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School quits Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust

Helen Ashe, headteacher at Barrow CEVC Primary School
Helen Ashe, headteacher at Barrow CEVC Primary School

A primary school has terminated its partnership with the Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust to pursue a 'wider vision'.

Governors have decided to withdraw Barrow Church of England Voluntary Controlled Primary from the trust to expand the school's educational networks and create a 'realistic avenue' to academisation.

Sarah Wightman, chair of governors, and headteacher Helen Ashe announced the move in a letter to parents yesterday.

They said: "The governing body has taken the view that, on balance, the opportunities available for Barrow School outside of the trust are greater than the benefit gained from remaining within the partnership.

"We would like to be able to expand our range of educational networks and give ourselves the option to pursue a realistic avenue to academisation on our own terms.

"The structure of the trust has inevitably evolved over time and changes have been made to its operational structure and planned strategic direction.

"The governors feel that the current working partner relationship gives us insufficient meaningful influence within the wider organisation; limiting autonomy and the ability for Barrow to continue to grow and develop in line with our own long term aims and in harmony with the current wider regional educational landscape."

This change in direction is the start of a new and exciting chapter for Barrow - Sarah Wightman and Helen Ashe

As the majority of Suffolk moved to two tier schooling, Barrow entered a 'working partnership' with the All-Through Trust in 2012 to remain within a three tier system.

The trust is led by County Upper School and includes Tollgate Primary, Horringer Court and Westley Schools as well as a STEM academy, which is due to open in September 2020.

However, Barrow was unable to become a full member of the multi-academy chain after the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich refused its application to become an academy to join the trust.

Mrs Wightman and Mrs Ashe said the reasons for this 'will not change at any point in the future' and mainly relate to Barrow 'being a church school joining a three tier trust of non-church schools'.

Having opted out of the two tier restructure, Barrow remains the only local authority funded first school in the county.

Plans are being explored to expand the school site to extend its age range 'at some point in the future'.

Mrs Wightman and Mrs Ashe added: "On a day to day basis this decision should have very little impact on life at Barrow School.

"We will continue to work with all local schools on projects and activities, where there is the opportunity for our pupils to benefit.

"The Barrow staff will continue to work closely with all onward school choices at the point of transition to effectively support our pupils as best we can.

"The ending of this partnership with the All-Through Trust does not come without some sadness on our part and we recognise fully the work that has been done over the years as a result of our links with the trust.

"We are, however, confident that this change in direction is the start of a new and exciting chapter for Barrow and the school is now looking forwards with new purpose and a wider vision."

When asked about the future of Barrow and if the diocese had an academy chain in mind for the school, Jane Sheat, diocesan director of education, said: “We support all church schools, including Barrow, as they explore what is in the best interests of their pupils.

"Ultimately governing bodies make decisions about their schools, with the consent of the diocese where academy status is concerned."

When asked about the impact Barrow's decision will have on the trust in terms of pupil numbers at Horringer Court, Westley and County Upper, Steve Boor, chair of the Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust, said: “Barrow Primary’s ambition to fully join the trust was long-standing but their circumstances continually prevented this.

"We therefore understand their decision now to widen their links.

"As the trust's results show, our popular all-through approach, with its distinctive middle phase, continues to deliver the best education outcomes for all our pupils, and the new STEM academy is encouraging even more interest in joining us at the start of year five."

He added that the 'traditional route from Barrow Primary into the trust’s middle phase at Westley and Horringer Court remains open to parents wishing their children to benefit from our all-through approach'.

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