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Academy trust recovering from money troubles reveals merger plan

PUBLISHED: 06:00 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:24 17 October 2019

The Locksley School, part of The Short Stay School for Norfolk. Engage Trust, which runs the Short Stay School, has announced plans to merge with the Unity Education Trust, from which it has been receiving support. Picture: Archant

The Locksley School, part of The Short Stay School for Norfolk. Engage Trust, which runs the Short Stay School, has announced plans to merge with the Unity Education Trust, from which it has been receiving support. Picture: Archant

Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015

Two Norfolk academy trusts have reassured parents and carers that their imminent merger will not disrupt school life for pupils.

The Engage Trust, which runs the Short Stay School for Norfolk, is set to merge with the Dereham-based Unity Education Trust (UET) in the new year.

Parents and carers were informed of the merger in a letter earlier this month, after the trusts got the green light from the Department for Education following discussions in the summer term.

Following a period of turbulence the Engage Trust, Glyn Hambling, UET chief executive, took over as interim leader in 2018 and a second staff member, Andy Mason, has recently been seconded as director of school improvement.

Mr Hambling said it was a natural progression for the trusts. He added: "We are extremely proud of all the staff and children across the two trusts and we are very excited at continuing to build on the benefits that have been achieved to date."

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The letter to parents, signed by Mr Hambling and Engage Trust chairman of trustees Dennis Freeman, said: "We wish to reassure you that the merger will not alter the way our schools work day-to-day nor will students and parents notice any significant differences.

"ET [Engage Trust] schools will continue, as now, with their own identities and there will be no changes to admissions arrangements, uniforms, premises etc."

The Short Stay School caters for pupils excluded from mainstream schools and those with emotional and behavioural problems and operates from 10 sites including in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Thetford.

It had its Ofsted rating raised from requires improvement to good following an inspection in June.

The positive report followed a difficult period for the Engage Trust, during which it was left with a £1.2m hole in its finances which its former chief executive and chief financial officer were accused of down-playing to the board of directors.

However, current leaders say the trust has been through a transformation over the past two years and that it is regaining financial stability.

- Parents and carers are invited to share their thoughts on the merger by emailing trust@engage.norfolk.sch.uk by October 18.

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