A partnership could be set up between Morpeth’s schools partnership and Berwick Academy.
Governors at the Academy have agreed the school should enter into a process of mutual due diligence with The Three Rivers Learning Trust, which features King Edward VI (KEVI) High School and two feeder middle schools, Newminster and Chantry, and has an alliance with Dr Thomlinson CofE Middle School in Rothbury.
The proposal is designed to help drive up standards at Berwick Academy, which Ofsted says requires improvement, and the move comes on the back of government recommendations that academies should seek to work more closely together by forming multi-academy trusts.
Simon Taylor, executive headteacher for Three Rivers, said: “The Three Rivers is working with the governors and senior staff at Berwick Academy to identify how a formal partnership may be of mutual benefit for the students and staff across all schools.
“Collaborative working is at the heart of school improvement and the multi-academy trust model is designed to promote such practice.
“The due diligence process is an opportunity for both parties to understand the benefits and challenges of an expanded trust and to decide whether to take the initiative forward.”
The main reasons for pursuing a dialogue with the Three Rivers includes its location in Morpeth which makes closer collaboration practicable.
There is also the opportunity for Berwick Academy to work with KEVI which, in 2014, was judged by Ofsted to be outstanding in all categories.
There are also potential benefits that may derive from KEVI’s status as a teaching school with responsibilities for developing teachers, while initial impressions suggest a similarity in the values and ethos of the two schools.
In a letter to parents, Berwick Academy’s chairman of governors, David Cairns, said: “This is a potentially significant step for the school and we want parents, prospective parents and staff to be involved in this process.
“The Three Rivers is a group of schools, based in Morpeth and the Coquet Valley which includes King Edward VI School (KEVI), one of the highest-performing secondary schools in the North East.
“The rationale for becoming part of a larger group of schools is the belief that by working more closely, schools can share good practice and, hence, improve academic and pastoral decision-making for both parties.
“There are also opportunities for multi-academy trusts to reduce overheads through efficiency savings and hence to focus more of their grant income on teaching and learning.
“The governors of Berwick Academy have identified the Three Rivers Trust as a potentially suitable partner and now wish to find out more about how a multi-academy trust would work and what it would mean for our school.”
Due diligence is a process of inquiry, which will involve both parties finding out more about each other and exploring how a closer relationship might work. It also allows governors to investigate the legal, financial and operational implications of closer working and the potential impacts that this might have.