Published: 19:56, 04 March 2021
| Updated: 08:54, 05 March 2021
A proposed super school merger could see three secondary schools join forces with one of the county's largest multi-academy trusts.
Brook Learning Trust (BLT) and Leigh Academies Trust (LAT) are in discussions about a possible partnership which would see BLT’s three Kent-based academies join LAT from September.
They are the Ebbsfleet Academy in Swanscombe, The Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge and The High Weald Academy in Cranbrook.
The two trusts are working together, and with the Department for Education (DfE) and Kent County Council (KCC), to discuss the merger.
LAT currently runs 11 secondary schools, 15 primary academies and two schools for children with special education needs and disabilities across Dartford, Medway, Maidstone and Tonbridge.
It serves 18,000 pupils, has an annual budget of £120m and employs around 2,500 staff.
Should an agreement be reached, the merger will create an expanded partnership of 32 LAT academies serving communities across the south east.
Through collaboration, both trusts say they are determined to consider all possibilities in finding the best possible future for staff and pupils at Ebbsfleet, Hayesbrook and High Weald.
No decision has been made yet but discussions are already under way with a series of Covid-secure site visits in the offing.
Should progress continue there will be further consultations on proposals taking place with staff, parents and the wider community in the summer term.
Crunch talks are due to take place at a meeting of the head teacher board of the Regional Schools Commissioner for the South East and South London, part of the DfE, on March 23.
It will then decide whether to permit the LAT and BLT merger discussions to continue.
Commenting on the proposals, Jeanette Batten, chairman of BLT, said: “BLT has a strong ethos – we strive to provide the best possible opportunities for all students and staff at the academies within our Trust, and that is the overriding objective that we are seeking to achieve from any partnership with LAT.
"LAT has a similar outlook to us, which has helped it develop into a strong Trust, respected at county and national level for the opportunities it creates for the students within its care, as well as for its staff.
"We look forward to continuing to work with LAT, the DfE and KCC, to examine how increased size and scale, and the sharing of expertise and opportunities, will benefit our students and staff.”
Simon Beamish, chief executive of LAT, said the trust had "deep roots" in Kent and was committed to working with other schools.
He said: "As the region’s largest and best-established multi-academy trust, it is able to bring considerable levels of resources to bear that any much smaller group of schools standing alone cannot enjoy.
"We are delighted to engage with BLT trustees about a merger and have been very encouraged by the positive discussions which have taken place so far with like-minded colleagues.”