A multi-school trust in Reading could become part of a larger Berkshire-wide trust.

Berkshire School Trust (BST), a multi-academy trust of three schools in Reading could become part of the Maiden Erlegh Trust, a larger trust with six schools in Reading, Earley, Sonning Common and Bracknell.

The three schools that are part of BST are St John’s Primary School, New Town Primary School, and New Christ Church Primary School, all in Reading.

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But they could soon join the six-strong Maiden Erlegh Trust, which currently has the following six schools as members:

  • Maiden Erlegh School in Reading (Reading)
  • Hamilton School (Reading)
  • Cranbury College (Reading)
  • Maiden Erlegh School (Earley)
  • Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge (Sonning Common)
  • Great Hollands Primary School (Bracknell)

Speaking in a video on the trust’s website, Angie Morrish, chair of trustees at the Berkshire School Trust, and Angharad Brackstone, CEO of BST, have outlined the reasoning behind the plans.

Ms Morrish said the last year of coping with Covid-19 has enabled the trustees to spend time considering the future of BST and realise their financial vulnerability.

Ms Brackstone said the trust has been working very closely with Maiden Erlegh Trust in the past year and both trusts recently concluded that combining the two trusts would create an “effective and successful partnership for the future”.

She said the plans are in the very early stages but, if finalised, could go ahead before the start of the new school year in September 2021.

The two trusts have sent a joint letter is consulting with parents, staff, governors and the wider local community on the plans, which would see the trust wound-up.

The final decision will rest with the regional schools commissioner.

Ms Morrish said: “Being a small trust of three schools has meant we have been able to support each other like a family during the difficult year we’ve had.

“It has also given us opportunities to work with other local schools and trusts to share ideas and learn from each other.

“This made us realise that BST schools are generally ahead of the curve.

“However, it also made us realise that, without the opportunity for growth, we are financially vulnerable and that making one of those collaborations more permanent could shelter us from financial uncertainty and improve our long-term sustainability in a post-Covid world.

“This led to some important conversations with a number of other local trusts.

“What we were looking for was a new home for our schools, where our trustees, governors and leaders could help to influence their future, where our Christian values would thrive, and our staff would continue to help our children to flourish.”

She said one of the main concerns about joining Maiden Erleigh, which is a secular trust, was what would happen to the three church schools, but she said the diocese has set out criteria the trust has to meet to safeguard their religious character and education.

And she said preserving the three schools’ individually distinct ethos and character is a priority.

A Maiden Erlegh Trust spokesman said both trusts "strongly believe that there is a great amount of common ground between the two organisations,

both in terms of values and ethos and our ambitions for our pupils, students and staff".

They added: "Both organisations place community at the heart of what we do, and we share a strong moral purpose anchored in high quality, inclusive education.

"As a result, we are delighted to be consulting jointly on the proposed merger of Maiden Erlegh Trust and Berkshire Schools Trust and look forward to

hearing stakeholder views over the coming weeks."

For information on the consultation and to watch the video, click here.

Ms Brackstone said the decision “will not be easy”, but added: “Our visions are aligned and underpinned by shared values, so bringing our trusts together would allow our children and young people to thrive and flourish in schools strengthened by common aims and tried and tested practices whilst remaining rooted in their local communities.

“Together we are stronger and with this opportunity for the future we open are doors and networks even wider, giving us scope and support for an even bigger and better future for our children, staff and wider communities.”