The Barr’s Hill Experience

Context of school

Barr’s Hill is an inner city school with 763 pupils operating in a challenging social context.  KS2 attainment is significantly below average in all year groups and in Year 11 last year was the lowest in the city.  In 2019-20 the school experienced significant churn in roll with pupils joining and leaving in the school in all year groups, primarily moving in and out from overseas. Currently, 32% of the students are Pupil Premium, 17.6% have a SEN and 38.1% of pupils are EAL.

Mission:  To increase the life chances and aspirations of our diverse group of students by raising standards of education and providing exceptional experiences.


 All Barr’s Hill Students articulate a strong sense of PRIDE, belonging and loyalty to their school and community.  They are confident and aspirant, have a clear vision for their future and know the next steps they need to take to get there.  They consistently engage in formal talk, exploring concepts and ideas; leading to their excellent extended writing skills which they apply across the curriculum.  They are numerate and able to problem solve and read regularly with purpose.  Proactive, with a deep understanding of their learning journey, they are able to plan independently, they are determined and inquisitive learners that self-regulate.  Engaged in school life, they seek opportunities, and enrichment experiences in sport, creativity, performing and service, they celebrate their successes and reflect on their experiences to continually progress, making them confident and well-rounded individuals.   They are responsible; empathetic and understanding of others they show respect to all.  When things go wrong, they are resilient, reflective and able to put them right.  Their exam results are excellent giving them a passport to the next stage in life where they are compelling candidates in their field.

Our values

Students First – all staff, governors & parents totally focused upon the education of all our students.

Our curriculum aims to create successful, confident leaners who achieve excellence and demonstrate PRIDE. Provision is broad and balanced, and responsive to and supportive of students’ needs and aspirations, and it fosters intellectual curiosity and academic achievement. It is sequenced to enable new learning to be built on prior knowledge and prioritises depth of understanding over breadth of content. It is closely matched to the needs of learners; transition is learner focused and the rich menu of enrichment activities, particularly in sport and performing arts, enables good physical and creative development encouraging confidence and purpose in life.

It’s about Learning – students, all staff, governors & parents totally focused upon developing and improving the learning of students underpinned by harmonious and trusting relationships.

Learners have an understanding of the strategies they can use to learn (cognition) and are able to monitor and purposefully direct their learning (metacognition). Through articulation and demonstration of this, they establish a deeper understanding of the learning process. Learners develop the skills and desire to continue to engage with learning after they have completed their formal education allowing them to be competitive in an evolving workplace. They are reflective about their personal conduct, respectful towards others and prepared for life in modern Britain with an understanding of fundamental British Values which are lived out through the ethos and work of our schools

No Barriers – no excuses, only support, to ensure students, all staff, governors & parents maximise the academic achievement of students whilst enabling them to develop and flourish as well rounded individuals.

Regardless of their background or educational need, all students demonstrate rapid progress from their starting points in the key communication skills of literacy and numeracy, as well as in reasoning and thinking, and speaking and listening.  All learners are very committed and involved in their school community. This they demonstrate by their involvement in improving their school and the wider community through a broad range of activities.  We are an inclusive school.  All SEND and disadvantaged learners access the full curriculum.  Progression & life chances with a focus on building happy, healthy, independent, & employable young people are the key factor in determining provision.

How we choose to treat children…

We treat our students with the belief that everyone can get better…  we believe that every child can achieve incredible things and that it is our responsibility to enable their potential, and ensure that they do.

We believe in ‘No Barriers’: we do not allow disadvantage or other challenges to be a barrier, and we treat these barriers as hurdles that can be overcome with help.  We believe in ‘Students First’: we make decisions based on what’s best for our students, now and in the future. We believe ‘It’s about Learning.   Our ultimate goal is for all students to increase their life chances by living PRIDE.

Our students are successful because they feel that they ‘belong’ to our community; through this belonging comes the confidence to learn.  Though we operate in a challenging context, we have never met a child or a parent that does not want to succeed, although we meet some that don’t know how.  We are clear that the street stops at the gate.  In our school there is a relentless focus on high standards and there are no excuses or barriers to learning and achievement.  We have sky high expectations of our students in everything they do and believe they can be the best, but we set a tone and ethos through dialogue and principles, not through the application of a detailed list of rules.  We are ‘warm – strict’.  In this way we build belonging.

‘Strict’ doesn’t mean punitive or harsh, just that it is very clear where the boundaries are, and that these are consistently applied and reinforced. The ‘warm’ is about all of this being done to reassure pupils, and is clearly about “purpose not power”.  All our staff take the time to explain the why as well as the what and the how.  This patient and relentless approach allows time for students’ metacognition of why our expectations matter, and why they make a difference to their character, learning and progress.  In this way we build belonging.

Warm and strict are two sides of the same coin.  We sweat the small stuff, because we think it matters.  This means both clearly communicating expectations and clearly communicating recognition through consistent praise and rewards.  Our staff operate through relationships and dialogue.  Being warm, through kind words, body language, tone and being a caring mentor is especially important whist we are being strict with our students by not wavering on a decision.  This shows our students that we have high expectations for them, that we value them as individuals and that we want what is best for them. We don’t undermine this by lowering our expectations for any student.  Throughout this process we recognise that the journey looks different for different students and therefore we use our professional judgement and seek at all times to treat students with equity and equality.  In this way we build belonging.

In every interaction we take due care to know our students and the issues and challenges they come with.  Many of our students have been exposed to multiple adverse childhood experiences and we are aware that sometimes the place they start from is a long way from where we are.  In every interaction we seek to preserve the dignity of our students.  We don’t shout, it rarely makes things better, and we speak to the student as if the parent was standing next to them.  Our staff are therefore role models for our students in everything they do, we model the behaviours, dress and expectations we want our students to copy…  “Our students won’t remember what we taught them, but they will remember forever the way we made them feel”[1]

In these ways we build belonging.

“We have come to the frightening conclusion that we are the decisive element in a child’s learning experience.  It is our personal approach that creates the climate, it is our daily mood that makes the weather.  We possess tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous.  We can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.  We can humiliate, hurt or heal.  In all situations, it is our response that decides whether a situation will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or dehumanized.”[2]

[1] Based on a Jim Henson quote

[2] Based on a Hiam Ginott quote

Curriculum offer

All Barr’s Hill students are able to access a broad and balanced curriculum. Our three-year KS3 curriculum consists of English, Maths, Science, PE, Humanities, MFL and Create and Perform. Humanities consists of History, Geography, Classics and RE and Create and Perform consists of Music, Art, STEM, Food and IT. Pupils choose options at the end of year 9 and begin these in year 10. English, Maths, Science and History/Geography are compulsory. Pupils then have the opportunity to choose between 11 option subjects.

KS3 curriculum

Significant time and expertise is put into the importance of transition and the Year 7 learning experience.  Students first experience of Barr’s Hill is during ‘Year 5 Day’.  The ‘Bridge to the Future’ programme provides a range of learning opportunities throughout Year 6 and in the summer before they join to ensure that students feel ready to start their 7-year journey at Barr’s Hill.

Students join Barr’s Hill school in the Bridge. The Bridge is a self-contained Hub dedicated to Year 7 students, based in its own building with its own specialist staff, social space and classrooms. A senior primary specialist, is employed to target intervention at students not at age related expectation and to ensure a clear focus on literacy across The Bridge curriculum.  The Bridge aims to teach students to use formal and exploratory talk and to build their writing skills.  The curriculum is carefully crafted to flow from Year 5/6 and highly aspirational.  Students study high level concepts such as the foundations of communication & the art of rhetoric, algebraic manipulation, chemical reactions, Latin, classical Roman mythology, the origins of British civilisation, climate change and religious leadership.  Humanities and Create and Perform subjects are taught as projects/extended periods of learning on a rotation. This allows students to experience a wide range of subjects as well as learning in depth.  It also encourages high quality pupil/teacher relationships and reduces the number of adults Year 7 students work with to ease the transition.  All students in year 7 regardless of ability study MFL. As the school’s MFL department expands this offer will be extended to Year 8 and Year 9.  All students have the opportunity to study Latin in Year 7 as part of their Classics project.

The Year 8 and Year 9 curricula is carefully planned to build upon what students have learnt in Year 7. Students study Shakespeare, critical theory and ideas around Russian revolution, communism and totalitarianism, Pythagoras & trigonometry, the reactivity of elements and displacement reactions, environmental issues which link to ocean circulation, coral acidification, water density and salinity, democracy and power and Hispanic environmental issues and La Comida with use of formal talk.  Any students not yet at ARE in English and Maths receive additional intervention. This can include Fresh Start, Leoxnik, Reading Inference, Thinking Reading, Maths intervention, and Nessy Dyslexia support.

KS4 curriculum

English, Maths and Science groups are set based on ability. Ability of students must be assessed accurately before being placed in sets. Behaviour and Language barriers must not be a factor in deciding sets. HOF have flexibility to choose sets.

All students regardless of ability have the opportunity to study MFL.

All students at Key Stage 4 are offered a broad and balanced curriculum with 11 course choices.

All students study English, Maths, Science, PE and History or Geography.

A small number of students are offered a bespoke curriculum which can include alternative provision or additional English and Maths support.

KS5 curriculum

At the end of KS4, the school aims to send all of its students to P16 select. P16 Select is a joint venture with President Kennedy School, an outstanding school, which is part of The Futures Trust. Academic, vocational and blended pathways are offered. The following subjects can be taken in P16 select: English Lit, English Lit and Lang, Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, History, Geography, Philosophy & Ethics, Business, Sport, Art, Photography, IT, Health studies and Spanish.

Barr’s Hill Teaching and Learning Principles

Barr’s Hill school has a principle-based approach to teaching and learning, grounded in subject integrity. We believe in empowering subjects through a consistent set of principles across the school that encapsulate a range of strategies. Heads of faculty plan their curricula, assessment and delivery through these principles.

Curriculum Journey
The curriculum is carefully planned, both as a faculty and as a class teacher, and shared and understood by students to encompass what students must know, understand and be able to do in each subject to prepare them for the next stage in their learning. The curriculum is logically sequenced within and across subjects to ensure consistency, it is set up to regularly re-visit key concepts and ensure tasks are well planned to help pupils’ long term retention. Metacognitive strategies are modelled in lessons to help pupils build their expertise and students are given time to practise, often guided, so that they can develop fluency and independence. Regular and meaningful Homework supports this.   All students’ work is high quality, demonstrating the pride they show in their learning.

Assessment is accurate and appropriate. Formative assessment is constantly used and acted upon to reshape learning, ensuring lessons are pitched appropriately so that all learners progress. Questioning, targeted at all learners, is used to check and help students’ understanding. Summative assessment is used to assess students’ knowledge and skills, feedback is regular and meaningful and acted upon.  Marking has clear impact for the students, helps them to improve their SPAG, helps them to answer the three key questions by knowing what they need to do to improve, knowing how to improve it and being given time to improve so they can show this improvement. Students take pride in their work.

Communication Skills
Communication skills lies at the heart of effective teaching. There is a clear vision and approach to developing reading, writing, oracy and vocabulary across each subject. A culture of reading allows learners to read widely with fluency and comprehension appropriate to their age. Vocabulary is both mapped across subjects and gaps are addressed proactively so all students can access the learning and improve their ability to articulate their ideas in an academic and formal manner.   Staff and students consistently engage in formal talk and it is used to ensure a high standard of English is well spoken and well written. Extended writing involves students’ metacognition ensuring that it is specific, precise, clear and concise.  Regular structured opportunities to share, discuss and challenge their own and others’ opinions develops high quality exploratory talk, which promotes deeper thinking in all subjects. Individual communication barriers are effectively planned for, to enable and encourage the engagement of all learners.

Know your students
Learning is planned and delivered to ensure all learners make progress and provides an inclusive classroom for all. Teachers use AfL regularly and rigorously in order to know their students’ prior knowledge and as a result, plan effectively.  All staff know their students well and use data appropriately to ensure they all make progress. All staff have clear seating plans in place with student targets and key information. All staff have one page profiles for SEND learners with personalised strategies which are used to plan and deliver effective learning that are constantly reviewed. Colleagues effectively use student voice to build relationships, develop trust, self-esteem and encourage a willingness to take risks.

Culture of excellence 
Colleagues consistently reflect upon and improve subject, pedagogical and content knowledge to ensure a deep understanding of the curriculum. All staff contribute to a culture of collaboration, research, coaching, mentoring and co-observation ensuring the school has a common approach to teaching and learning. This means the school is at the forefront of curriculum design and creates a culture of effective and meaningful CPD.  Innovative practice, defined as ‘doing things differently to do them even better’, is evident throughout the school. Teachers use creative/imaginative strategies and techniques to engage, extend and challenge all students appropriately. There are regular opportunities for colleagues to collaborate to develop consistent strategies across the curriculum for individual learners.  The school environment is a showcase for learning. The impact of this culture of excellence is evident in the progress of learners.

The classroom and beyond
Students are confident and aspirant, have a clear vision for their future and know the next steps they need to get there. Learning experiences extend beyond the classroom and all colleagues encourage students to seize opportunities that develop their talents, character and interests.  The wide, rich set of experiences, offered throughout the ‘7-year journey’, and the opportunities within the classroom for students to take a leading role in their learning, provide our students with the confidence to lead with PRIDE and to overcome barriers and compete with their peers nationally. Teaching is responsive and sensitive to current affairs and contextual issues which enables students to form educated opinions and a greater awareness of the world. PRIDE underpins all we do and helps our students to self-regulate their learning and development, celebrate their successes and reflect on their experiences to continually progress.

The 7 Year Journey

Our ‘7 Year Journey’ encourages all of our students to build brighter futures. As students progress through each Hub, they build an understanding of the responsibilities of adulthood whilst developing key character traits and skills needed for life, work and leadership. Each Hub and every year group has a unique focus, carefully planned to support the child at each step of their journey. All students in each year are taught how to communicate properly and professionally and are encouraged to demonstrate their skills in various leadership roles. They engage in an exciting and impactful programme of enrichment activities and are given time to reflect on the new knowledge and skills they gain. From the Bridge, through to Post 16 Select, students are supported to plan and manage their careers and this enables them to leave us for aspirational post-school destinations.


PRIDE at Barr’s Hill lies at the heart of our 7 Year Journey and is pervasive throughout the school. Rewritten in 2019 after a thorough consultation with parents, staff and students, each PRIDE statement has been carefully designed to encourage the development of character, employability skills, such as leadership, and fundamental British values and behaviours for learning. PRIDE represents much more than a list of school values or a set of behaviours; PRIDE helps our students thrive throughout their 7 Year Journey and as members of a global society once they leave us.