Here Carole Goodwin, Deputy Headteacher at Colchester High School in the UK, considers the advantages of the “all-through school” model for the parents, students and staff at Colchester High School.
An all-through school has been defined by the Department for Education in England as “a school that comprises multiple phases of education provision (usually primary and secondary) in a single institution”. Having worked in a variety of educational establishments, the benefits I have seen of this format are all-encompassing, with wide-ranging advantages for students, staff and parents alike.
For parents, the school offers a comprehensive and consistent approach to their child’s education, an environment where unparalleled pastoral care processes are understood and upheld. Following a student’s learning journey from 2 ½ years old to 16 allows the school to positively support a child; knowing them well as learners. Early intervention and tracking are enhanced by the all-through setting and transition to all areas of the school is a proven positive experience.
For students, the benefits are huge; a direct product of the proximity of younger children to older ones. Student-to-student mentoring, the provision of excellent role models for younger students, leadership and mentoring opportunities to develop confidence, resilience and character, a unified approach to the school’s Character Development Programme, the facility to offer in-house work experience and an overwhelming sense of community and family are all prevalent in an all-through school. Opportunities are also offered for primary students to learn in specialist facilities, including science and technology rooms, not accessible to most primary school students.
For staff, there are opportunities to share best practice and cross-phase lesson observations create opportunities to learn from one another. Curricula are discussed and reviewed with skills-based learning considered, in addition to knowledge and content. The implementation of one assessment process enhances the quality of data collected, offering improved tracking and monitoring for all students. This creates a shared educational ethos that supports children from age 2 ½ to 16 and provides consistently high expectations for all. All-through education also provides greater opportunities for staff development, encouraging different phases to work together to raise standards.
As a leader of an all-through establishment, it is important to ensure a paced approach to creating a shared vision and understanding, as well as developing people, by allowing risks to be taken and the school to evolve at an appropriate pace. It is also significant to recognise that primary and secondary students and practitioners are different, and that they should be able to express themselves in different ways. The phases in their all-age school should retain some sense of their uniqueness or diversity.
Above all, however, the most significant consideration about leading and managing an all-age school is about having the energy, enthusiasm and passion to make it work.