A Northumberland three to 18 academy has hosted the UK’s first conference on all-through education.
Principal of Bede Academy in Blyth, Gwyneth Evans, said the inaugural event provided a unique opportunity for professionals to come together to share best practice and to start building a sector network.
Miss Evans, who spent some time last year visiting other all-through schools around the country, said no national forum or network existed for teachers and governors working in three-18 education and Bede Academy was keen to lead the way.
She explained: “The aim of this inaugural conference was to bring colleagues together to share their experiences, to reflect on where we are on the journey of all-through, to challenge one another and to consider how we can all push through the barriers.
“Our experience at Bede Academy has been exciting and enjoyable but also challenging as we seek to ensure a seamless transition through key stages and provide the highest quality education for all our students.”
Former MP and Minister for Schools David Laws praised the academy for organising the conference. Now executive chairman of the Education Policy Institute, he acknowledged the challenges of growing the all-through sector but also highlighted its potential for opportunities.
He said: “Quality of leadership and governance is going to be critical and is necessarily in short supply. All-throughness has some benefits in concentrating the effectiveness of really outstanding leadership and in spreading their influence to smaller institutions.
“The aspiration for more all-throughness also seems potentially to offer a solution to the disadvantage gap of early years, and we know that interventions in early years really do have an impact. You have the potential to better manage and join-up curriculum, and manage transition points and avoid the setbacks.”
Bede Academy vice principal Julie Roberts and head of primary years Bethan Harding explained the practical systems and arrangements embedded at Bede to support all-through.
Mrs Harding said: “We want to eradicate a primary-secondary mindset among staff. There are risks in all-through that can lead to working in isolation but there are huge benefits of collective and collaborative working. The vision is to aspire to excellence for all and that doesn’t change whether you’re in nursery or sixth form.”