A CONTROVERSIAL partnership between four schools and a national education trust is coming to an end - just 16 months after it formed.
In 2010, Sir Peter Vardy’s Emmanuel Schools Foundation (ESF), which runs schools in Gateshead and Northumberland, announced it was handing over its four schools to the United Learning Trust (ULT), one of the UK’s largest sponsors of academies.
The decision sparked concern as the ULT had been told by the Government the previous year not to expand until it had corrected poor performance at two of its schools.
Yesterday, the ULT and ESF, which includes Emmanuel College in Gateshead and Bede Academy in Blyth, Northumberland, jointly announced they were to go their separate ways.
They said the decision has been reached amicably and has received backing from the Department for Education.
The Journal understands the split is partly due to the geographical spread of the schools and their differences in performance.
Most ULT schools are scattered in Lancashire or further south, making them far removed from ESF. Also, ULT academies have mostly been created by taking over poor-performing schools, whilst ESF schools are high-performing.
It’s also believed that as ESF was already well established and had its own policies firmly in place, there was nothing to be gained through the collaboration.
Last night, Jon Coles, chief executive of ULT, said: “Over the last 16 months we have been very glad to work with the four schools in ESF.
“However, despite the similarities, there are important differences in approach between the two groups of schools. We have considered carefully whether we should try to bring these together, but both groups have concluded that this is not the best approach.
“We believe that both organisations can continue to thrive independently and that each has established a strong but distinctly different way for schools to work together.
“Following careful discussion, therefore, and in agreement with the Department for Education, we have all decided that the best way forward is for the ESF academies to stand alone under their own governance structure.”
He added: “We will now work to ensure that these new arrangements are established in a way which supports the future success of ESF schools.
“We part as friends and look forward to continuing to discuss and share practice in the future.”
Jonathan Winch, representing all four ESF schools as principal of Emmanuel College, said: “This is a friendly separation and we are grateful to ULT for the mutually respectful relationship that has been established, which has enabled us to continue to provide the highest possible standard of education.
“We have enjoyed working with our ULT colleagues and look forward to continuing the professional relationships that have developed. We welcome the ongoing opportunities to share best practice for the benefit of the young people in all our schools.
“As a close-knit group of schools located in the North, we have agreed with ULT that it is right for our school communities to remain as separate entities.”
Despite the similarities, there are important differences in approach