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Thursday, 14 June 2018 11:47

Leigh Academies Trust and The Williamson Trust to explore merger (takeover)

Update at foot of article

Further Update: See link to new Leigh Academy Trust article, noting specific update reference to Sir Joseph Williamson's (the math)

The Leigh Academies Trust and the Williamson Trust are exploring a merger to take effect by 2019. You will find a joint statement by the two Academy Trusts here.  Leigh is considerably the larger of the two, with 17 academies, eight secondary, eight primary and one Special School, with two new Free schools in progress. The Williamson Trust has five schools, two secondary and three primary, having had Elaine Primary taken away from it earlier this year. 

Whilst the Leigh Trust is a highly successful expansive Trust, with regional hubs in Dartford, SE London, Maidstone and Paddock Wood, and Medway, Williamson Trust has been beset by issues but brings the prestigious Sir Joseph Williamson's Grammar School to the table. The joint statement underlines the differences, with the Leigh section recording the wide range of its reach, noting 'the added expertise of a top grammar school' that will come from the merger. For the Williamson Trust, currently without a Chief Executive, there are: the 'potential benefits of a merger with such a significant and successful organisation'.

Nothing has been settled, but this feels far more like a takeover than a merger if it happens. I look at the issues in more detail below. 

Leigh Academy Trust (LAT)
The Trust has a wide range of expertise, found on its original hub of the three Dartford secondary schools: Leigh Academy, Wilmington Academy and Longfield  Academy, each in its turn having been massively oversubscribed, but have now levelled out with the introduction of the new Inspiration Academy. This has sprung out almost incidentally after the LAT set up the vocational 14-18 Leigh UTC which has struggled badly to attract numbers at 14 plus, but has now apparently sacrificed what is proving an unpopular option by introducing a new 11-14 section, the Inspiration Academy which will feed into it, and has proved very popular.
 
Mascall's School, a popular academy in Paddock Wood, is the second hub lead, working with three previously struggling Maidstone Primary academies under a different provider, and a new Free School the Bearsted Academy. This is also in Maidstone, planned to cater for children with SEND, working in close co-operation with the Trust's current Special School, Milestone Academy in New Ash Green, with its Outstanding Ofsted.
 
There are three academies in SE London. Most interesting is Strood Academy, designated as the Medway hub lead, and planned to take in another new Free School, the Medway Academy. With the Williamson Trust and its five Medway schools, there may need to be a re-alignment here.
 
One of the key benefits of the LAT is its extensive infra-structure offering support in different aspects across all the academies, as it looks more and more like a non regional Local Authority. 
 
Williamson Trust
The Williamson Trust has had a very difficult time recently, firstly with problems at three of its primary schools, issued with a Letter of Concern by the Regional Schools Commissioner two years ago. Last year one of these, Elaine Primary, was issued with a Pre-Termination Warning because of its low standards and in January was transferred out to another Trust with potentially the expertise to improve it. The Hundred of Hoo School, now an all-through 4-18 establishment, has had serious issues as explained here. Two years ago, the headteacher moved to become Chief Executive of the Williamson Trust, but sadly died earlier this year. To date he has not been replaced permanently at either the HofH nor as Chief Executive, which leaves the way clear for a takeover rather than a merger.
 
The prize is of course the Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, known colloquially as 'The Math'. Heavily oversubscribed, to the extent that many Medway children do not qualify for admission, it is fiercely local and has resisted the temptation to chase high performers from elsewhere. It is academically very successful and has superb facilities. Would the Medway Hub lead remain as Strood academy; I can see it taking on the other local schools but leaving The Math alone. 
 
Update: There is no doubt this situation is a humiliation for The Math, one of Kent and Medway's most prestigious schools, and the outcome of some appalling leadership in recent years. The HoH and the three remaining primary schools are certainly best off out of the current situation which has offered them nothing, and I see no disadvantage for them in choosing to go with Leigh. In fact they will almost certainly benefit from the expertise that will then be available. The big reputational loser is The Math, becoming merely another school in the Leigh stable. However, if that is what happens and it is left to go its own way in the Trust, it should be able to  maintain its excellent standards. Alternatively, if the Williamson Trust is being forced to join another more 'successful' organisation it only has to look at the fate of Holcombe Grammar; now busily offering places to high performers from London at the expense of local borderzone boys. The Math has built its reputation on admitting local boys; with the squeeze on such places at Holcombe, local parents will hope for the best.
Last modified on Friday, 24 August 2018 11:59

6 comments

  • Comment Link Monday, 18 June 2018 17:23 posted by Proud Former Student and now Parent

    Another further attempt to disgrace the history of a nationally renowned school. The merge is a bid for higher salaries and an increased extension of the school. While there are undoubted benefits for the students to be give the backing of a financially stable trust, I fear education will be disregarded for a big fat pay rise of higher leadership members. Ironically, I have no trust in the Trust.

  • Comment Link Friday, 15 June 2018 15:22 posted by Mrs Gudgeon

    So which is worse? Staying with the useless Williamson Trust or going with an octopus

  • Comment Link Friday, 15 June 2018 05:37 posted by Primary Parent

    There are four other local Medway schools that according to your article are being bundled up and sold on. Whilst distrustful of academisation, I was happy we were becoming part of a respected local Trust. The respect went some time ago. Local is on its way out. There is no longer any Trust!

  • Comment Link Thursday, 14 June 2018 20:00 posted by Another once Proud Old Boy

    Why can't the pirates take HoH and the primaries where they have the skills to support them. Then let go The Math to stand on its own, for they have nothing to offer but much to gain. PETER: The big question is why has this happened? Was it that the Regional School Commissioner was unhappy with the running of Williamson Trust? I would not be surprised. To break it up in this way would be without precedent I think, but legal? A very good question which only the RSC will answer.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 14 June 2018 19:58 posted by Once Proud Old Boy

    Humiliation for The Math! Who has betrayed the school and let it come to this?

  • Comment Link Thursday, 14 June 2018 15:05 posted by Proud Ex Math teacher

    What would Keith Williams, a great head, who rebuilt the enormous reputation of The Math, think of this surrender?

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