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Dudley Academies Trust gets government backing

A new multi-academy trust for Dudley, the Dudley Academies Trust (the Trust), has been given the go ahead by the Schools Commissioner for the West Midlands and the Department for Education.  The Trust will bring together Castle High School, Hillcrest School and Community College, Holly Hall Academy and High Arcal School under the sponsorship of Dudley College of Technology.  Castle High School and Hillcrest School and Community College will convert to academy status on joining the Trust. If all goes to plan the Trust will be operational for the outset of the new academic year.  

The proposal has emerged following lengthy consideration and meticulous planning between the four partner schools and the college and enjoys strong support from Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC). Under these new arrangements the schools will retain their own identities but will work closely together with the college to improve outcomes for learners.  Existing Headteachers will retain day to day leadership and management for their respective schools. Delivery at school level will be strengthened by combined back-office support services. The Trust will also recruit a Chief Executive Officer from the National Leaders in Education, to oversee its operations. Once constituted the Dudley Academies Trust together with the college will annually support 8,500 young people aged 11 to 19 years old with a total operating income in excess of £60 million.

The Trust will focus on achieving improved educational outcomes at Key Stage 3 and beyond. A significant emphasis will be placed on driving up GCSE attainment in mathematics and English. Support for learners with learning difficulties will also be strengthened. Over time the Trust will seek to better align the schools’ curriculum to local and regional skills needs, with a growing emphasis on digital technologies and science and technology.

A new Trust Board will be established to oversee the development of the Trust. A number of leading figures, including Sir Mark Grundy, who was knighted for his work at George Salter High School in West Bromwich and Shireland Collegiate Academy Smethwick, business leaders Martin Dudley of Thomas Dudley Ltd and Tom Westley of the Westley Group Ltd, former Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary David Whatton and DMBC’s education outcomes lead Suzanne Edwards, have already agreed to join the new Board. The Trust Board itself will be chaired by Dudley College Principal, Lowell Williams.  The proposals have already won the support of all of the schools’ existing governing bodies. Under these new arrangements School Advisory Committees will quickly be established to ensure the partner schools retain an intensely local focus.

Commenting on the proposition Lowell Williams, Principal of Dudley College, the Trust’s sponsor said:

“Bringing together the combined strengths of four secondary schools alongside Dudley College will give us the best chance of providing outstanding technical education to Dudley’s young people. We know that educational outcomes are not as high as they should be and we will work tirelessly to address this. Our plans are aspirational, not only for the development of our teaching and learning strategies and our curriculum, but also for the future transformation of the schools’ estates. As sponsor, the college will release up to half a million pounds to the Trust to kick start this process. We recognise that current government plans significantly reshape the role of local authorities in compulsory education. That’s why we are delighted that the Schools Commissioner for the West Midlands has put her faith in Dudley College and our local school partners to bring about a transformation of pre-16 education in the borough.”

The Dudley Academies Trust is strongly supported by Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council. The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services Ian Cooper said:

“Sharing resources and knowledge in this way can be very beneficial to the schools involved and we are pleased to back these exciting proposals. The multi academy trust will help staff and pupils at the four schools to achieve strong outcomes by working together and inspiring everyone to strive for success.”

Welcoming the announcement Ian Austin MP said:

“I’m delighted the green light has been given to the creation of the Dudley Academies Trust. The schools involved already have many collective strengths but also some significant challenges that need to be addressed. Each of the individual schools will be able to share their own best practice for the benefit of the group. I’m convinced this is good news for the parents, staff, governors and above all students of all of the schools involved.  We need to give our young people the best life-chances we can and that means giving them the best education we can. The Dudley Academies Trust will do this.”

The Dudley Academies Trust will come into operation from 1st September 2017.