A group of six Pendle schools rated either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted have opened a consultation period ahead of a proposal to form the biggest multi-academy trust in Lancashire to provide a “world-class education”.
The proposal - which will see Blacko Primary, Colne Park High, Colne Park Primary, Laneshaw Bridge Primary, Lord Street Primary, and West Street Primary collaborate more formally to form the Pennine Trust - was unveiled at an event on Monday, March 6th at Pendle Heritage Centre in Barrowford.
Speaking at the event, Dr Paul Parkin - head at Colne Park High - insisted that the proposal sought to improve the six schools even further and set the standard for the rest of Pendle, an area which has the lowest educational attainment of any Lancashire borough.
“We’re building on what is already excellent practice,” said Dr Parkin. “We’ll be retaining the very best of our individual schools, but by working together we’ll be able to achieve so much more to benefit children.”
A nine-person joint trust board will be established, on which an eclectic range of community members will sit and to which the Pennine Trust will be held accountable. The aim is also to draw on global and national research to reveal what teaching methods are successful to implement them in schools.
“Research has shown that school improvement works best when schools work with each other and hold each other to account,” said Harry Devonport, Chairman of governors for Colne Park High School, while Dr Parkin added: “We’re looking at the very best practice from around the world and Britain.”
The venture has received support from all six heads of the respective schools and from Pendle MP, Andrew Stephenson, who said: “I welcome [the] announcement establishing the Pennine Education Trust. Six schools coming together in order to deliver high quality education and opportunities can only be a good thing for Pendle.”
Under the Pennine Trust, all six schools will receive academy status, and while this will result in eventual changes to curriculums and a slight increase in funding, all head teachers were keen to emphasise that the respective establishments will retain their individuality, uniforms, names, and teaching staff.
“There won’t be any massive changes initially, but for leadership, there will be changes to open up time to work on teaching and learning [and], over time, there will be changes in teaching and improvements in provision to increase outcomes,” said Sarah Burtoft, Headteacher at West Street Primary School.
“We want to transform what’s going on in schools,” added Mr Devonport. “Within these schools there is outstanding practice - we want to take the best from each school, share those ideas and leadership, and bring it together to make all of the schools perform higher.
“The central idea is to improve the educational attainment of out young people and their social mobility - we want to raise their aspirations, we want them to believe they can achieve,” he added.
The earliest a formal partnership for the Pennine Trust can be instigated is September 1st of this year, while the consultation period runs until March 27th.
Paul White, Chair of Governors at Laneshaw Bridge Primary School and County Councillor for Blacko, Laneshaw Bridge, Park High and Park Primary Schools, said: “It would be easy to sit around and wait for someone else to make a change to raise aspiration and attainment, but we want to take this positive step for the benefit of our children.
“We want all of our children to reach the best of their ability, and we believe that working collaboratively together is the best way of achieving this,” he added, “This is about transforming the way we do things, to inspire children, to be innovative and to equip them with the skills for life.”
Additionally, 80 people from nursery, primary, and secondary schools across the borough have also launched the Pendle Challenge, a similar initiative to raise educational standards, with sub-groups set up to tackle different areas such as community and parental engagement and reading.
“The Pendle Challenge will be a powerful driving force to improve the future of thousands of Pendle’s children and young people,” said Councillor Mohammed Iqbal, Leader of Pendle Council.
Paul Britton, Nelson and Colne College’s Vice Principal for Curriculum, said: “It’s exciting that different organisations are coming together for the first time to create a new network which will make a real difference.”