“Every student must be given the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Alongside an excellent education, young people need access to training in life skills and a bridge to employment.”

Chris Curling, Chair of SMV Education Committee

Supporting over 4,700 young people across nine schools in Greater Bristol is a responsibility that we undertake with serious purpose. We’re determined to help all children from all backgrounds to achieve success during their educational journey and beyond by providing a high quality education alongside a whole range of potentially life changing opportunities.

The key to unlocking the true potential of every young person is the vision and commitment of the leaders, teachers and support staff who work hard every day in school to make a positive difference to each young person in their care.

A long-term, effective commitment

A commitment that spans more than four centuries, SMV is more active today in the field of education than it has ever been, helping to oversee nine primary and secondary schools across Bristol: one independent and eight state-maintained. Our commitment is practical as well as financial, with many of our members and ‘friends’ taking active roles in the governance of the schools we support.

SMV is the joint sponsor of Venturers Trust, along with the University of Bristol, responsible for eight state-maintained schools, 3,900 students and 700 members of staff. The profile of each school within the Trust is very different. Venturers Trust includes primary schools, secondary schools, an all-age school and a special school, located across Bristol and representing a diverse set of communities.

The strength of the Trust comes from working together as a wider family of schools – sharing best practice in teaching and learning and applying an informed, joined-up approach to supporting students, staff and parents.

In 2022, with the support of the Department for Education, Venturers Trust made the decision to merge with a larger multi-academy trust that would bring greater expertise, capacity, resources and funding to each of the schools. In 2023, E-ACT was chosen because of its excellent track record of school improvement and its strong moral purpose of addressing inequality through education. The transfer is expected to be completed in time for the academic year 2023-24.


“We do not seek to be the largest grouping of schools in the region, but we aim to have the highest demonstrable impact, with all children from all backgrounds, all succeeding.”

Gail Bragg, Chair of Trustees for Venturers Trust

Independent and state-maintained schools

Venturers Trust provides strategic, specialist support and resources to eight state-maintained schools, located across the city.

Collegiate School in Stapleton is a co-educational independent day school that was founded in 1710. Ever since that time it has been supported by SMV. A successful school that offers pupils a broad-based and rich curriculum, Collegiate School has around 800 pupils, age 3 to 18 and is managed by an independent board of governors. In September 2022, the school formally changed its name from Colston’s School to reflect its inclusive and diverse nature.

Historical roots in education

Archival records show that the Society of Merchant Venturers was running a school for the children of mariners as early as 1595. This grew into the Bristol Trade School in the 18th century, which subsequently became the Merchant Venturers’ School and later the Merchant Venturers’ Technical College. When Bristol University was granted its Charter in 1909 the Engineering Department of the Technical College became the University’s Faculty of Engineering. Meanwhile, the Technical College became Bristol Polytechnic, the precursor of the University of the West of England.