School chain could improve standards in North Staffordshire
NINE Catholic schools across North Staffordshire are looking to convert to academy status under new plans affecting the education of thousands of pupils.
St Margaret Ward Catholic College, in Tunstall, and its eight main feeder schools, have lodged an application to create a mini-academy chain.
Now the Department for Education has confirmed the proposals have been given initial Government approval, although funding agreements still need to be drawn up.
Those involved in the move include English Martyrs' Catholic Primary, in Biddulph; St John the Evangelist Catholic Primary, in Kidsgrove; St Peter's Catholic Primary, in Cobridge; St Wilfrid's Catholic Primary, in Tunstall; Our Lady and St Benedict Catholic Primary, in Abbey Hulton; St George & St Martin's Catholic Primary, in Birches Head; St Joseph's Catholic Primary, in Goldenhill; and St Mary's Catholic Primary, in Norton.
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Under the plans, the sites will remain as schools in their own right and will keep their own headteachers, but strategic decisions will be made by an academy trust.
They will also have more control over their funding and have the opportunity to share some specialist staff and support workers.
Chris Smith, headteacher of St Margaret Ward Catholic College, which has around 1,000 pupils, said: "The schools involved in this move have been closely working together for many years.
"We have had a strong collaboration for more than 10 years and, over that time, our relationship has become more formal.
"So, as a group of governing bodies and with liaison from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, we have decided that this is the most appropriate route for us."
St Margaret Ward's feeder schools have more than 1,500 pupils between them.
The news comes just six months after The Sentinel reported how Painsley Catholic College, in Cheadle, teamed up with its seven feeder schools under similar proposals.
Mr Smith added: "The Archdiocese has been negotiating for a long time to allow us to take these steps and we are glad that the idea is being supported.
"There will be no change in terms of the buildings the children are taught in, or the staff they are taught by. It just means we will be overseen by a different model of governors.
"We are looking forward to our future developments."
Ian Beardmore, headteacher at St Mary's Catholic Primary School, said: "The one and only reason these schools have agreed to this move is to improve standards across all of them.
"And hopefully, that is the only change that parents and pupils will see."