Rosalynd Kamaryc, Principal of Queen’s Gate School, explores the idea of vertical integration in Schools, firmly embedded at Queen’s Gate since its founding in 1891.
A number of schools in recent years have announced their plans to become vertically integrated, in other words to extend their provision, usually upwards, from Prep to GCSE and A Level. Well-established and popular Prep and Junior Schools want to take advantage of the increasing numbers of secondary aged pupils and to apply their well-established and successful formula to the older years.
But what are the challenges for Schools undertaking such a change and what are the benefits for pupils and parents?
It takes time for a School to become fully integrated, with some only taking pupils in the beginning into certain years, for example Years 7 and 9. Initially these years may be quite small, limiting the subject choice and opportunities available for the pupils, and of course, these pupils are the pathfinders in the newly established section of the School. The older years will need further resources and perhaps new buildings, as they embark on additional subjects and courses. More specialist teachers are needed to ensure that subject specific skills are delivered to the highest standards, all of which result in considerable financial investment.
However, vertical integration is well worth the effort and financial outlay and given time, these ‘all-through’ Schools provide continuity and the stability from which teenagers can benefit so much. A vertically integrated School can retain the same collaborative and supportive atmosphere, enjoyed in the Prep School years, whilst encouraging the pupils to become increasingly independent and confident young people, ready to achieve success both at School and beyond. As one of our Junior School girls said to her mother on visiting our Senior School Open evening; ‘It’s just like the Junior School, but more grown up!’
Vertical integration can benefit all ages; younger children will learn from excellent role models and benefit in class from the expertise of Senior School subject specialists. At Queen’s Gate our Junior School girls are given specialist teaching in Music, Languages, Art, DT, Science and Mathematics from Senior School staff. They are also able to use the specialist facilities of the Senior School, for example in Design and Technology. The older girls’ education is also enhanced by the presence of younger pupils, giving them opportunities to take responsibility, such as organising clubs and activities for the younger pupils, as well as simply enjoying their company. At Queen’s Gate, our Senior girls assist with Junior Orchestra as well as honing their subject knowledge and communication skills, whilst volunteering in Junior School Mathematics, Science and Language lessons. At Queen’s Gate, we believe that this vertical integration helps to strengthen the idea of family and community so important in our School.
Parents too can benefit from vertical integration. For some, the convenience of starting in one School whose ethos they respect and then staying there until their child emerges as a confident young adult, overrides any other factor. Parents often need familiar faces to turn to, as they move through the challenging teenage years. With the absence of extended families close by to give advice, parents increasingly rely on schools to give the support and guidance once offered by close relations. In a vertically integrated school, staff will have become well acquainted over the years with parents and their children and will be in an excellent position to offer informed guidance and support.
Principal of Queen’s Gate School
Queen’s Gate is an independent girls’ school in South Kensington for 4-18-year-olds.