Starting a new school year is always eagerly anticipated by staff, pupils and their families. This year however, it was even more exciting than usual for Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust as we have officially opened four new primary schools!

At the end of August, we received the final permission needed from the Department of Education (DfE) to split the former Bishop’s Primary School into five separate primary schools. We did this to ensure that each school is firmly at the heart of its local community, while retaining all of the benefits of working together as part of our Trust.

The former Josephine Butler campus will keep the Bishop’s name and school number, but we now welcome Grace Darling C of E Primary, James Knott C of E Primary, Thomas Bewick C of E Primary and William Leech C of E Primary into the Trust as new schools in their own right.

Our staff have completed a huge amount of work to enable this to happen, including creating new websites and setting up new IT and administration systems. Each new school also received a pre-opening OFSTED inspection during the summer holiday. All have received very positive reports and we will share these with you when we are allowed to publish them.

As we made clear during the consultation period, there will be no changes to the school uniforms during the 2021-22 school year. Each of the new schools will consult parents and carers later in the school year about whether there should be any changes in the future.

This does not necessarily mean that there will be any changes to uniform and our Trust commitment is if there are any future changes, these will be phased in over a period of time and not imposed suddenly. We are also committed to making uniform as affordable as possible and restricting the requirement for branded items to the absolute minimum. The Department for Education are bringing out new guidelines for school uniform later in the autumn term and we will review this before starting uniform consultations.

There will be exciting opportunities for our pupils to design new school badges and we will shortly be announcing details of the competitions for this. We very much hope that this will be a chance for each school to further strengthen its identity within its own local community.

I hope that our pupils, parents and carers will not notice any significant changes to how each school operates on a day to day basis. However, creating the new schools will make it easier to apply for places in a particular school and over time will give each school more funding to spend on providing the best possible education for our pupils.

For our staff, who are used to collaborating, sharing ideas, resources and training, this will continue as usual, as it is a huge part of the success of our schools. All that will change is that this will be done through the Trust rather than through a single school. Although each school now has its own Headteacher, Mrs Hinson will act as Executive Headteacher to support the new Headteachers and provide continuity of leadership.

These are exciting changes which we believe will help us provide an even better education for our pupils.