Headteachers meet to explore plans to form Multi Academy Trust

Rob Carter- head teacher of St Paul's Catholic College ENGSUS00120121016165200

Rob Carter- head teacher of St Paul's Catholic College ENGSUS00120121016165200

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Headteachers from several Mid Sussex schools have met to discuss the possibility of forming a Multi Academy Trust.

Leaders from St Paul’s College and St Wilfrid’s Primary School, in Burgess Hill, along with St Joseph’s School, in Haywards Heath, met with the heads of other Catholic schools within the Lewes deanery to explore the idea.

St Wilfrid's School Burgess Hill.  22-03-16  Pic Steve Robards  SR1609020 SUS-160323-091159001

St Wilfrid's School Burgess Hill. 22-03-16 Pic Steve Robards SR1609020 SUS-160323-091159001

The discussions began long before chancellor George Osborne announced in his budget that all schools had to become academies by 2020 – or be on the way to converting by 2022. Mr Osborne’s announcement was followed by the release of a white paper from education secretary Nicky Morgan MP, which outlined in detail the plans for the ‘academisation’ of state schools.

Described by the National Union of Teachers as ‘entirely the wrong proposals and priorities for education’, the one-size-fits-all academy approach to education has been opposed by teachers and parents alike.

For some, though, the idea of teaming up with schools with similar ideals to form Multi Academy Trusts in which they could support each other was embraced before Mr Osborne put his foot down.

Rob Carter, headteacher of St Paul’s College, said: “As Catholic schools we have been discussing how to build on the excellent links and collaboration that we have between our family of schools.

“This dialogue and discussion have been ongoing since 2010 when the current academy programme was first established. We are looking forward to working closely with other Catholic schools in the diocese to develop a strong multi academy trust.

“We believe this is a key aspect of the school-led system and there is a moral imperative to support the development of education beyond each individual school.”

The other Lewes deanery schools exploring the possibility of forming such a trust are St Wilfrid’s Secondary School, St Francis of Assisi School and Our Lady Queen of Heaven School, all in Crawley; also St Philip’s School, in Uckfield, St Pancras School, in Lewes, St Mary’s School, in Crowborough, and Annecy School, in Seaford.

Michael Ferry, headteacher of St Wilfrid’s, said no final decisions had yet been made by any of the schools and further discussions were planned. He added: “The writing has been on the wall regarding this and it has only been a matter of time before the announcement last week, in my opinion. It will allow like-minded schools to ensure that school improvement is at the heart of what we do whilst reinforcing the values which we hold dear.”

Mr Carter said the formation of a Multi Academy Trust would offer the schools ‘unique opportunities to raise achievement, develop staff and ensure that students leave school feeling happy and successful in all they do and ready for the next stage of their lives in the modern world’.

The budget report covered several aspects of education, including a fairer system of funding – called the National Funding Formula – and the provision of extra money to allow some secondary schools to extend the length of the school day.

Mr Ferry described the latter as “ill thought-out” and warned more staff would leave the profession if extra hours were forced onto schools.

The budget included up to £285 million a year to allow some secondary schools to extend their school day to offer more activities for pupils. Recognising most already provided out of hours activities such as sport, music and homework clubs, Mr Ferry said it would be ‘foolish’ to think schools finished at 3.20pm.

He added: “The proposal from the government seems ill thought-out and certainly won’t be funded to allow all schools to pay for activities.

“Yet again, by their statement, the government are suggesting that teachers only work short hours and by doing so they just reinforce a stereotype. If teachers were paid on an hourly rate, the country would be bankrupt overnight. If ‘extra hours’ are forced on schools then even more staff will leave the profession.”

Mr Ferry said he found it ironic the Department for Education was conducting a workload survey with teachers during budget week.

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