As the advertisement for a Trust Education Officer for our new Diocesan Multi Academy Trust (MAT) is published in the Times Educational Supplement we spoke to Director of Education Father Richard Peers.
During his first six months as Director of Education Father Richard has led the Board of Education and all our schools through a consultation on Multi Academy Trusts, up to the point where we are now putting the building blocks in place for a Diocesan led MAT.
“We are on the cusp of a great educational change”, explains Richard. “The government are overseeing the most revolutionary change in education structures in our lifetime and we are responding in a strategic way as our schools have asked us to do. Our view, supported by 97% of our schools is we should take a strategic lead – and that involves creating this trust.”
While the academisation process has not been without controversy our diocesan response is clear. “I think it is vitally important that we keep our family of church schools together,” explains Richard “We can sometimes forget to state that what most distinguishes church schools is that they are places to talk about Jesus. They are central to the mission of our church and if we are to continue to make a big difference in young people’s lives we need to continue to keep our family of church schools together.”
Richard recognises this is a massively ambitious venture . “This is something we haven’t done before and we need considerable skill to help lead the process. The Board have agreed to gift my time to act as Chief Executive but as I also have my role as Director of Education I need an experienced, creative educational professional who can help deliver this programme.”
The MAT will be a separate legal body to the Diocesan Board of Finance (LDBF), governed by company law and funded by central government, but the LDBF agreed a loan to enable the development work to be carried out. We will work through this in stages using a model that has three hubs. The first hub will be the Western Hub covering Liverpool, Sefton and West Lancs. The Southern Hub (Warrington, Halton, Knowsley and part of St Helens) and Eastern Hub (Wigan, East Lancs and part of St Helens) will follow. We will encourage existing school led MATs to flourish.
Richard is buoyed by the level of support this received from schools during the consultation process, “What is exciting is that it is clear that this is what schools are looking for - and that gives us the determination to succeed”.
Our aim is that the Trust Education Officer will be in place by September at the latest. We will then be working with schools, our education staff and others to be in a position for the first 10 to 12 schools to join the first hub. As Richard says “There is a long way to go and much to work through. We want all schools in a diocesan MAT to be outstanding or good schools. Schools that offer the best for pupils, staff and parents alike. We are determined to keep the family of church schools together, putting Jesus at the heart of our education system”.
“I think it is vitally important that we keep our family of church schools together they are central to the mission of our church”