo Technologies, it connects the sciences and the arts, igniting young people's creativity and curiosity.
This year's programme included tackling some of the larger challenges facing the creative and engineering industries today. These challenges include gender inequalities, the under representation of individuals from minority backgrounds and age bias. The project recognised the importance of diversity and inclusion, and the impact this can have on the choices our participants make when considering career pathways.
A diverse group of artists and engineers helped to bring the project to life and our young people were able to witness first hand a wide range of career opportunities available to them. Plus, a great deal of fun was had by all, with some amazing artistic creations at the end of the project and a superb exhibition.
As Albert Einstein famously once said "Creativity is intelligence having fun".
Four new street signs created by pupils at Healey Junior & Infants School, Batley carry a clear message to dog owners – clean up after your dog and put the poo in the bin!
The posters are now displayed around the school and close to Healey Community Centre in the hope that dog owners will take notice and clean up their acts.
The posters were the result of a competition in which the pupils created posters about dog-fouling and dogs being off-lead. The competition came about when two Kirklees Council Public Space Protection Officers visited the school to talk about problems with dog owners close to the school.
Councillor Naheed Mather, Cabinet Member for Environment said:
“Children are often the ones that suffer the most because of irresponsible dog owners not cleaning up after their dogs or allowing them to roam off-lead. These children are having to avoid stepping in dog mess every day they go to school because of the actions of a small minority of dog owners. Also, an off-lead dog can be very frightening to a small child. The designs carry very strong messages that we hope dog owners will hear loud and clear and take the right action.”
Speaking on behalf of the four poster designers Jaycee (10) said “We hope the dog owners will see our posters, pick up their dog’s poo and put it in the bin where it belongs.”
Anyone spotting dog fouling taking place or wanting to report an incident to the council can do so by visiting Kirklees Council website.
This fantastic initiative was the result of a joint bid by York St John’s University, Batley Girls’ High School and Leeds East Academy to the Natural Environment Research Council.
Led by Dr Catherine Heinemeyer, Lecturer and Researcher in Arts and Ecological Justice, this project involved a series of workshops to inform and support our young people in developing storytelling performances that communicate lived experiences of climate adaptation from around the world.
Through podcasts, virtual meetings and workshops engaging with activists, researchers and community members from both the Global North and South, students were exploring two key questions: 1) Who is already being most affected by climate change? 2) How are they adapting and what can we learn from their experiences?
This then enabled them to create ‘suitcase stories’ – micro performances that pack into a suitcase and use objects, voice and narrative to tell stories from the climate frontlines. which stimulate discussion on climate adaptation and climate justice. These performances were filmed and a special screening held when students visited the university at the start of June. They were also given a tour of the campus and treated to a BBQ lunch! It was a fantastic experience and the culmination of a transforming project for them! Two of our Year 9 students also took part in a live performance at The Big Iftar event at Upper Batley High School back in April.
Dr Heinemeyer said: “Students were extremely engaged, really playful and supported each other.” … “The level of discussion and collaboration was impressive across the different age groups of participants.” She also conveyed how the students had grown in confidence week-by-week and the skills they learned, through an interesting and enjoyable experience, had many benefits for mental health and wellbeing particularly combatting some of the anxieties around feeling powerless about climate change. This experience has empowered them and helped to create a community of resilience.
"My experience being in the 'Suitcase Stories' project has helped me grasp an understanding on how serious the issue of Climate Change is not just in local communities, but also globally how people are suffering with the changes to the climate and how as part of the younger generation, we are going to make the change for the future. I enjoyed being in this project because I was able to work with younger students and staff from York St John's University to create final inspiring pieces. " - Year 12, BG6 student.
"Suitcase Stories was good to be a part of because our work will spread around the world and everyone will think about what they are going to do for the environment which will help raise money for charities that are helping with climate change." - Year 7 student.
You can read more about this project and view the film here.
Journal Clubs have been introduced into education quite recently, in the past five years or so, and are still not prevalent across the profession. This practice has been influenced by medical and social work platforms and the timetabled review and refining of elements of practice for discussion, informed by research. This approach enables practitioners to have a better understanding of their own practice and reflect on how minor changes to conditions can help them to improve in specific areas.
It’s about maximising the impact of one’s teaching, rather than making radical changes. Using insights from Impact Journal, which is published by the Chartered College of Teaching four times a year, as well as Practitioner Blogs and other research articles and academic journals. The focus truly is on the importance of teachers' voices to inform reflection and the development process of education.
At UBHS, the Journal Club was set up in October 2021 and takes place once every half term. It is influenced by a focus on whole school priorities and how teaching effectiveness can better support those objectives, whilst addressing individuals’ needs. This therefore gives each individual teacher a specific role to play, of their choosing, in school improvement and demonstrates how their input can make a difference both at a teaching and whole school level.
Sessions include reading or pre-reading and consist of non-hierarchical discussion, with a host, not a leader of the session. Conversations around current practice are multi-disciplinary and can be applied across a variety of subjects. The last meeting focussed on assessment and misconceptions with half of the group reading one article, and the other half another, then reflection and discussion ensued. An example outcome is that this discussion led to the change of a retrieval element of Year 7 assessments and the writing of a new mark scheme.
It really is about sharing knowledge and using research to underpin the thought development process to begin the discussion. Then considering how, in the context of UBHS, teaching can be refined to improve outcomes and educational experiences.
The group is very much in its infancy, these programmes usually take three years to be fully embedded, but a fantastic platform has been established. The aim from next year is to have ‘Teacher Rounds’ whereby a ‘critical friend’ sits in on your lesson as a fresh pair of eyes, focussed on a tiny element of practice each individual teacher chooses to explore and refine.
It’s all about how incremental changes and personal professional reflection can make a real difference. The name of the group alone supports this; Insight - what the group aims to provide; nuanced, better and specific understanding.
As the unofficial tagline states: Come for the biscuits, stay for the insights!
Driven by a desire to fully support the Pakistani heritage children in school who were under achieving (which is a nationwide issue) and understand why this was happening, it was realised that some families were not fully involved in school life largely due to a language barrier, so they were invited into school to take part in an open discussion conducted in Urdu. At first, the ladies were extremely shy, but by the second session their interaction had greatly increased, which demonstrated they already felt much more comfortable in the school environment.
The sessions were held in Urdu or Punjabi, in the main, and the discussions were centred on parental thoughts as to what could help to change and improve achievement for their children. The women talked about issues to do with bedtime routines, diet, screen time, quality time with family and so on, offering potential solutions to one another. The discussions were coordinated by Amna F Qureshi, the parent liaison teaching assistant at Field Lane. Together, they created a programme of activities addressing each concern and including sessions on the importance of ‘me-time’ for parents/carers . These weekly sessions became a highlight of the week for some - much laughter could be heard coming from their room!
Although they could not meet in person during the pandemic, welfare calls continued throughout. Now, at least three of the women from the original group are in employment, many have joined an ESOL course and a couple have also learned to drive, after the school introduced them to a female driving instructor at one of the sessions.
The benefits for all were so far-reaching this then sparked a further initiative with Afghani families who are Pashto speakers. Four out of five of this group are now in ESOL classes, coming into school twice weekly for these, and they also take part in our craft club. With the introduction of Gujarati speakers, the groups decided it would be best to merge into one and it was agreed that if Urdu was spoken everyone could understand sufficiently. Some of the women requested weekly phonics classes, enabling them to better support their children with their reading and homework. This is now well underway.
These relationships with parents really have flourished so much so that they are now very much a part of the school community supporting needs and helping ideas to develop, such as how to keep children engaged during Ramadan, as well as it being a fantastic social opportunity for everyone.
Through established connections, these groups of parents now feel more confident approaching and attending the school, working together to follow a programme of support for their children, which follows an expectation and praise method. The original group of children are now in Year 6, and the groups began in Year 3, so we will see the learning benefits and impact as they progress and move onto the secondary schools within the Trust. Our next mission is to support our parents with the transition to our high schools.
"My children have regular routines now! I enjoy coming to these groups; it gets me out of the house and I can interact and share ideas with other mums".
"I realised the importance of screen time after attending the session so immediately as a family we put a plan in place. This is really working now!"
“Today, I woke my children up with a hug. Last night I sat in bed and shared a book with my son. Yesterday, I even stopped myself from saying ‘I'm busy go and play’ but turned off my cooker and let my child tell me about his football cards. I feel I have made positive changes to my child's life. Changes that make me want to carry it on from one day to another and another. Thank you for the Thursday group. The reminders we have about how important it is to nurture our children is just what I needed. I want my children to become happy, motivated individuals who believe in themselves. Thank you for helping me make this happen.”
These fantastic outcomes are all thanks to the ambition, ideas, persistence and dedication of Amna F Qureshi, Teaching Assistant and Cover Supervisor at Field Lane, who also made all the welfare calls. Without her fantastic attitude we wouldn’t have made those vital connections with parents to enable us and them together, to better support children's development.
The Iftar is the first of a host of events which take place as part of the Great Get Together, in memory of the late Batley & Spen MP, Jo Cox. It is also a chance for people to experience the breaking of fast and hear about the holy month of Ramadan.
Kim Leadbeater MP Jo Cox’s sister said: “It’s great to see the Batley Iftar coming back to Upper Batley High School this year. The Iftar is an opportunity for people to come together and share food during the holy month of Ramadan, but like so many other events it was unable to take place due to the pandemic.” Adding; “These opportunities for people to reconnect are so valuable and really do show our community at its best.”
Local faith leaders lead the proceedings followed by performances from Batley Poets as well as poetry and speeches delivered by students from Batley Girls’ High School, readings from
Upper Batley High School students and songs from St Peter's Primary School children.
We are immensely proud of our rich and diverse community heritage and the fantastic people who live and work here.
The four day visit had a packed schedule including an opening reception with key stakeholders in the community, as well as visits to other schools within the Trust. Plus an opportunity to see the sights of the local area, providing a culture rich experience.
The project has seen 18 months of meticulous planning and preparation. The visit is only one aspect of the project; securing links now and in the future, and developing long-term connections, is the aspiration.
The focus of the initiative is student and staff wellbeing from a strategic to a practical level, which explores the sharing of best practice across all the European partners. As part of this initiative, each country is creating a suite of materials, which will be trialled and eventually shared across Europe so it really is a trailblazing project.
Emma Rodrigues, Lead Coordinator for the Erasmus project at Batley Girls’ High School commented, “It feels like a long time in the making, but we’re so excited the time is finally here and we can bring people together to collaborate at an international level. Months of discussion and planning have led us to this point, which is testament to everyone’s patience and diligence throughout this process, as well as their passion for working together on this fantastic project. It has been an absolute pleasure for me, both personally and professionally.”
David Cooper, Headteacher of Batley Girls’ High School affirmed; “Through this partnership we have developed deep and sustained relationships, which will be to the benefit of all partners and will continue once this project is complete.”
Samantha Vickers, CEO of Batley Multi Academy Trust said; “It’s important for our young learners to experience other cultures, and meeting people from other backgrounds is key to that. Here at Batley Multi Academy Trust we strongly believe that education is so much more than academic. Our aim is to develop well-rounded individuals and by showing them a world where difference is valued and celebrated informs those beliefs.”
The QGC is a unique tree planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022 which invites people from across the UK to 'Plant a Tree for the Jubilee'. Through this focus on sustainable planting, the QGC encourages the planting of trees to create a legacy in honour of The Queen’s leadership of the Nation, which will benefit future generations.
“We wanted to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee here at UBHS and share the celebrations across the other schools in the Batley Multi Academy Trust as well as positively contributing to future national climate goals.” Said Wayne Linney, the teacher leading the project at UBHS. He went on to say; “We have now planted our trees at UBHS at the front of the site so everyone can watch them grow and develop for generations of learners and visitors to come.”