The government trial of a Catholic turnaround trust has been extended – weeks after it was revealed a similar minister-backed chain will shut.
St Joseph Catholic MAT has received the green light from the Department for Education to carry on absorbing struggling schools as part of the EdMAT pilot until December 2024.
CEO Andrew Truby said officials have also signed off on plans to allow it to take on ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ academies in January – easing its transition out of the government scheme at the end of next year.
EdMAT also funded Falcon Education, which recently announced it is set to close next year, having only taken on four schools since 2019.
Catholic MAT to run ‘hybrid’ model
Truby stressed today that the news of St Joseph’s trial extension will give it “permanent status” and allow it to grow further.
“With any pilot there’s an element of uncertainty, but next year we will operate in a hybrid manner, so we’ll be able to take on sponsored and converter academies over that period.
“That will make the transition out of the trial smoother. How big we’ll become it depends because we’ll have a sensible phased approach.”
Falcon was initially created to take on northern schools nobody else wants as part of EdMAT. Even though it was later allowed to branch out nationwide, it failed to hit expansion targets.
When its planned closure was announced, a DfE spokesperson explained that “with the growth of high-quality trusts, we no longer need a chain focused exclusively on schools requiring intervention”.
St Joseph was handed £1.25 million in government start-up funding when it opened in 2021. The set-up aligned with that of Falcon.
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St Joseph, which took on its first school last March, now has seven academies on its books. Bosses claimed there has since been a 4.87 percentage point decrease in persistent absence across the chain.
“We got the MAT to a mature stage in a short space of time,” Truby added. “We’ve had a significant impact on improving attendance, phonics and other key performance indicators.”
Following his appointment last year, Truby hired school improvement directors who previously worked at the likes of Harris Federation and REAch2. The trust boss also introduced a bought-in Ark curriculum in a bid to transform the fortunes of his struggling schools, two of which were in special measures.
Notre Dame Catholic College in Everton is the next secondary lined up to join St Joseph.
The trust has also been primed to absorb a number of the 28 maintained schools that the Archdiocese of Liverpool wants to be academised. St Joseph said it is working “on a phased approach” to take some of them over after the new year.
The DfE has been approached for comment.