Enabling students to flourish, the story of Holly Hill Church School

07 September 2023

When Charlotte Taylor became the Headteacher of Holly Hill Church School in September 2015, the situation was incredibly challenging for the joint Methodist and Anglican school located in the south of Birmingham, one of Britain’s most disadvantaged areas. The agenda she set for the school was transforming lives and enabling children to flourish through education, pastoral support and spiritual development.

By May 2017, the school was graded good and by 2022, Holly Hill Church School had dramatically improved and is now in the top 7 % for progress of all schools nationally for reading, 8% for writing and 11% for maths. The staff and governors take their mission of transforming children’s lives very seriously.  “We made rapid progress in order to protect the children and ensure they receive the best education possible,” explains Charlotte.

To get there, it was not only delivering the right curriculum and lesson plans but to understand the area and its challenges, such as chaotic parenting, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and the trauma experienced by children in those situations. “It is about those underlying Methodist principles of service and love that cut through along with all the emotional and social support that is needed for our children and their families, many of whom are very vulnerable.” adds Charlotte.

Achieving change started with being trusted and respected by the community, which takes dedication and time. Charlotte spent most of her working career in this community. She used to work with the under-fives in the children's centre and was once a teacher at Holly Hill Church School. So, when she came back into leadership, she was already well-known in the community, which made things easier as the parents already trusted her.

There was a culture of low expectations from the school staff and parents which was deeply impacting the children. Charlotte’s arrival and high expectations led to highly motivated and passionate teachers, dedicated to nurturing the children alongside providing an excellent education. Many disadvantaged pupils come into school with huge deficits in speech and vocabulary. From the nursery onwards, the staff help children develop rich language skills in order to unlock the potential for reading, understanding and applying what they have learnt.

The school leadership team supports the community pastorally as well as educationally. A dedicated pastoral team, including a fulltime safeguarding and wellbeing worker, support and protect the children alongside family support workers such as social workers and educational psychologists, but there is also protection for teachers from overburdening themselves. “We want teachers to be focused on teaching and not have too many other responsibilities. It brings stability, which is what our children need because they don't always form relationships easily and they need trusted adults that are a constant in their daily lives,” says Charlotte.

Renewing Holly Hill Church School and enabling it flourish was not an easy task and Charlotte was supported by the school staff, governors and the Methodist Academies and Schools Trust. “They ensured I had the right support emotionally in order to really enable the school to flourish,” explains Charlotte. “Our governors come from various backgrounds but the unwavering dedication, commitment and love from the Methodist governors in particular was unwavering. It is, for me, the real umbilical cord between the church and the school.”


Inspired by that story?  Find the ways your church can help its local school flourish

Sunday 10 September is Education Sunday when churches support education through an annual act of prayer and worship. Find out more here.