Primary school set to join multi-academy trust

Reepham Primary School is set to be the first school to join Reepham High School and College’s (RHSC) new Synergy Multi Academy Trust, which was established last summer with approval from the Department for Education.

Reepham Primary School, School Road, Reepham

Writing in the high school’s magazine, RHSC Review, principal Mark Farrar said Reepham Primary plans to formally join the trust in September, which means the school “will not have to worry about issues relating to finances, site management and [information and communications technology].
“Responsibility for all of these matters will be taken by Synergy, allowing the primary school to focus entirely on teaching and learning.”
He added that the proposals will allow staff at the two schools to work “even more closely together”, helping with the transfer of pupils from one to school to the other and sharing classroom expertise.
Mr Farrar revealed that other neighbouring schools have also expressed interest in joining Synergy and anticipates the multi-academy trust having several more members within a relatively short period of time.
“However, there are no plans for Synergy to become a large, national chain,” he said. “Our priority is to work in partnership with local schools, better serving all of the children in our local community. We have a shared moral purpose.”
Synergy was allocated a one-off capital grant from the Department for Education, which is being spent on legal services and on converting the school house into offices for Synergy finance, site and data members of staff.
“The development of Synergy Multi Academy Trust is one of the most important and exciting events in the history of RHSC,” said Mr Farrar. “We are very much looking forward to working with our primary colleagues and are determined to make it succeed.”
Catherine Ogle, Reepham Primary School acting headteacher, said: “The Synergy Multi Academy Trust was a natural choice for us, as we have worked closely with RHSC for several years already.
“The majority of our children move on to Reepham High, and many children have siblings across both schools.
“By joining together on this more formal basis, we will be able to maximise opportunities for children at both schools, and ensure that children’s education is both inspiring and challenging from Reception to Year 13.”
The trust is part of a growing trend for high schools in Norfolk to set up academy trusts that local primary schools can join.
Academies are independently run, but state-funded, schools that are overseen by a not-for-profit business, known as an academy trust.
The government recently reversed its controversial decision to force all schools to become academies by 2022. However, new powers are in train that could enable the Department for Education to step in and force schools in “underperforming” local authorities – or those unable to provide the necessary support – to convert to academy status.
Meanwhile, a report in the Eastern Daily Press earlier this year listed Reepham Primary School as one of 52 schools in Norfolk at risk of becoming “coasting schools”, which are schools where less than 85% of pupils achieve a certain standard in their education, as set out by government.
Such schools have until the summer to improve their exam results or risk being turned into academies or transferred to a new academy sponsor.
Reepham Primary School pointed out that, until autumn, there are no “coasting schools” in existence because the definition requires the 2016 data before it goes live.
The school said it is confident it will achieve the required standards and does not anticipate becoming defined as a “coasting school” in 2016.
“We have fantastic children at our school, and fantastic parents and staff,” said the school’s website. “We are proud of our extended curriculum and the learning opportunities provided for our children, and are confident that Reepham Primary will continue to grow and develop, providing an excellent education for our young people.”
Reepham Primary School is currently in the process of appointing a new headteacher, after Miriam Jones left in December to become a lecturer in primary education at the University of East Anglia.

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