Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust Written evidence (EDU0041)


Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust (BDAT) is a multi-academy trust established in 2012 by the Bradford Diocese and consists of 19 schools, including both primaries and secondaries. The Trust’s mission is to provide high-quality education within the context of Christian belief and practice so that every child can fulfil their academic potential and accomplish their individual goals.

BDAT is submitting evidence to this inquiry given its long-standing values and dedication to supporting pupils with a high-quality curriculum that aids in developing competence and confidence to enter the world beyond school. The Trust is also committed to amplifying the voices of young people to have their say in issues that are relevant to them which is why pupil quotes have been included within the evidence.


The effectiveness of the 11-16 curriculum in equipping young people with the skills they need to progress into post-16 education and employment in a future digital and green economy.


  1. The current 11-16 curriculum is not entirely effective at equipping pupils with the skills they need to succeed in a digitalised workforce and green economy, largely due to funding constraints, recruitment challenges and limited access to up-to-date digital tools.
  2. One main concern for BDAT schools regarding digital skills is that many pupils are expected to complete the majority of their classwork by hand, writing for long periods. This is not conducive to the current workforce wherein typing has overtaken writing as the main form of communication. This is due to three factors:
    1. Historical funding constraints in schools means finances have not always been allocated within the sector to ensure digital hardware has remained up to date and viable, as funding has had to be prioritised in other areas.
    2. Secondly, the transition to digital classwork is moving too slowly to keep up with the rapidly changing technology used in the workforce.
    3. Lastly, there is an absence of tech-specialised teachers who are able to deliver lessons in line with the rapid evolution of technological advancements due to wider recruiting constraints across the sector. Within BDAT we are fortunate to have IT specialist teachers, but we are aware that this is not the case for all schools. The provision of laptops from the Department for Education during the pandemic provided increased access for students to work digitally, however this support has not been sustained.
  3. The impact of these factors is exacerbated by the fact that technology lessons are not compulsory past Year 9. Therefore, as it is not compulsory for students to study this at GCSE, while some schools will offer this as an option, the majority of schools do not offer digital skills classes for older pupils due to a lack of adequate time on the timetable, available resources and cognitive overload, especially given other subjects, such as maths, must take priority as schools prepare students for post 16 opportunities.
  4. Given the rising costs, many of our schools have to make tough decisions on what they prioritise. Digital innovation and skills-building falls lower on the list given the lack of guarantee for effective and useful outcomes compared to the need to invest in core subjects.
  5. This same line of reasoning applies to lessons around the green economy. While it is recognised as part of the curriculum within the STEM curriculum, there is a lack of statutory guidance for schools to deliver it. Classroom teachers do not always have access to the latest information and without resources, it is incredibly challenging to ensure staff remain appropriately upskilled.
  6. For this reason, schools often see green economics as delivered within the current curriculum rather than a whole and separate topic or subject. However, many schools are now striving to increase awareness, become carbon neutral and educate future generations to be even more environmentally aware and friendly.
  7. “We come from a generation surrounded by technology, so I feel comfortable using it in a social setting and using it to talk to others. When it comes to a work setting however, I feel less confident. I don’t feel like we have been prepared fully on how to use computers in a workplace environment. Especially if you don’t take ICT or a computer related subject.” – Year 11 pupil at Belle Vue Girls’ Academy.

The impact of the 11-16 system on the motivation and confidence of pupils of all abilities.

  1. Within our experience, we have found that the impact of the current education system on pupil confidence and motivation is not consistent for all pupils.
  2. From our experience, it can have a negative impact on motivation for some pupils, especially those who are disadvantaged or have learning or mental health struggles. This is due to the challenge of establishing effective pupil support initiatives both within and outside of education.
  3. The method in which the current system assesses pupils’ learning through standardised testing is not always an accurate portrayal of the experiences and work they have undertaken throughout their years in school. This is especially true for pupils with may be struggling to access consistent learning for a variety of reasons. If academic achievement is only summarised as a single grade or number, some pupils may feel demotivated as they believe they cannot achieve as well as their peers. This is a key factor as to why a significant percentage of students leave school each year, despite achieving a ‘good’ pass in English and Maths.
  4. For example, we are aware of pupils who potentially suffer from special education needs, mental health or learning disabilities that have gone undiagnosed and therefore can struggle in mainstream classes. As a result of strain on the external services that provide diagnosis and intervention, there is not always effective initiatives in place or specialised staff to help pupils get a diagnosis and receive relevant support in school. This has resulted in many of these pupils feeling demotivated and discouraged as they are unable to effectively access the curriculum.
  5. “With the depth of subjects, I feel there should be a more accurate way to measure a student’s intellect than standardised testing. GCSEs can feel pointless after two years of learning to ultimately only answer a few questions. Although teachers have encouraged me to work hard and filled me with faith in my abilities, I sometimes find it overwhelming trying to keep up with everything and putting in enough work to feel confident.” – Year 11 pupil at Belle Vue Girls’ Academy.

How the 11-16 system could be adapted to improve the attractiveness of the teaching profession, and the recruitment, training and retention of teachers.

  1. The current system presents some challenges around the attractiveness of the teaching profession to our 11 to 16 year olds. In our experience, due to national news coverage, the majority of our pupils are aware of the struggles faced by their teachers and the challenges within the sector. This is discouraging many from entering the profession.
  2. The current education system may not seem as attractive as other sectors to graduates particularly in shortage subject areas such as computing and areas which require digital skills. Where tech-based companies have a competitive advantage with attractive remuneration packages, schools could benefit from amplifying the positive narratives within the teaching sector and the "magic" of teaching. Many young people are inspired to become teachers by a great teacher they once had, therefore at BDAT we work to empower our teachers to create a positive impact on pupils' lives, and further inspiring more potential teachers.
  3. Across BDAT, we offer a bespoke professional career development programme to support our teachers to build on their skill sets. While Trusts like ours do our best to provide high-quality CPD provisions, any changes to the 11-16 curriculum must be supported by specific CPD to implement those changes. It should also be mindful of the factors that research shows drive retention, such as self-efficacy, which supports teachers in gaining the relevant skills and knowledge to enable them to be successful in their role and feel fulfilled.
  4. “I am not sure how attractive teaching is as a profession. Teachers deal with a lot of things in a day as well as teaching different classes. However, teachers will always tell you it is the best job in the world as they make a difference, so maybe it is something I will consider.” – Year 11 pupil at Buttershaw Business and Enterprise College.


  1. There is a wide need for specialised digital experts to provide digital skills training for pupils and staff. To address this, the Department for Education should consider establishing an initiative to drive forward digital skills offerings through a programme that would place digital experts within schools on a rotating basis to carry out lessons for at least one term per academic year. This would allow schools to benefit from the expertise of multiple technology professionals without undertaking the hurdles of recruitment.
  2. The Department for Education may also consider establishing incentives for schools to integrate green economics further into their core curriculum. Examples of incentives could include a programme to offer schools guest lectures from economics experts.
  3. The Government should make a distinction between SEND provisions and alternative provisions within its White Paper to ensure these children are not assessed in the same method, given it is not an effective summation of either group. Considerations to measure the progress of children’s learning rather than outputs should also be made to adjust the assessment method of pupils with SEND.
  4. The Department of Education may want to consider supporting CPD that advocates for the development of best practices, supported by research, that encourages teachers to stay within the sector, such as reflective practice and clear contributions to building professional knowledge.


28 April 2023