Primary schools set to merge in ‘academy chain’ revolution

    Brenchley School

    Brenchley and Matfield Primary School and Bennett Memorial School are set to join together as part of a new ‘academy chain.’

    Last month David Cameron placed academies at the centre of his vision for the education system.

    An academy chain functions as schools working together as shared academy structure – either an umbrella trust or a multi-academy trust.

    Bennett has been operating as an academy since 2011, but on September 1 it converted from a single academy to a multi-academy trust, known as the Tenax Trust.

    Though it is currently the only member, the move allows Bennett to expand by bringing other schools in.

    Ian Bauckham, headmaster of Bennett and driving force behind Tenax, would not comment on deals that were still under discussion, but said: “The way the landscape is evolving, it is very likely that the trust will consist of even more schools in future.”

    Andrew Cunningham, head of Brenchley and Matfield School’s board of governors, said: “Academisation is inevitable and we would prefer to do it under our terms.

    “We have explored the alternatives and are currently in discussion with the Tenax Trust to be their first primary school trust member.

    “The governors believe that there are major advantages of joining Tenax at an early stage and helping shape their approach to primary education while securing the future of our school and giving our teachers and senior leaders opportunities not available in a one form entry school.”

    No formal deal has yet been agreed, and Brenchley and Matfield School will have to convert to academy status before it can become part of the trust.

    But both parties are keen to capitalise on the advantages a union would bring about.

    One deal that has been formalised will see The Bishop Chavasse School, a Church of England primary school, set to open in Tonbridge next year, join Bennett in the Tenax Trust.

    Trust’s landscape is evolving and will expand

    “The prime minister made a clear public statement that he is committed, and that the government is committed, to increasing the number of academies over the next 5 years. It’s a critical part of their strategy for raising standards.

    I personally support the plan to increase the number of academies, especially through multi academy trusts.

    Being an academy has given us a sense of confidence. It’s allowed us to take ownership of our decisions. It has given us greater control over the curriculum, over budget and expenditure, and over the training and deployment of staff.

    It’s all about schools working together. There is nothing magical about changing a school’s status- that won’t automatically improve it- but there is something special about schools coming together to raise standards collaboratively, and running things in a more economical way.

    We have just converted from a stand-alone academy to being a Multi Academy Trust. At the moment we are a Multi Academy Trust with one academy. But this is a stage of transition. In the future it will have at least one more member. We are sponsoring a new school in Tonbridge, a free school, an academy, that will be a member of this trust.

    I’m not going to comment on individual schools where decisions have not yet been finalised and are not in public domain.  But the way the landscape is evolving, it is very likely that it will consist of even more schools in future.“

    Ian Bauckham, headmaster