A TRUST responsible for six schools and four nurseries in Minehead and Williton at threat of losing academy funding has merged with a larger trust.

The trustees at Beacon Education Trust have decided it is in staff and students' best interests to join Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust (BWMAT) following a directive from the Department for Education (DfE).

Beacon was encouraged to engage in talks with BWMAT following a directive after termination warning notices were issued for Minehead First School and Minehead Middle School following a judgement of serious weaknesses.

Since July, both trusts engaged in due diligence - for BWMAT it included a review of finances, staffing and school improvement capacity, while Beacon looked at Key Stage 3 learning, SEND pupils and the level of experience held by alternative provision teaching staff.

Beacon’s chairman of the board of trustees, Andy Giles, said: “Recently we have experienced continuing difficulties when trying to recruit quality staff and this has significantly impacted the standard and consistency of teaching and learning we have been able to deliver.

"The pandemic and the resulting lockdowns also took their toll, especially with our SEND pupils, and we are still dealing with various challenges that arose during this period.

“Furthermore, West Somerset remains at the bottom (324 out of 324 regions) in terms of the social mobility index throughout the entire UK.

"There are severe challenges in this part of the world which are steadily worsening, undoubtedly due in part to the cost-of-living crisis, which is adding so much additional strain to our families."

The DfE advisory board is expected to rubber stamp the merger on January 22, with the merger going live in August.

Benefits of the merger include the opportunity for staff to share best practice, move between schools to widen their experience and benefit from additional capacity to tackle under-achievement, as well as various levels of in-house expertise such as attendance, behaviour, mental health and wellbeing support staff, allowing teachers to concentrate on delivering high quality lessons.

BMWAT operates 39 schools in North Somerset, Bath, Taunton and South Somerset, employs 1,327 staff and is responsible for the education of 7,623 pupils ranging up to 11-years-old.

Mr Giles added: “BWMAT trustees have given us their assurance that they will be able to address and positively deal with the additional concerns we have raised around recruitment, training, parental engagement and culture change and the need for experience and knowledge of administering pupil premium due to the high number of disadvantaged families we have in West Somerset.

“We look forward to a smooth transition in our merger with BWMAT and to seeing the challenges we continue to face being positively addressed so that Beacon children can benefit from the all-round improvements BWMAT’s greater capacity will be able to provide."