Schools set to join forces

ACAD­EMY NOW HOPES TO TURN AROUND

The Chronicle - - News - By HANNAH GRA­HAM Re­porter hannah.gra­[email protected]­plc.com @Han­nahGra­ham21

AN ‘in­ad­e­quate’ acad­emy is look­ing to turn things around by join­ing forces with one of the re­gion’s top schools.

Joseph Swan Acad­emy, in Low Fell, Gateshead, was handed Of­sted’s bot­tom grade in an in­spec­tion this sum­mer.

Un­der Gov­ern­ment rules, in­ad­e­quate acad­e­mies must seek out a new acad­emy trust to ‘spon­sor’ them, pro­vid­ing sup­port to help them im­prove.

Last week, lead­ers at Joseph Swan an­nounced they’d been granted agree­ment in prin­ci­ple to join the Em­manuel Schools Foun­da­tion (EFS), which runs nearby Em­manuel Col­lege.

Faith school Em­manuel Col­lege has net­ted ‘out­stand­ing’ grades from Of­sted in ev­ery in­spec­tion in its 28-year his­tory, and this year was named best school in the North East in our Real Schools Guide for the fourth year run­ning.

The foun­da­tion runs three other schools across North­ern Eng­land – but what ex­actly would a takeover mean for the Gateshead schools?

WHAT WOULD CHANGE?

Matt Water­field, prin­ci­pal of Em­manuel Col­lege, will be­come ex­ec­u­tive prin­ci­pal at Joseph Swan, and says he’ll over­see a “drive for im­prove­ment”.

Acad­emy spon­sors are re­spon­si­ble for things such as ap­point­ing school lead­er­ship teams, se­lect­ing govern­ing bod­ies, mon­i­tor­ing and im­prov­ing per­for­mance and en­sur­ing school fund­ing is spent ef­fec­tively.

So if the planned move goes ahead, ESF will take control of these as­pects and hopes to bring about pos­i­tive change at the school, which Of­sted said had pre­vi­ously suf­fered from lead­er­ship problems, as bosses failed to boost re­sults quickly enough.

Mr Water­field said: “We be­lieve that rapid im­prove­ment in out­comes is pos­si­ble and, while dis­cus­sions are still to be held, we have an am­bi­tious plan for school im­prove­ment which will en­able Joseph Swan to be an out­stand­ing school serv­ing the heart of Gateshead.

“I have seen a lot that is en­cour­ag­ing and will pro­vide a foun­da­tion on which we can build. Of­sted recog­nised the good be­hav­iour of stu­dents, safety and wel­fare ar­range­ments, improvements in at­ten­dance and the per­for­mance of the Sixth Form, which we would wish to grow both in size and cur­ricu­lum breadth.”

WHAT HAP­PENS NOW?

Bosses say de­tails still need to be ironed out.

There will be fur­ther due dili­gence car­ried out as well as what Mr Water­field called “qual­ity con­ver­sa­tions” held with par­ents about what the change will mean.

It’s an­tic­i­pated Joseph Swan will for­mally join ESF in 2019. Be­fore this, Mr Water­field said more would be done to clar­ify ex­actly what the change will mean for day-to-day life at Joseph Swan.

IS THIS A MERGER?

Not ex­actly. The schools will re­main sep­a­rate, with their own ad­mis­sion ar­range­ments, lead­er­ship and teach­ing teams etc.

How­ever, when joined through acad­emy trusts, schools are able to share re­sources, poli­cies, and teach­ers or lead­ers from one school can help out at the other school, if the trust choses.

WOULD JOSEPH SWAN BE­COME A FAITH SCHOOL?

The Em­manuel Schools Foun­da­tion schools all have a “Chris­tian ethos”, while Joseph Swan Acad­emy is not cur­rently a faith school.

But join­ing ESF shouldn’t change this: Gov­ern­ment guid­ance states acad­emy trusts with a mix of faith and non-faith schools must main­tain the non-re­li­gious char­ac­ter of schools in its group.

Joseph Swan will have its own govern­ing body, al­though this would be se­lected by the acad­emy trust (ESF).

WILL ANY­THING CHANGE FOR EM­MANUEL COL­LEGE?

It’s un­likely that, as a presently suc­cess­ful school, there will be any sig­nif­i­cant changes at Em­manuel.

Head of Em­manuel Col­lege Matt Water­field

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