Four west and mid Suffolk rural primary schools to form multi-academy trust to ‘safeguard against uncertain future’

Primary schools

Primary schools - Credit: Archant

Four rural Suffolk primaries are poised to become academies in a response to the “uncertain future” they face under local authority control.

The schools in mid and west Suffolk, with 700 pupils between them, are looking to form a multi-academy trust to “safeguard” their future.

Woolpit Community Primary, Thurston VC Church of England (CofE) Primary, Great Barton VC CofE Primary and Rattlesden VC CofE Primary schools are consulting on creating the Thedwastre Education Trust.

Headteachers and governors at each of the schools have moved to reassure parents and pupils that there will be no upheaval.

Sarah Rees, headteacher at Great Barton, said: “The pupils will notice no immediate difference. In the long term we will be able to benefit from closer working together and sharing of resources.

“I would not be standing here recommending we become an academy if I did not think the children would benefit. It is about safeguarding the school.

“We are not rushing this or being rushed into it, we are taking our time and doing it on our own terms.”

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Bruce Martin, Great Barton chairman of governors, said: “We all know that rural schools are at risk. Every school is an Ofsted inspection away from being forced to become an academy.

“The local authority (Suffolk County Council) are receiving less funding from the government, so they are having to make those decisions about where the focus lies. Rural schools do face an uncertain future.”

Each headteacher will play an equal role in the running of the trust, while governors from each school will form part of the new board of directors, along with representatives from the Church of England Dioceses. If agreed, the schools will become academies on January 1 2016.

The three Church of England schools are all “good” or “outstanding” rated by Ofsted, while Woolpit is rated as “requiring Improvement”.

Shaun Holland, Woolpit headteacher, said: “We see this as an opportunity to secure our really strong local rural schools for the future.”

Ben Davies, chairman of Rattlesden’s board of governors, stressed they are listening to everyone’s views.

“It is about improving the outcomes for children,” he said. “There will be some benefit through cost saving on commissioning and we can choose to spend money on services and providers that we think are best for our schools.

“We are not being forced and are not failing schools.”

The schools, which serve Thurston Community College secondary, are consulting with the community and parents and questionnaires and more detail is available on request.

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