Barley Fields Primary School, based in Ingleby Barwick in Stockton-on-Tees, has completed its conversion to academy status and joined Prince Regent Street Trust, a successful primary-only multi-academy trust (MAT) also located in Stockton.
Following a consultation with pupils, parents and carers, staff and other interested parties in November and December last year, and a programme of due diligence, the 702-pupil school becomes the fourth member of Prince Regent Street Trust alongside Hartburn Primary School, Village Primary School and Wolviston Primary School.
Headteacher Caroline Taylor said the school began formally exploring academisation last April following publication of the government’s Schools White Paper which promoted the intention for all schools to be part of a MAT, originally by 2030.
The school’s interest in joining a MAT had been “a long and very considered one”, Caroline explained, which included understanding what joining a trust could mean for the school; evaluating the benefits of joining several locally-established MATs; and working alongside Prince Regent Street Trust as a partner school.
“At the heart of our school improvement strategy is a long-held commitment to working in partnership with other strong schools – sharing practice, challenging one another and working in collaboration – and we are clear that joining Prince Regent Street Trust is the right thing for our children, staff and wider community,” she said.
“We explored a number of different models, but wanted to be part of a MAT that was primary-based, and as a successful school already one that would give us a high level of autonomy. Prince Regent Street Trust will challenge us, and us working with other high-performing schools will give something back to them too. The trust’s comprehensive and personalised support around non-teaching elements, including finance, estates and compliance, will allow us to concentrate fully on teaching and learning.
“For children there will not be much change. In fact, their education will only continue to improve as a consequence of joining, and carefully selected partner schools share this value and vision for their own schools and their pupils. The day-to-day running and management of the school will remain the same – practically our logo and uniform will be unchanged – but we will be given additional support to improve without having decisions taken away from us. In particular, we will benefit from cross-Trust curriculum meetings, peer networks and working parties, and a wealth of training and CPD opportunities.”
Glynis Pattison, Chair of Governors at Barley Fields Primary School, added: “We researched the models of collaboration available to our school in response to significant changes in the educational landscape. After thorough research which considered many different models of collaboration, we concluded that it was in the best interests of pupils, parents and other stakeholders to apply to convert to become an academy.
“Over the past 12 months we have been working as a partner school with Prince Regent Street Trust, giving us the chance to get to know their Chief Executive and Headteachers, who have been honest and open from the beginning. Governors have attended Prince Regent Street Trust’s Trustees meeting, which has been really valuable.
“We have got to know the trust throughout this period, carried out huge amounts of due diligence in the process, and are really excited about the future.”
Julia Armstrong, CEO of Prince Regent Street Trust, said: “We are delighted to welcome Barley Fields Primary School into our family. Having worked with the school extensively to identify mutual compatibility, especially in terms of shared ethos, and the benefits of them joining our trust we believe that together we can create solid foundations for the future.
“We are continually striving for excellence and, in all cases we are seeking impact on our pupils through achievement, equality of opportunity by offering enriching life experiences, and in supporting their preparation for future life.
“Barley Fields staff will benefit from a bespoke package of support including development opportunities for the senior leadership team, governors, teaching and non-teaching staff, which will impact positively on many areas of the school, as well as finance and operations.”
For Caroline, who joined the school when it opened in 2006 with just 38 children before becoming Headteacher 10 years later, she is now looking forward to a new dawn for Barley Fields Primary. “Our journey over the last 16 years have been a delight,” she revealed. “We pride ourselves on the atmosphere in our school, the sense of family and community, and our children are extremely good and very well mannered.
“Academic standards and outcomes are very high, and children enjoy a broad, balanced and challenging curriculum, underpinned by our approach to ‘growth mindset’ which recognises that setbacks are a necessary part of the learning process and allows people to ‘bounce back’ by increasing motivational effort. Above all, we value our spirit of openness and friendliness.
“I am fortunate to lead a very talented staff team here and by joining Prince Regent Street Trust they will have the opportunities to broaden their horizons through different settings, all in other high-performing schools, both leading and sharing their experiences. This is a wonderful opportunity for Barley Fields Primary School.”