A London secondary modern school which featured in a recent BBC fly-on-the-wall documentary is to be absorbed into a multi-academy trust by a “forward-thinking” grammar school.
Erith School will be sponsored by nearby Townley Grammar School – both based in Bexley, South London – and renamed "King Henry School".
Townley Grammar's head, Desmond Deehan, first mentioned the plans when the schools were featured in a three-part BBC Two documentary, Grammar Schools: who will get in?, which concluded last week.
Today he confirmed the "ambitious" plan was going ahead with Erith School, which is currently rated by Ofsted as "requires improvement". As part of the process, Townley Grammar has established a multi-academy trust (MAT), the Odyssey Trust for Education, bringing Erith School into it. The Trust will be effective from the 1 September 2018.
The move comes less than a week after Nick Gibb, the schools standards minister, told the Grammar School Heads Association that their schools should form MATs with non-selective schools to develop the right “ethos” and help to raise education standards. The announcement was ill-received in some quarters as patronising to non-selective schools.
Mr Deehan described the move as an “innovative and unique arrangement”, which “capitalises on the transformational power of small-scale multi-academy trusts and forward-thinking grammar schools.”
“We believe that a high-performing grammar school can have a positive influence on students in the wider area," he said. "By supporting the education of able students in a non-selective setting as well as applying successful professional development, training and recruitment procedures we can have a lasting and sustainable impact on the lives and life chances of young people in Bexley and potentially beyond.
"Townley Grammar School has been successful in supporting social mobility for its students and aspires to extend this to a wider group of disadvantaged young people through providing rich learning experiences, extensive extra-curricular opportunities and aspirational goals for the students of both schools.“
Mr Deehan added: "Rather than the messages of enmity and division we are providing a message of hope and optimism; rather than competition we are promoting collaboration."
Stephanie Allen, Head Teacher of Erith School, said: "It is in the interest of the students in this selective area, that by joining the new Odyssey Trust for Education and undertaking a strategic collaboration with Townley Grammar School it will contribute to establishing and maintaining high educational standards at King Henry School.
"It is a collaboration with meaning and purpose and we are prepared to be outward-looking to benefit the life chances of all our students in a selective borough."