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Witham schools merger plan shelved by trust

PUBLISHED: 10:51 27 February 2015 | UPDATED: 10:51 27 February 2015

New Rickstones Academy, Witham

New Rickstones Academy, Witham

Plans to merge Witham’s two secondary schools have been shelved by the trust running them.

The Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) unveiled proposals last year to merge the Maltings Academy and the New Rickstones Academy into one school, operating across the two sites in the town.

Widespread concern was raised by parents, the local community and Witham MP Priti Patel about the plans, saying it removed parental choice and could cause transport issues.

However the AET has now shelved the plans following a public consultation.

Education will remain separated between the two schools, though the trust does plan on integrating support services to make them more efficient.

A joint statement issued by AET group chief executive Ian Comfort and board chairman Rupert Gather said: “We are very grateful for the engagement and contributions from stakeholders and the breadth of opinions that we have received from the community.

“We have now reviewed the feedback and considered a wide range of options regarding the arrangements to secure the best possible education for children and young people in Witham.

“Our preferred option is to retain both academies as separate secondary schools, but to share support services in order to optimise the resources that are directly used for teaching and learning.”

AET trustees will now consider this option at a meeting on March 10.

Ms Patel said: “The announcement will be a tremendous relief for parents and pupils.

“This decision is a victory for parental choice and our campaign will galvanise efforts from the academies, parents and pupils to raise standards and the quality of secondary education locally.

“I would like to pay tribute to all parents who have been involved in this campaign and helped deliver this outcome.

“Both academies are improving and I will be working closely with Mr Gather, the headteachers and parents to ensure pupils benefit from a high quality secondary education which enables them to fulfil their potential in employment opportunities and higher education.”

Parent Paula Hoskin added: “This news will be welcomed by parents worried about the future of the academies.

“We want to have a choice of secondary academies in Witham and parents will be happy with this decision.

“I would like to thank Ms Patel for all of her support during this process and for campaigning hard to help us have our voices heard and be listened to.”

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