Sector report: Maintained all-age 2021-2022
All-age schools in Wales January 2022
Opening September 2022: 1
In consultation: 3
The sector continues to grow, with discussions in local authorities across Wales regarding establishing all-age schools.
No. of pupils of primary age
No. of pupils of secondary age (Compulsory education)
No. of pupils in sixth form
Percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals
Percentage of pupils with English as an additional language (A-C)
Percentage of pupils able to speak Welsh
Not in follow-up in September 2021:SM0SI2ER1
No. removed 2021-2022:SM0SI2ER1
No. went into follow-up 2021-2022:SM1SI0ER0
Total in follow-up August 2022SM2SI0ER0
- No. of inspections: 3
- No. not in follow-up: 2
- Welsh-medium: 1
- Bilingual: 0
- English-medium: 2
- Faith: 1
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, core inspections only took place between the end of February and the end of May 2022.
Ystalyfera Bro Dur
Tonyrefail Community School
Christ the Word School
- No. of visits: 3
- Welsh-medium: 1
- Bilingual: 0
- English-medium: 2
- Faith: 1
- No. of case studies 1
Schools with case studies:
Ysgol Ystalyfera Bro Dur
The number of all-age schools in Wales is increasing, with more due to open in the next few years. Research into all-age schools, including the benefits of this model, is generally limited, due mainly to the relatively low numbers of all-age schools in Wales and in other countries. There are potential benefits from an all age model, including improved pedagogy and care, advantages for developing learning, and potential challenges for leadership. Overall, with the small number of inspections undertaken to date and the impact of the pandemic, it’s too early to say whether this model has delivered on its potential.
On returning to school from September 2021, schools reported that pupils’ skills had not developed as expected during the pandemic. This was a similar picture to that observed in primary and secondary schools. Schools’ assessment of pupils’ skills identified a decline in their language and communication skills. Pupils’ oracy skills were particularly affected since pupils did not engage enough in speaking activities while at home. Schools planned interventions to try to strengthen pupils’ skills.
In the schools inspected, pupils’ literacy skills were variable. In the best cases, pupils were willing to contribute orally and offer extended responses when prompted. They displayed strong writing skills, writing effectively for different purposes and for different audiences. Many of these pupils produced extended pieces of writing with clear expression. In other instances, pupils lacked basic literacy skills, made frequent spelling and grammar errors and were not able to articulate their opinions fluently. These shortcomings could often be attributed to weaknesses in teaching. In general, many pupils’ numeracy skills were developing suitably and their digital skills had developed well.
Pupils were happy to be back in school following the pandemic but they required more emotional and mental health support. In two inspections, pupil well-being was strong due to the quality of the support and guidance provided across the school. Many pupils behaved well and showed respect towards their peers and adults. They displayed a healthy attitude towards their learning and maintained concentration whilst learning. In many cases, pupils developed sound leadership skills that enabled them to make positive contributions to the life of the school. In a few cases, pupils did not engage well with their learning. They were reluctant to participate in discussions to support their learning and only gave very brief responses to teachers’ questions. They did not develop their resilience and determination sufficiently, often because teachers did not provide opportunities for them to do so.
Teaching and learning experiences
Throughout the year, improving teaching remained a key priority for most all-age schools. Many teachers worked together to plan and implement a curriculum that considers progression across all phases. Most schools had developed their vision for the Curriculum for Wales and started to trial approaches and resources. Schools were trialling new experiences and teaching strategies with Year 7 pupils as a continuation of the experiences pupils had received lower down in the school.
Teachers with expertise in different aspects of the curriculum worked together to ensure that pupils across all phases receive worthwhile experiences. This included subject specialists teaching pupils of primary age in technology workshops, drama studios and science laboratories.
Planning and readiness for the Curriculum for Wales varied across schools. Many primary phases had adapted their curriculum suitably, but this had not always continued into Year 7. In a few cases, schools trialled activities in Year 7 that helpfully built on experiences in lower years. In general, all-age schools provided interesting and exciting learning experiences for pupils of primary school age and were beginning to develop teaching to deliver similar experiences for older pupils.
Care, support and guidance
Pastoral care and support for pupil well-being were a strength in most all-age schools, having been a priority since schools re-opened. Pupils generally felt safe in school, well looked after, supported, and valued. In our inspection of Ysgol Ystalyfera Bro Dur, care, support and guidance were particularly strong and ensured that pupils felt well respected and valued. This developed them into well informed citizens within their community, Wales and the wider world.
In the majority of schools, staff used information well to identify pupils who needed support for their well-being or learning. They used this information well to meet the needs of these pupils. Where this was not as successful, leaders did not track pupils’ progress well enough or arrange sufficient support for pupils to make progress.
Many schools have developed appropriate processes to allow pupils to participate in making decisions through providing them with opportunities to influence what and how they learn. In a few schools, pupils’ impact on whole-school decisions was underdeveloped.
In two out of the three schools inspected, the arrangements for safeguarding pupils were robust and nearly all staff understood their roles in keeping pupils safe. In these schools, the culture of safeguarding was well established. All schools worked closely with outside agencies to respond and provide appropriate support to pupils and their families. However, in one case, leaders were not proactive enough in addressing issues related to the well-being and safety of pupils. In addition, the school’s system for recording safeguarding concerns was not sufficiently rigorous.
Overall, successful all-age leadership teams normally comprised a good balance of leaders with backgrounds in a range of age sectors. As they have become more established, schools have developed leaders to take on whole school responsibilities, for example in co-ordinating planning for progression of pupils’ skills or leading an area of learning. This resource provides self-reflection prompts to help all-age schools consider the extent to which they benefit from providing all-through provision.
The quality of self-evaluation and planning for improvement across the sector was variable. However, in the best examples, schools evaluated provision and standards across and between phases. Teachers scrutinised pupils’ work across age ranges and evaluated progress over time. This provided an increasingly accurate picture of pupils’ progress during their time in the school, and the impact of provision across the school. This allowed leaders to address any dips in learning promptly. In less effective schools, evaluation and improvement planning was not precise enough. Leaders did not evaluate the work of the school in terms of its impact on pupils’ learning well enough. This contributed to them having a far too positive view of the school’s work and, consequently, improvement plans lacked detail on what exactly needed to improve.
Professional learning in all-age schools was particularly useful when it focused on whole school, cross phase aspects, such as the development of pupils’ skills. This involved sharing good practice in teaching internally or between similar schools. However, external professional learning was often not tailored specifically enough to the needs of the all-age sector.
In January 2022, we published a thematic report on the challenges and successes of establishing all-age schools in Wales. Amongst its recommendations are for the Welsh Government to consider introducing national all-age schools guidance to support all-age schools, their leaders, governors and local authorities. This is in recognition of the sector being distinct from primary and secondary schools. The report also acknowledges how well all-age schools work together through the national forum for all-age schools. A summary of the thematic is here. The full version of the report is available on our website.
Case studies from a selection of all-age schools in the report provide useful information that other schools can relate to or use to improve their practice.