Five Lancashire schools set up learning charity to safeguard independence

The schools in Preston and the surrounding area have joined forces to become the county’s very first ‘primary co-operative’.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 12:30 pm

The new charitable trust will be known as the ‘Axia Alliance’ and is made up of: Lostock Hall Community Primary School, New Longton All Saints' Church of England Primary School, Penwortham Broad Oak Primary School, St. Aidan’s Church of England Primary School and Tarleton Community Primary School.

Founded on April 1 after a consultation between the schools, teachers and parents, the new Alliance aims to give the schools autonomy over how they are run.

Sarah Barton, Axia chairwoman and headteacher at Penwortham Broad Oak, said: “Establishing the Axia Learning Alliance will provide more opportunities for us

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Lancashire headteachers outside Tarleton Community Primary School, photo:

to work together and make a bigger difference for our children and families.

“Schools cannot work in isolation and in competition anymore.

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“It is an exciting time for us all and we want to mark the occasion by celebrating the beginning of this new era for our schools and communities.”

Tarleton head Chris Upton

The schools have started an experiment in collaboration by setting up a charitable trust.

They are still state-funded through the local authority but receive extra support through the trust.

Chris Upton, headteacher at Tarleton Community Primary School, said that schools within the trust will be run differently to academies, which are usually governed by multi-academy trusts or MATs.

“Each school and their governing bodies retain autonomy but have representatives on the trust board who sit as equals to support all schools to move forward, improve outcomes for the children and remain at the heart of their communities,” he said.

Broad Oak headteacher Sarah Barton.

Three of the schools - Tarleton, Lostock Hall, and Broadoak - will change their school names from ‘community’ to ‘foundation’ in order to set up the trust.

The Axia schools have already worked together to share best practice in areas such as early years education, special educational needs (SEN), forest school and in science technology and maths (STEM) subjects.

The trust will also work together on supporting disadvantaged pupils and the best use of the ‘Pupil Premium’.

St Aidan's head Leanne Finch.

“This new model takes away the issue of one Chief Executive having total control of a group of schools,” says Chris Upton.

“We feel that it is better to work in this way and are excited about developing it further.”

Axia will be part of the ‘co-operative movement’ which is based on a set of values including self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.

The schools will also aim to operate on the principles of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others.

“We are delighted to have the National Director of the Co-operative Schools Network, Lee Phillips, join us as a trustee as he was so impressed with the vision of the group,” said headteacher Chris Upton.

All Saints' head James Maloney.

“We are sure that our involvement with the Co-operative Schools Network will strengthen our outward-facing schools.”

Lostock Hall headteacher Laura Duce.