Schools set to join forces
ACADEMY NOW HOPES TO TURN AROUND
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