Trust aims aims to grow and raise standards at Sutton schools

Claire Pritchard is CEO of the new Broadleaf Partnership Trust

An ambitious new education trust which includes Sutton Coldfield schools is promising to further raise standards through collaboration and shared expertise.

The newly-launched Broadleaf Partnership Trust, which includes Plantsbrook School and Town Junior School, aims to combine best educational practice with a strong financial foundation for partners, while ensuring that it schools retain their own individual character.

Now the partnership, which welcomed Perryfields Academy in Oldbury in May, is planning to grow further with discussions with more schools already underway.

Chief Executive Officer Claire Pritchard said that Broadleaf’s name aimed to reflect the organic growth the Partnership hoped to see, as well as the diversity of the schools it included.

“The Broadleaf name is perfect,” she said, “because it captures the idea of a protective environment, where all of our schools can work together as a family.

“At the same time, in nature every leaf is different – much like our schools – and Broadleaf won’t be standardising everything about our schools because they each have their own strengths and serve unique communities.

“It’s about celebrating and recognising what is great about each school, and then utilising those areas of expertise to share best practice across our family.”

The Broadleaf Partnership Trust includes Plantsbrook, Perryfields and Town Junior - but are already talking to other schools that could potentially join.

Mum-of-three Claire is originally from Walsall, where she began her career in education at a federation of two local schools, before moving to the Academy Transformation Trust, a large academy trust with 21 sites, as chief operating officer, eventually becoming deputy CEO.

 “I learned so much from that experience, working across 10 local authorities with 12,000 pupils – and really just seeing the benefits of schools coming together and having a uniform approach to what they do in some areas of school life,” she said.

Claire, 47, had been chair of the trustees of the existing Plantsbrook Learning Trust before being persuaded to take the helm as it was relaunched under the Broadleaf name.

She explained: “The Plantsbrook Learning Trust was very successful in terms of academic achievement, but it was felt there was a need for a new identity for the academy trust itself. We want to create our own destiny and retain our independence, by moving forward through collaboration and growth.”

Broadleaf’s schools are already benefitting from a close working relationship, with staff exploring how staff can work together at junior and secondary schools to better support students as they transition from one to another.

Claire said: “We’re looking closely at the expertise we’ve got in each education phase, and how that can best support others – for instance not many primary teachers are specialists in Modern Foreign Languages, but we’ve got a wealth of knowledge in our secondary schools that can be shared.  Equally, our primary colleagues are well placed to guide us with secondary aged pupils who need extra support in that tricky transition stage between years 6 and 7.”

The Broadleaf Partnership Trust has been launched after months of preparations.

“We’ve overhauled our governance structures, putting the right people in the right places to provide the support and leadership we need to grow,” Claire said. 

“We are also lucky to be in a strong financial position, with significant reserves. I, along with the trustees have been very clear to our academy leaders that we are not going to continue to create any additional financial surplus – every penny that comes in, every year, needs to be spent on education.

“I’ve also made a commitment that whatever we can save by centralising contracts and better buying power will go straight back into the frontline school budgets.

“Building this Trust isn’t about some huge corporate enterprise coming in, it’s about a group of people who have a real passion for doing the right things for children – it’s about liberating the talent in the organisation and giving them the tools they need to provide an even better education to our students than they already do.”

“At the heart of every decision we make, we also go back to the question: what’s best for the children?”

“With our new identity in place, I think we have a huge opportunity to deliver our vision to build a partnership that will benefit all of our schools and communities.” 

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