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Catholic identity ‘protected’ at primary school after multi-academy trust switch

PUBLISHED: 16:33 07 February 2018 | UPDATED: 16:33 07 February 2018

St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Woodbridge Road, Ipswich. Picture: ST MARY'S CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL

St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Woodbridge Road, Ipswich. Picture: ST MARY'S CATHOLIC PRIMARY SCHOOL

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The religious identity of an Ipswich primary school has been protected by joining a growing Catholic multi-academy trust, its headteacher has said.

St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Woodbridge Road, rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, is the third primary school to join Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).

Parents were warned “schools cannot stand on their own any more” at a consultation event last October. A presentation said joining the MAT will “protect our Catholic identity”, strengthen support, improve learning, promote innovation, widen opportunities for professional development, and “maximise financial resources available”.

It said joining such MATs will “protect Catholic schools from being forced into becoming members of other sponsored multi-academy trusts which do not share our vision or ethos”.

It added: “In an increasingly fragmented system, schools must find alternative ways to secure their viability and effectiveness.”

It said the school will still select on the grounds of faith, while following admissions laws, and retain its “commitment to pursuing the highest academic and pastoral standards”.

Finances could also improve, it said. Specialist staff employed by the trust, such as technicians, language specialists, and special needs experts, which the school alone could not afford, would teach at the school. “Currently 8% of our funding is topsliced to pay for local authority structures,” the presentation stated.

Headteacher Jill Sandvig said she was delighted to join the MAT.

She said: “It will create new opportunities for the development of school-led leadership within the Catholic education system, leading to improved outcomes for children in all trust schools.

“We strongly believe in education of the whole child to the highest possible standard and the trust will give us capacity to encourage further innovation in classrooms as well as support and grow the next generation of Catholic school leaders.”

The MAT, formed in November 2016, also runs St Louis Roman Catholic Academy in Newmarket and St Felix Roman Catholic Primary School in Haverhill. It hopes to run 11 schools in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire by 2020. It aims to “foster an ethos based on full inclusion, high expectations, innovation, outstanding teaching and learning”.

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