ALL Church of England and Roman Catholic schools on the Isle of Wight are being urged to come together in one C of E/RC multi-academy trust (MAT). If the proposal goes ahead, after an eight-week feasibility study announced this week, the joint MAT would be the first of its kind in the country.
The scheme is being encouraged by the C of E and RC Bishops of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster and Dr Philip Egan, respectively, who have outlined the scheme in a letter to the governing bodies of the 11 C of E, four RC, and two joint church schools.
Any new trust would not be run by either bishop or diocese but by separate groups of trustees and a formally established company, the letter says. Under the proposals, RC schools would become RC academies, C of E schools would become Anglican academies, and the joint schools would become C of E/RC academies.
The C of E and RC dioceses already work together in their two joint schools on the island, and could extend that co-operation, the director of education for Portsmouth and Winchester dioceses, Jeff Williams, said. “This emphatically would not involve the creation of a church-schools enclave, but could eventually include community schools that wanted to join,” he said.
The proposed joint MAT would need the approval of the Government’s Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC), but conversion to academy status within the MAT is understood to be regarded as crucial to the success of the island’s RSC-led school improvement plan aimed at raising pupil achievement. The move has been welcomed by the local authority. The Isle of Wight Council’s lead member for children’s services, Councillor Chris Whitehouse, said that it could transform education outcomes on the island. The development is also supported by the island’s MP, Andrew Turner.