In line with the long-term growth strategy of Venturers Trust, the Board of Trustees has announced its intention to join forces with a national multi-academy trust (MAT).
After a rigorous process to identify the right partner, Venturers Trust has announced that it will pursue a merger with E-ACT which has 28 academies, including six primaries in Bristol, 18,000 pupils and 2,500 members of staff. Over the last two years, E-ACT has been on an exciting cultural development journey under new governance and leadership, driving an increased focus on the best possible outcomes for children. This has culminated in E-ACT being recognised as MAT of the Year at this year’s MAT Excellence Awards.
Founded in 2017 and sponsored by the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol, Venturers Trust consists of eight schools in Bristol – one all-through school, one secondary school and sixth form, five primary schools and one special school with three separate sites, responsible for 3,900 students and 700 members of staff.
As the education landscape continues to develop, smaller MATs are increasingly looking to merge with well-established national MATs to share expertise and resources on a scale that offers tangible advantages to all stakeholders. The greatest benefit is the ability to achieve better outcomes for all children, across all phases, as larger MATs have the capacity to sustain broader school improvement. Other benefits include increased career development opportunities for teachers, professional services and support staff, investment in training, infrastructure and resources, sustained financial stability and the opportunity for all staff to learn from and contribute to education on a national platform.
Albeit at an early stage of the process, the merger proposal would see the two trusts joining forces to create a MAT with a leading expertise in tackling inequality and disadvantage nationally. The resulting strong Bristol hub will have a clear primary to secondary transition strategy as well as securing VT’s position as a leader in the field of SEND and special education provision for young people.
Chair of Trustees for Venturers Trust, Gail Bragg, said: “We have long seen the necessity to grow Venturers Trust to secure our future and to be able to deliver our vision of all children from all backgrounds, all succeeding. E-ACT has an excellent track record for delivering school improvement and positive outcomes for young people. There is considerable synergy between the two trusts in terms of mission, educational ethos and values, including a strong commitment to work closely with the communities served by the schools and to overcome disadvantage.
“Resources in the education sector are being squeezed more than ever and schools have to ensure that this doesn’t impact negatively on progress and outcomes for students. We feel that the time is right to join forces with a like-minded MAT, combining our resources to deliver an outstanding education for every young person for whom we are responsible. This also presents an exciting opportunity for increased professional development for our fantastic team of staff who will have direct access to best practice right across the country and from all types of school, positively impacting both teaching and learning.”
CEO of Venturers Trust, David Watson OBE, said: “Our students remain at the heart of everything we do and their success will always be our motivation. The proposed merger with E-ACT would allow our schools to benefit from increased resources and expertise within a structure that means we can at the same time retain all the best parts of our existing MAT family.”
E-ACT’s CEO, Tom Campbell, said: “We’re equally excited at the prospect of a merger with Venturers Trust. We share a determination to address inequality and disadvantage through the power of education and together I believe we have the potential to be a real force for change in the South West region.”
Patrick Despard, leader of the Society of Merchant Venturers, said: “As the co-sponsor of Venturers Trust, our foremost priority has always been to provide young people from all backgrounds with an excellent education, alongside the knowledge and skills to succeed in life. Joining forces with E-ACT would deliver a real step change for the schools within Venturers Trust, benefitting not only pupils and staff, but also local communities, and we will support the process in every way we can.”
Over the coming months, Venturers Trust and E-ACT will work more closely together while both Boards review and refine the proposal. Possibly as soon as October, both MATs will then apply to the South West England Advisory Board for permission to merge and, with the approval of the Department for Education, the legal framework will be developed. If members of the Venturers Trust Board and the E-ACT Board vote in favour of the merger, the conversion is expected to come into effect sometime between April and September 2024.