New academy trusts sets sights on 15 schools by end of the year

A NEW ACADEMY chain which has been backed by the Government to help raise standards in the North aims to take on up to 15 South Yorkshire schools in its first year.

Reach4 has been set up as a sister chain to the existing academy trust Reach2 - a successful sponsor of primary schools operating across the country.

It is one of a group of academy sponsors which the Government has chosen to take on more schools in underperforming areas of the North - backed by extra cash. Academies are state funded schools run autonomously and outside of local council control.

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The Government is encouraging strong performing academy trusts, which run groups of schools, to continue expanding - especially in the North of England. A Northern Sponsor fund was announced last year to allow academy trusts with a proven record to take on more schools.

Reach4 has been set up as part of this and will initially look to sponsor schools in South Yorkshire.

Since it was formed it has already agreed to take on six academies in South Yorkshire which have converted from other trusts.

Reach4 is being jointly led by Sir Steve Lancashire, the founder of the trust and of Reach2, and Libby Nicholas, an experienced national education leader.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post they said the trust was committed to raising standards in South Yorkshire and beyond.

In recent weeks Reach4 has announced that it has taken on six schools: Hartley Brook Primary and Hatfield Primary in Sheffield along with Carrfield, Goosacre, The Hill and Highgate Primary Academies in the Dearne Valley.

Hatfield was placed in special measures last year but Hartley Brook is rated as good by Ofsted. Its first four schools in the Dearne Valley are all rated good or better. Hill Primary is rated as outstanding by Ofsted.

Sir Steve said the trust wanted to establish a “mixed portfolio”. “Taking on good and outstanding schools will give us the local capacity to be able to take on schools which require support,” he added.

Both he and Ms Nicholas said Reach4 were looking to take on 12 to 15 schools in South Yorkshire in the first year but in the long term would look to expand beyond that to become a national operation.

But for Sir Steve establishing a trust working in South Yorkshire is a chance to return to his roots. He grew up in Renishaw, near Sheffield, and said he was excited about having the chance to lead schools in the area.

Reach4 one of a small number of strong performing academy trusts who has been given a share of £5m from the Government to take on schools in areas of under performance in the North.

These include Outwood Grange Academies Trust which will work in South Yorkshire and the Tees Valley; Wakefield City Academies Trust which runs 16 schools across the North and will extend its offer to more schools in Bradford and Tauheedul Education Trust, which started running Muslim faith schools in Blackburn and will now sponsor schools in Bradford.

Sir Steve and Ms Nicholas said they would look to repeat the success of Reach2 with their new trust. And they said it was important that the academies who joined their trust’s “family of schools” shared the same ethos and focus on a broad education as well as raising attainment.