Advocates of the all-through model cite numerous benefits for teachers: the coherence of the curriculum, the opportunity to experience teaching across different age groups and the chance to offer specialist teaching from an early age.
“I can honestly say my only experiences to date have been superb. I’m bowled over by the opportunities that all-through creates,” says one teacher.
Not all teachers, however, report the same positive experience. One teacher who worked in a school that made the transition to all-through says: “The head of the primary is now a headteacher of the all-through. No doubt she has worked hard, but initially the turnover of key stage 3 staff was horrendous. Some key stage 2 staff were moved into key stage 3. Is that really good for children who are getting their base for GCSEs? The unhappiness went throughout the school, with ridiculous demands being put on early years foundation stage and key stage 1. They were expected to work beyond their development stages – and I mean well beyond.”
Another teacher complains of inset days being secondary-based only. “They call it ‘whole school’, but it’s secondaries sharing their ideas of good practice and we have to adapt. It’s not as if we don’t have anything to contribute, it’s that they aren’t interested unless it’s their idea.”
Featherstone says that for the all-through model to work effectively, it’s critical for leaders to give equal time to all the phases and their different needs. “I don’t assume that I know everything because I’m a secondary school teacher. I’ve been on a huge learning curve and become really familiar with all the assessment models in key stage 1 and 2 as well as managing all the changes at key stage 3 and 4 as well.”
Where teaching across the age groups is concerned, Vainker says it’s important that teachers sign up to teaching across the phases rather than have it foisted upon them. “Some teachers are really motivated to do it well,” he says, adding that he believes as younger pupils move through the school primary staff are going to have more confidence to work with them at secondary level.