Partnerships between trusts could signal next development in academies landscape

Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust chairman Fred Corbett. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust chairman Fred Corbett. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A number of academy trusts are in discussion about forging formal links between them, in what may represent the next stage of the evolving education landscape in our region.

Academies - state-funded schools that are independent of the local authority - were initially designed to be stand-alone, but recently they have been encouraged to come together in multi-academy trusts so they can benefit from wider support.

Now, the new talks could lead to these groupings of academies themselves forming even wider partnerships.

Fred Corbett, chairman of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT), revealed a number of trusts in Norfolk are involved in the discussions, which also include regional schools commissioner Tim Coulson, who oversees academies in the East of England.

Mr Corbett said: 'There's a logic to trusts working together, rather than being seen as competitors in a commercial landscape. I'm not saying every trust in the land agrees with that, but we are very interested in working with together.'

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He said discussion were taking place about what form the possible partnerships might take, but said an example could be a trust with a strength in the high school sector seeking support from another trust that could help it with its primary schools.

He said: 'Some [trusts] will be big enough and their geography such that they might not feel this need to collaborate, but if you look at the number of small school-led trusts, I think there's a logic to them having partnerships, and I think that's where some of the academy debate is at the moment.'

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He added: 'It's not what people sometimes feel it is, a privatisation and commercialisation of the sector, and that's all trusts are interested in.

'There are some trusts that give off that vibe, but it's not what most of us are in the game for.'

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