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Venturers Trust offers umbrella to Bristol Schools

Merchant Venturers plan to continue investment and support in local schools by creating umbrella organisation 'Venturers Trust'

Posted by Stephanie Broad | November 03, 2015 | School life

Bristol’s Society of Merchant Venturers is putting in place plans to further increase its role in local education.

The new strategy will see the organisation, which already oversees the education of more than 3,000 children at nine schools in the city, take over the running of further primary and secondary schools.  

At the heart of the expansion plan is the creation of the Venturers’ Trust, which is an innovative new umbrella organisation that offers local schools robust governance structures and the opportunity to share expertise, enabling schools to benefit from economies of scale.  

High-performing schools will be given considerable autonomy to continue to thrive within a broad agreed vision. The new Trust will also support schools in difficulties, helping them to improve.

Chris Curling, Master of the Society of Merchant Venturers, said: “We are offering local schools an innovative governance model that celebrates the individuality and diversity of schools and does not seek to standardise. We are describing this in the Venturers’ Trust as “sharing strengths, valuing differences.

“The Venturers’ Trust is a family of schools, which can benefit from excellent governance, share expertise and together have greater critical mass, saving costs when procuring products and services. This is essential at a time when school budgets are increasingly being squeezed by Government.”

Over the past decade, the organisation has seen a tripling in the number of young people attending the Merchant Venturers’ schools.

The decision to sponsor one of the first academies in Bristol through the conversion of Withywood Community School to become Merchants’ Academy was a watershed for the Society, changing the course and its ambition of involvement in local education. The academy provides a broad and rich programme of co-curricular activities and interests which gives students essential skills for employability and good citizenship.

The Merchant Venturers’ decision to turn Colston’s Girls’ School into an academy has seen its numbers rise from 380 to 1,400. It remains one of the best in the country in terms of non-selective state schools and is a leader in the region for academic standards at GCSE.

The Merchant Venturers, through the Venturers’ Trust, have extended their involvement in Primary education, taking into the fold six primary schools. In a further recent development they have received government approval for a new all-age academy, educating 84 children and young people with autism.

To be called Venturers’ Academy, the school will serve a wide spectrum of autism need by offering a full range of opportunities from a highly personalised curriculum to access to mainstream provision within Merchants’ Academy. There will be choice and variety so that all students can flourish and make significant progress.

In addition, discussions are well underway with the Department for Education to establish, as part of the Venturers’ Trust and in conjunction with Bristol Cathedral Choir School,  a sixth form college as a free school in 2017.  

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