Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Create a Successful All-Through School

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Create a Successful All-Through School

Article excerpt

An all-through school, which takes students from three- to 16-years-old, is tricky to get right - but one leader has some tips and best practice that will help

The site on which my school sits once accommodated separate primary and secondary schools that never spoke to one another, were constantly in the financial red and the most successful alumni happened to be the ones that never attended.

Things changed through parent power. Fierce community champion Caroline Jenkins decided that not only were the schools not good enough, but that she was going to do something about it. She recruited Mark Davies, an established school leader with a history of improved outcomes to join the crusade. Teyfant Primary School and Hartcliffe Engineering College were eventually dissolved and the all-through Bridge Learning Campus was created on a wonderful £40 million site; she is still our chair of the local governing body and he is now our MAT's CEO. They both chose me as the next person to hold the baton.

Bridge Learning Campus in south Bristol is an all-through school for children aged 3 to 16. We are genuinely all-through and don't operate as separate primary and secondary schools. We are in no way the finished article, we don't have all the answers and in many ways we are still working towards success. But the draw of becoming part of this amazing all-through school led to me uprooting my family and moving them across the country.

Since becoming an all-through school, we have learnt a lot about making a structure like this work. Here are some of those lessons.

Structuring the curriculum

This year, we moved from a four-phase curriculum to a three-phase one, essentially cutting down the moments of transition for children and enabling leaders to get their teeth into a decent amount of time to secure progress. The three assistant headteachers that lead these phases are the only age-specific leaders we have - everyone else leads for the whole school, from Nursery to Year 11. Phase one is Nursery to Year 4, phase two is Year 5 to Year 8 and phase three spans the GCSE years.

Phase one follows a typical primary curriculum of a morning full of maths, reading and writing followed by an afternoon of more diverse activities, sometimes delivered by secondary specialists, which in turn frees up the phase one teachers for planning, preparation and assessment. For example, our Spanish teachers can move between Year 11 and Year 4 in the space of a day; PE staff from GCSE to Year 2. It makes financial sense, but provides a truly enriched curriculum.

Between the start and end of phase two, children steadily move from a primary experience to a secondary one, but this is done cautiously and is personalised for each child. We have a phase two intervention class who are taught together to strengthen their literacy and numeracy skills as well as emotional readiness for phase three; other children are effectively integrated by Year 6. There is no one-size-fits-all and our skilled staff enable this to be successful. Given that we also share a site with a large, successful special school, we are looking at ways for even greater cross-school working to provide a truly inclusive experience for our most vulnerable children.

Children select their GCSE options for the start of Year 9 and, at the moment, it is here that we are playing catch-up. But we are making excellent progress and it was rewarding that our Ofsted last year, featuring two HMIs, recognised this journey and context.

Leadership

I am headteacher of the whole school. …

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