Trust outlines vision for Howard Primary School but community leader highlights ‘alternative’
An academy trust which is looking to run a Bury St Edmunds primary school has spelt out its vision to parents.
The Chilford Hundred Education Trust (CHET) is the Department for Education’s preferred sponsor for Howard Community Primary.
The school, in Beard Road, has to join an academy trust after being rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted last year.
A public meeting with key figures was held on Monday night at the school as part of a ‘listening period’ before a final sponsorship decision is made.
Among the speakers were representatives from the Cambridgeshire-based CHET, Howard Primary and the Regional Schools Commissioner.
Helena Marsh, executive principal of CHET, said: “We’re here because we’re keen to improve standards, we’re keen to make sure all children regardless of background have a great first step to their future and that comes with a great education.
We will become a strong partner with the local community and parents to make sure your views are heard.
“We know a lot about what good schools are, how teachers teach well, what good learning and welfare is.
“While we may not be experts in the Howard estate, we’re experts in engaging our local communities.
“We will become a strong partner with the local community and parents to make sure your views are heard.
“It’s going to be about working with the school, working with the staff, parents and community to make the improvements that are necessary for Howard.
“There’s no formula. Ultimately it’s about getting to know the school, which we’ve already started to do.”
After a series of temporary leaders at the school, Mrs Marsh said part of their focus will be to grow leadership and governance including appointing a headteacher by September. She said they were keen for interim headteacher Stephen Fanthorpe to stay during the transition.
CHET was set up by Linton Village College in 2014 to sponsor Meadow Primary School, in Balsham, after it was placed into special measures.
Headteacher Nichola Connor led Meadow Primary to a ‘good’ Ofsted and is leading on the support package for teaching and learning at Howard.
She said: “It isn’t going to be a quick fix in Howard. It’s going to be a journey but it has to be one that parents have to be involved in.”
CHET will also run The Pines Primary School and Pine Cones Pre-school, which are due to open in Red Lodge in September.
During a question and answer session, one parent asked about which secondary school pupils would go to.
Mrs Marsh said: “It’s your choice and it’s what’s right for you. You can choose through the admissions process.”
Howard will continue to be a member of the Bury Schools Partnership and CHET is ‘keen to grow relationships with local schools to support reciprocal opportunities for sharing best practice’.
Feedback from the ‘listening period’, which runs until February 19, will be considered by the Headteachers’ Board on February 22.
It will make a recommendation to the Regional Schools Commissioner who will take the final decision.
However, a community leader is calling on Howard Community Primary School to join the Bury St Edmunds All-Through Trust.
Ernie Broom, chairman of the Howard Estate Association of Residents and Tenants, said there was an ‘alternative’ to the Chilford Hundred Education Trust (CHET).
He has arranged a public meeting to be held at the Newbury Community Centre tonight (February 9) at 7pm to discuss the issue.
Mr Broom said: “County Upper School which has the all-through system has served us for as long as I can remember.
“It isn’t for me to decide, it’s for the people to decide and it’s really about the community.
“I think there’s an alternative. All we’re doing is giving people the chance to come along and listen.”
Steve Boor, chairman of the All-Through Trust, said the trust expressed an interest in running Howard and were told they were ‘very close runners-up’.
He questioned why the All-Through Trust had not been chosen as they have a ‘huge number of long-established community links’.
Chris Pamplin, chairman of governors at Tollgate and vice-chairman of the trust board, said: “The trust would take the children through to Year 8 on the Howard Primary site.
“They would be joined by their counterparts from Tollgate from Year 5. At the end of Year 8, the children could choose between County Upper or its new STEM Academy.
“Of course, any parent would be free to take their child out at the end of Year 6 to go to any high school if they wanted that route.
“This would re-establish a clear path for every pupil to the schools their parents wish them to attend.”
The All-Through Trust is due to attend tonight’s meeting.
During the public meeting on Monday at Howard Primary, Toby Slater Robins, chairman of governors at Howard, said he supported the DfE’s decision and while he respected the views of others it was his responsibility to see the DfE’s decision through.
At the meeting, Jonathan Lewis, deputy director for the Regional Schools Commissioner, said five trusts were interviewed and CHET was the ‘strongest of the group’.
He said they will take views from the community during the ‘listening process’ until February 19.