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Schools commissioner signals new age of all-through academies

The number of all-through academies is set to rise after the Government's new schools commissioner signalled she wanted to see more of the schools open.

Elizabeth Sidwell, who took over as schools commissioner in May, told The TES that she is eager to see a "good number" of all-through schools open under her watch.

In her previous role as chief executive of the Haberdashers' Aske's Federation, a cluster of academies in south London, Dr Sidwell oversaw Hatcham College taking on an underperforming primary to create a 1,700 pupil all-through academy for children aged three to 18.

It is a model the commissioner is keen to replicate across the country to try to improve performance in some of the lowest achieving schools.

Dr Sidwell said, "There is the dip (between primary and secondary), which has been endemic in our education system for some time. Children are re- tested in Year 7 as if they've never been seen before, rather than having a nice, seamless trajectory from nursery to university."

The decision was backed by Jason Baigent, principal of the Globe Academy, an all-through school in south London, who said his pupils are benefiting from a smooth transfer from primary to secondary school and getting improved results.

"The main thing is you can set out your vision very early on," Mr Baigent said. "Our students come in at the age of three and we don't have the transitional dips that other schools can have.

"When a child moves from primary to secondary school a slump can occur. However, our students are very familiar with their surroundings and very confident coming into the school."

Globe Academy's primary school saw more than 90 per cent of its pupils achieve level 4 in both English and maths in its most recent Sats results.

"We are hoping to open a sixth-form, and for our students to be going to Russell Group universities they must be leaving primary school at level 4A and hopefully level 5. "

Heads' union the NAHT said all-through schools could be a "valuable" part of the mix of schools in England, but warned that secondary headteachers should not be the default leaders for the schools.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: "I wouldn't want to see every school as an all-through school, but it is a good option if it is viable.

"I would offer one note of caution: it shouldn't be assumed that an all- through is led by a secondary head - there is every reason a primary head can run an all-through school."

Elizabeth Sidwell interview, pages 22-23


The rise and rise

The Business Academy Bexley became the country's first all-through academy in 2004 when it initiated a change in legislation to enable it to add a primary to the existing secondary.

Schools that educate children from nursery to sixth-form are common in the independent sector, but they have only taken hold in the state system in the last seven years.

There are currently 26 all-through academies in the system but that number looks set to rise during Dr Sidwell's tenure.

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