WITH the demise of middle schools on the horizon, a number of solutions are being mooted to usher in a new educational dawn.
The Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust is pressing ahead with its own model for the future with four schools – County Upper, Horringer Court Middle, Westley Middle and Barrow Primary – forming an all- through system.
It promises a ‘seamless’ academic path for four to 19-year-olds by minimising the impact of transition points, boosting confidence and attainment while sharing resources and staff across the four sites.
Laying the foundations of this approach is newly appointed four-19 co-ordinator Amanda Sands, who is drawing on her 30- year career in education across all three settings of schooling.
She says: “An all-through approach can be very nurturing focusing on the well-being as well as the academic progress of the youngsters.
“It’s replicating the best of the independent schools in terms of that four-nine, nine-13 and 13-18 approach.
“I never thought I would hear myself saying that, being a state school-trained teacher.”
Mrs Sands argues that one of the key strengths of the system is a reduction in the impacts of transition from one school to another.
“Children need to feel a sense of belonging, which is often why there’s that dip at transfer because they feel like a fish out of water.”
The new system will combat that sense of unfamiliarity by creating a ‘continuous educational experience’ and a ‘common ethos’ of care, welfare, policy and practice.
Children will visit the other school sites regularly for a range of activities working with fellow pupils and teachers in different age ranges.
As part of this process, data about pupils’ achievement and individual needs will be shared between staff.
Mrs Sands plans to set up a working group with leaders from each of the sites to develop an assessment approach to respond quickly to learners’ needs and implement appropriate interventions for vulnerable or more able pupils.
She explains: “In a primary setting you may have a child whose motor skills are not well developed. The intervention might involve working with a teaching assistant to deveop those skills.
“When they go through to middle school that could drop off the radar.
“We will be working with the teaching assistants to make sure those children can have a similar intervention fitted to their age, development and maturity.”
This will be achieved through a joined up method of collecting, storing, analysing, evaluating and sharing information between teachers of all the age ranges.
Staff teaching across the age ranges is another feature with specialist language teachers – employed by County Upper but working for the trust – cited as an example.
Mrs Sands says: “Youngsters in the middle and primary schools will then have access to a wider range of languages.
“Often primaries can’t afford to employ a specialist language teacher. Also, because of the School Organisation Review, middle schools are finding it incredibly difficult to get the specialist teachers.”
Already, maths teachers from County Upper have spent time at Horringer Court Middle boosting their Key Stage Two maths results by 20 per cent in the four plus.
“The schools have reported a huge benefit because the children know that member of staff really well now and they’re not in a situation where they feel unfamiliar.”
The move is a culmination of Mrs Sands’ experience, who was head of English at Chantry High School, in Ipswich, deputy head at Beyton Middle, head at Hardwick Middle and has helped schools in ‘difficult circumstances’ with leadership, teaching and learning.
She says: “This was an ideal next step to co-ordinate right through from four to 19.
“It’s a recognised and successful approach.Yes we’re on different sites but the youngsters and parents should see us as a seamless all through approach which is unhindered by transfer points.”