Exclusive: Academy trust wants to set up university

Plan from Turner Schools in Folkestone would look at 'offering elements or modules of university courses to our oldest students'

Martin George

Martin George

jo saxton, turner schools, university, turner university, folkestone, higher education, academies, MAT

An academy trust has revealed that it wants to set up a university so that it can provide “cradle to career provision”.

Turner Schools, a trust with four schools in Folkestone, believes the proposal would particularly benefit the “huge number” of its pupils who are young carers, either for their parents or their siblings.

The trust is led by former academic Jo Saxton, while its chairman, Carl Lygo, was founding vice chancellor and CEO of BPP, the university group for the professional services.

Dr Saxton told Tes: “With my university experience and my chairman, who’s a university vice chancellor, we are thinking how we get into further and higher education, so we would love to have Turner University at some point.

“It would probably look like offering elements or modules of university courses to our oldest students, but maybe even starting being able to extend that into the community so that young people if they do go into university or degree apprenticeships are maybe better prepared to understand what it is they are doing, or don’t have to go away.

“That’s the territory we would like to get into.”

The "cradle to career" idea chimes with the Dr Saxton’s interest in Labour education policies announced by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner last week.

Dr Saxton said: “When I was listening to Angela Rayner’s speech and their National Education Service wanting to do cradle to grave, I thought ‘that’s what we are trying to do’.

She describes herself as “a huge Angela fan; I think she’s so cool,” and thinks the politician “really believes in communities, and that’s what we are trying to do here in Turner Schools, be a community”.

However, she does not think that Labour’s direction is without flaws.

She said: “Where I disagree is that Kent is one of the largest authorities in the country, I think. The local authority couldn’t operate in the community sense here.

“As a little academy trust with tight geography, that’s what we’re trying to do. We are trying to be a family of schools; we are trying to be a community.”

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