University of Chichester launches academy trust

Dr Alan McMurdo, director of academies, with professor Clive Behagg, vice-chancellor of the University of Chichester at the launch of the Chichester Academy Trust PHOTO BY TOBY PHILLIPS
Dr Alan McMurdo, director of academies, with professor Clive Behagg, vice-chancellor of the University of Chichester at the launch of the Chichester Academy Trust PHOTO BY TOBY PHILLIPS
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THE University of Chichester is establishing a trust to run academy schools.

It has announced plans to operate a multi-academy trust for academies across Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey.

The university said it was hoping to work with between 30 and 40 sponsored and converter academies as the Chichester Academy Trust (CAT).

The trust will be based at the Bognor Regis campus and led by director of academies and chief executive officer, Dr Alan McMurdo.

“Every academy will be different, with a distinct identity and a unique set of strengths and needs,” said Dr McMurdo.

“We will support every school, and they will support each other, to make sure that every pupil receives an excellent education.

“Children have one chance at a fine schooling and we are determined that 100 per cent of our teachers will be good or better and 100 per cent of our pupils will outperform national progress levels.”

Natural

The move has been backed by the department for education and the university’s board of governors.

Vice-chancellor professor Clive Behagg said: “It is a natural step for us to become involved in the academies programme.

“The university has a heritage that goes back more than 150 years in the region and we’ve been training teachers and innovating in education from the beginning.

“We believe education and knowledge can inspire and act as a catalyst for change, and that we should play a role in enabling people to exceed their own expectations.

“We have a responsibility, as a university rooted in the locality, to lead social, cultural and economic renewal through education.”

With 5,300 students and 950 staff, the university is one of the smallest in the country but has a strong tradition of education.

It was founded in 1839 as an intervention into the education of the working community.

New schools

Dr McMurdo confirmed Frogmore Junior School, near Camberley, Surrey, and Mill Chase Community Technology College, in Hampshire, will open as CAT academies in the upcoming autumn term.

A new-build primary school at Berewood, near Waterlooville, will follow in September, 2014.

The school will have 420 places for pupils aged four to 11.

“The chance to create an excellent learning environment from ground level up doesn’t come along very often,” said 
Dr McMurdo.

“We can plan a flexible and engaging space that will enable really effective teaching and enhance curriculum opportunities.

“Clearly, we need to provide our first pupils with a reassuring and well-supported start to school life and we are very excited about recruiting a first-class set of staff to focus on our children’s needs.

“We intend to make this academy ‘outstanding from the start’ so that all pupils will enjoy a wide and rich curriculum and benefit from excellent teaching as well as an attractive environment.”

Frogmore

One of CAT’s first schools has announced the appointment of its new permanent head teacher.

Frogmore Junior School will have Sarah Thorpe at the helm when it opens under the trust in September.

“I am very much looking forward to settling in to school life at Frogmore Junior School in September and getting to know the pupils and parents as well as the wider community,” said Mrs Thorpe.

Dr McMurdo said: “She is a very experienced head teacher who will progress school improvement in a new period of continuity for Frogmore, taking advantage of the new curriculum freedoms that academy status will bring, as well as expert supported provided by CAT through the education department at the University of Chichester.

What does this all mean?

The University of Chichester was approved as an academy sponsor by the office of the schools commissioner last summer.

CAT is hoping to be a multi-academy trust with 30 to 40 schools within five years.

An academy is an independent, state-funded school, detached from local authority control and receiving funding directly from the education funding agency (efa) and the department for education (dfe).

Academies are guided by the national education framework but have greater freedom to make choices, for example, on setting their curriculum and budget priorities.

The first academy was established in England under Tony Blair’s government in 2002.

Under the coalition, the academies programme has taken on a new impetus and increasing numbers of Ofsted ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ schools have made the decision to convert to academy status.

More than half of the secondary schools in England and increasing numbers of primary schools are now academies.

All primary schools, secondary schools and special schools can now apply to become academies and the programme includes free schools, university technical colleges, and studio schools.

This national trend is reflected in the Observer area where the majority of secondary schools and an increasing number of primary schools have either already become academies or are undergoing the process.