More 3-18 schools in the pipeline

5th April 2013 at 01:00
A growing number of local councils have plans for `all-through' education

All-through schools, which teach children from age 3 to 18 on the same premises, are becoming the design of choice for a growing number of local authorities.

Eight local authorities - Highland, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee, Perth and Kinross, Aberdeen and East Ayrshire - have submitted plans to the Scottish Futures Trust to build 3- 18 schools, TESS can reveal.

Financial savings, coupled with an improved transition between primary and secondary, are behind the radical shift that could see heads and even teachers move more freely across different sectors to work.

Grant Robertson, associate director of the SFT, the organisation set up by the Scottish government to ensure public sector infrastructure projects are delivered at the best possible value, said: "One of the benefits (of 3-18 schools) is you theoretically don't need the same amount of space. The big spaces, like the dining hall and gym, if timetabled correctly, can be shared. Then you only need one plant room and one janitor."

There are also significant educational benefits, argue education directors who are behind the plans.

With the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence and its 3-18 curriculum, all-through schools make more sense than ever, they reason. They ease transitions; allow teachers to move seamlessly across sectors; and give primary children access to facilities usually the preserve of secondary, such as science labs and technical and home economics departments.

Directors acknowledge that links with associated primaries outside the 3- 18 school will have to be carefully managed to ensure these children feel as involved in the life of the secondary as those who have grown up on the same site.

Carol Kirk, director of educational services in North Ayrshire, said: "It's not feasible to make all (feeder) primaries part of the same campus. It would become too unwieldy and in some cases you would have to transport children too far."

One of the biggest barriers to all-through schools was persuading parents of the benefits, directors said.

Parental concerns around 3-18 schools included fears around bullying, because very young children would be mixing with much older youngsters, and primary children being exposed to "teenage issues" too young, said Graham Short, East Ayrshire's director of educational and social services.

East Ayrshire plans to merge James Hamilton Academy and Kilmarnock Academy, both in Kilmarnock. A primary and nursery may also be included to create what one local newspaper has described as a "pound;40 million super- school".

The authority already operates all-through campuses at Grange Academy and St Joseph's Academy for "ideological reasons" and to make best use of resources, according to Mr Short. Grange campus houses a primary, secondary and special school in one building; St Joseph's has a primary and secondary under one roof.

North Ayrshire, meanwhile, is planning an all-through school with leisure facilities to replace Garnock Academy.

Ms Kirk said: "If you are building new and have a blank canvas, I do think this is the way to do it. The curriculum runs from 3 to 18 and the broad general education finishes in S3, not P7."

The authority has one other example of an all-through school. Although Arran High does not share a building with Lamlash Primary, the two sit side-by-side, with one head running both establishments.

In Dumfries and Galloway the new Dalbeattie High will have a primary on the same campus. The long-term aim was to have one head in charge of both schools, said Rachel Craig, depute director of education. However, "a huge parental culture change" was required before the authority could go down that road, she said.

The Official Line

The Scottish government's position:

"Three-to-18 schools aim to provide a seamless transition through each stage of Curriculum for Excellence from nursery to primary to secondary education.

"A 3-18 school campus may not be the best option to meet the educational needs of children in every area. It is a decision the local authority must take in consultation with the local community."

Photo credit: Angus Blackburn

Original headline: Growing number of authorities want 3-18 schools

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