New Schools Network Article

In December, NSN had the pleasure of hosting a Spotlight visit at the Chichester Free School (CFS). The day focused on how CFS leaders make the most of the school's all-through model to improve learning.

The school building is something to behold - based partly in two new build wings, and partly in the stunning nineteenth-century Carmelite Convent (a former derelict convent that has been restored).

CFS educates over a thousand pupils, aged 4 to 19. Principal Louise New is keen to make the most of the all-through model of the school and realise the benefits of learning across phases. She took us through some of the things CFS is doing to provide the best all-through education to pupils.

Middle school model

Since September 2019, CFS has been trialling a new model of teaching for Year 5 through to Year 7. CFS felt that teaching in Year 6 focused far too much on SATs and not enough on developing literacy and numeracy skills, resulting in a drop off in Year 7.

Now Years 5 and 6 CFS pupils have English and maths sessions in the morning with their class teacher, continuing the structure of a primary school day. In the afternoon, a more secondary-style timetable kicks in, seeing specialised subjects such as science and history taught by different teachers to get pupils used to the secondary structure. Preparation and planning allowance time for Year 5 and 6 teachers takes place on Monday afternoons, so secondary teachers come in to teach specialised subjects. This gives younger pupils a chance to get to know the secondary teachers and their teaching style.

This structure is then replicated in Year 7, with mornings dedicated to English and maths, and afternoons to specialist subjects. This allows for more in-depth learning in English and maths, for things such as times tables, in which there is a national drop off at Year 7. While it’s still early days, teachers have already seen a significant rise in progress in Year 7, especially in reading. There has also been noticeable improvement in the consistency of presentation skills for school work and books.

School leaders at CFS plan to extend this structure to Year 8 soon, with the primary-style morning/secondary-style afternoon structure for three days a week, and a traditional secondary timetable structure for two days.

Inclusion and SEND

CFS uses the all-through model to help with inclusion and to help secondary pupils who are struggling. There have been times when a pupil has been struggling in the secondary phase. As a proactive intervention, they are moved to primary for a few classes a week to work as a teaching assistant. This change of scene and purpose has worked really well in re-engaging pupils while also giving them a sense of accomplishment.

The cohort at CFS is made up of a higher than the national average percentage of primary and secondary pupils with an education, health and care plan in Chichester. The school’s inclusion team comprises of a SENDCo for the whole school, supported by a primary lead and a secondary lead. This helps pupils with the transition, as some secondary pupils need aspects of primary education and vice versa.

Academic Progress and Pastoral Tracking

The school has focused a lot on developing an all through approach to the measuring, tracking, monitoring and reporting of academic progress right from Key Stage 1 to GCSE. They have developed a bespoke system which provides each pupil with a motivational and ambitious individual journey throughout their 11 years at the school, and use a coherent and consistent method of reporting to both pupils and parents. Data is used to inform teaching and extremely accessible to all stakeholders, most notably the teachers in the classroom. The school has worked with an external consultant to develop an all through tracking system. This has now moved into pastoral monitoring as well and their praise and reward system is established throughout the school.

Working together across the phases

It’s important that CFS feels like an all-through school, and that primary and secondary pupils have opportunities to interact with each other on a daily basis. For instance, primary pupils are assigned a reading buddy from the secondary phase, who can assist them with reading. Some pupils even do their Year 10 work experience week in the primary school if they are interested in pursuing a career in primary education.

Outside the classroom, the school runs extra-curricular clubs for Year 5 through to Year 8, helping to bridge the gap between secondary and primary phases. The whole school gets involved with the annual musical production. Last year, they put on a production of Oliver!, which worked very well with the different age groups.

The most prestigious reward at CFS is the ‘Headteacher’s Award’, which is given out to several pupils each week. Award winners get to spend the afternoon with the headteacher, eating cake and playing games. As well as rewarding pupils, it is also an opportunity for primary and secondary pupils to interact with each other, building bonds across the phases.

All pupils and staff at CFS are put into one of four Houses. Houses have assemblies together and there is a House event each week (such as a table tennis competition or Christmas tree decorating). Siblings are put into the same House to create a family feel. Louise told us that a House system can be introduced into an existing school even if it is not currently in place, it just might take some time for the new system to flourish. CFS has recently increased the number of House events to further embed the system.

It was fantastic to hear about CFS’s journey and the school’s commitment to using the all-through model to improve learning. It was especially inspiring to see how they are using innovative methods to ensure all pupils can make the most of their time at school.

Written by: Sarah Rentoul, NSN
Post date: Friday 7 February 2020

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