History of the EPA
Bartholomew School was an Outstanding School (Ofsted 2009) and opened as a standalone academy on 1 March 2012 to protect itself against the imminent decline of the LA and the removal of services. When its main feeder primary, Eynsham, went into special measures the school was approached by the DfE to become a sponsor academy and a MAT with the primary. Accepting that this was the ‘right thing’ to do, the school did however feel that if we were creating a MAT anyway, why not maintain and strengthen the wider partnership by bringing in all the feeder schools to work together formally.
Whilst immediately supporting Eynsham CPS and being judged, for a second time, to be Outstanding (Ofsted 2013), we began the process of becoming a MAT with all our schools. Eventually overcoming all the challenges to doing so, we were incorporated as the Eynsham Partnership Academy (EPA) on 1 May 2014 with Bartholomew School nominally being the lead academy in the multi academy trust.
What were the challenges?
The main challenge was that we had a VA school as part of our partnership and the diocese was reluctant for us to create a mixed MAT with community, VC and VA schools without having a level of control that the founding and established community secondary academy would have found untenable, especially as the VA school had less than 100 of the 2400 pupils across the schools.. We could have continued without this school but were determined that all the partnership schools should remain working together.
We overcame this difficulty over time by open, determined negotiation with the Diocese and the DfE, both separately and together, to ensure all parties knew the motivations and drivers for the collaboration. It became clear that the benefits to the pupils of the partnership schools working together would outweigh the issues being raised about representation and control. It led to agreement by all parties to move forward as a MAT.
It took high levels of open and honest communication and compromise to ensure that we could move forward together and this took a significant period of time to achieve. However, when the compromise was achieved, all parties moved it forward strongly and the partnership MAT, the EPA, was delivered on 1 May 2014 with all schools on board and established as academies by 1 July 2014.
A second challenge faced was to reassure and convince the primary schools that the secondary school was not trying to take them over because they were already 1 May 2014 with Bartholomew School nominally being the lead academy in the multi academy trust.