Expanding academy chain sees more schools wanting to convert

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THE HEAD of an expanding academy chain said “the phone has been ringing off the hook” with calls from interested schools following Ministers announcing the intention to convert all state schools into academies.

Reach4 was set up last year by a successful existing national academy chain, Reach2, and is initially based in South Yorkshire.

It was one of a group of highly rated academy trusts given a share of a new £10m Northern Sponsor fund from the Government to help them take on more schools in the North. Reach4 has just announced that it is taking on four more primary schools this summer bringing the number academies in the trust to 12.

Byron Wood Primary and Greengate Lane Primary, in Sheffield, and Conisbrough Balby Street and Edenthorpe Hall, in Doncaster, will all formally join Reach4 in the summer, ahead of the start of the new academic year. The four primaries,join eight other schools from the area in Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley.

Reach4’s designate chief executive Libby Nicholas told The Yorkshire Post that the trust had been pleased with the welcome it had been given by schools in South Yorkshire.

And she said there had been an increase in schools interested in joining the trust since the Government announced plans for all state schools to be academies.

Academies are run outside of local education authorities and can either be stand alone schools or part of a multi-academy trust.

The idea for all schools to be academies by 2022 – announced in the Budget by Chancellor George Osborne – has since been scaled back, with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan saying the Government accepted that good schools should decide on whether to convert.

However, she has set out plans for wholesale academy conversion still to take place in local education authority areas if councils are found to be failing or lack the capacity to support schools.

Ms Nicholas said; “I think there is a debate about whether Nicky Morgan’s announcement on academies was a U-turn, but there has been a change since the policy was first announced. Governing bodies are thinking more about whether they should be converting and I think this is something they should be doing.”

Commenting on the chain’s expansion, she said: “We are absolutely delighted with the response we have had in the South Yorkshire area, and it is fantastic to be welcoming a further four schools into the family.

“Since the start of 2016, we have been joined by a dozen schools in total, and we are already seeing the benefits of working together as a family. For us, education reaches beyond academic excellence, and our commitment is to delivering ‘inspiration beyond measure’.

“This means helping children and young people develop and explore who they are and what they are capable of, through arts, sports, leadership opportunities, enrichment and community.”

She told The Yorkshire Post that the academy trust had taken on good schools and those which are on “an improvement journey” and said they would never shy away from taking on a school because of the challenge it presented. However, she said schools joining needed to share the same “ethos and values” as Reach4 .