Big rise in all-through education driven by academies and free schools

The number of all-through schools in England has soared by more than a third in the past 18 months.

According to official statistics, 121 all-through schools – where pupils attend from the age of 4 up to at least 16 – are open in England, compared with 113 listed by the Department for Education in January and 88 in January 2014.

The figures signal a shift among educators from the traditional primary and secondary model to one where children remain in the same school throughout their school career.

Supporters claim this approach helps to mitigate the “summer dip” between a child leaving primary school and starting Year 7.

The rise in the number of all-through schools has been driven mostly by academies and free schools.

Of the 113 institutions described as all-through schools in the January 2015 census, 89 were academies or free schools.

The DfE’s Edubase database of schools, which is updated daily, shows that more all-through schools have opened since January. It currently lists 121.

The Business Academy Bexley in Kent was one of the first three academies when it was set up in 2002 and became the country’s first all-through academy in 2004 when it added a primary to its existing secondary school.

Earlier this year, Natalie Evans, then director of the New Schools Network charity, which helps groups to set up free schools, said that while all-through schools were not explicitly planned as part of the free schools programme, the growth in numbers showed how school managers had responded to what parents and teachers wanted.

Community schools are also making the switch. Starbank School, a former primary in Birmingham, took its first Year 7 students last September in response to growing demand for places in the area.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, has said that while all-through schools can be a good option, the approach was not something he would want to see at every school.

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