The Chair of the Board of Trustees at Beacon Education Trust (Beacon) has written to staff and parents advising them that there are to be imminent and exciting changes at the Trust in the year ahead.
After lengthy discussion and careful consideration, Beacon’s Board of Trustees has decided it is in the best interests of staff and students to merge with Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust (BWMAT), a much larger trust, following a directive from the Department for Education.
Beacon is responsible for six schools and four nurseries located in Minehead and Williton and works with children aged 0 to 13 years of age. The Trust has one of the largest catchment areas in England stretching from Devon across the top of Exmoor and right up to the Quantock Hills.
Beacon was encouraged to engage in talks with BWMAT following a directive from the Regional Director for the South West after Termination Warning Notices were issued for Minehead First School (MFS) in September 2022 and for Minehead Middle School (MMS) in February 2023 following a judgement of serious weaknesses earlier in the month when the capacity of the Trust was also challenged.
As a result, over the last term, both Trusts engaged in Due Diligence which for BWMAT included a review of finances, staffing and school improvement capacity. For Beacon, the specific areas relating to Key Stage 3 learning, SEND pupils and the level of experience held by Alternative Provision teaching staff were addressed.
Commenting on the announcement, Beacon’s Chair of the Board of Trustees, Andy Giles, said:
“We have been in discussion with BWMAT since July this year and both Trust Boards have reached a positive decision to merge. Beacon will become a part of the BWMAT.
“Recently we have experienced continuing difficulties when trying to recruit quality staff and this has significantly impacted the standard and consistency of teaching and learning we have been able to deliver. The pandemic and the resulting lockdowns also took their toll, especially with our SEND pupils, and we are still dealing with various challenges that arose during this period.
“Furthermore, West Somerset remains at the bottom (324 out of 324 regions) in terms of the social mobility index throughout the entire UK. There are severe challenges in this part of the world which are steadily worsening – undoubtedly due in part to the cost-of-living crisis, which is adding so much additional strain to our families.
“It has therefore been agreed that the merger will come into effect in August 2024, at the start of the next academic year. All that remains is for the decision to be confirmed by the DfE Advisory Board when it meets on January 22nd. However, we expect this to be a straightforward matter.”
Providing some perspective around the decision, he continued: “We have worked hard to implement a range of improvement measures but since we emerged from the pandemic, there has scarcely been sufficient time for many of the changes implemented to bring about the outcomes required, given the additional staffing and recruitment problems we have also experienced. As always, it is more important to place our children at the heart of all our decision-making and merging with BWMAT is absolutely the right choice.”
The benefits of a merger with BWMAT are many and include the opportunity for staff to share best practice, move between schools to widen their experience and benefit from additional capacity to tackle under achievement as well as various levels of in-house expertise such as attendance, behaviour, mental health and wellbeing support staff, allowing teaching staff to concentrate on delivering high quality teaching and learning.
BMWAT was established in 2012 and today, operates 39 schools, employs 1,327 staff and is responsible for the education of 7,623 pupils ranging in age from 0-11 years. The schools are clustered into four hubs in North Somerset, Bath, Taunton and South Somerset, so as a Trust, it is an ideal partner for Beacon, operating in an adjacent geography and dealing with similar issues, day to day. It is also in the fortunate position of having the capacity to deliver rapid and sustainable improvement.
Mr Giles added: “BWMAT trustees have given us their assurance that they will be able to address and positively deal with the additional concerns we have raised around recruitment, training, parental engagement and culture change and the need for experience and knowledge of administering Pupil Premium due to the high number of disadvantaged families we have in West Somerset.
“We look forward to a smooth transition in our merger with BWMAT and to seeing the challenges we continue to face being positively addressed so that Beacon children can benefit from the all-round improvements BWMAT’s greater capacity will be able to provide. This is an exciting development for the future of education in the region”
For more information contact Philippa Clothier at Clothier Lacey & Co on 07801 240315