MP blasts historic society in wake of damning school report

A Bristol MP has slammed one of the city’s oldest organisations in the wake of a damning report into a school sponsored by the group.

The Society of Merchant Venturers is made up of some of the leading business men and women in the city and its roots go back hundreds of  years.

Last week Ofsted published a demining report into the Merchant’s Academy which is run by the Venturers Trust.

Ofsted inspectors found serious failings on their visit to the academy in Withywood and rated it ‘inadequate’ in every significant aspect.

Following the report Karin Smyth said the Venturers Trust had let down students in one of the most deprived areas of Bristol, denying them a good-quality education.

The MP said: “This report has exposed the inexcusable failure in management of Merchants’ Academy.

“The Venturers Trust has let down students in one of the most deprived areas of Bristol, denying them a good-quality education.

“Members of the Society of Merchant Venturers should play no part in the education of children.

“The public deserves clarity over who is now in charge of the school.

“Despite raising concerns about Merchants’ Academy with the Department of Education on multiple occasions, these failings have occurred on their watch.

“I have written to the regional schools director to request a meeting about how urgent improvements can be made at the school, and have contacted the Secretary of State to call for greater oversight and accountability of multi-academy trusts such as the Venturers Trust.

“It’s now incumbent on us all to work to support the staff and new leadership to improve the quality of education for these students and this local community.”

Caroline Duckworth, treasurer of Merchant Venturers, said: “The Ofsted report is devastating, most of all for the young people and their families who deserve access to the best possible education.

“Two years ago, Venturers Trust, with the support of the Department for Education, made the decision to merge with a larger multi-academy trust that had the capacity to deliver change.

“Last summer, E-ACT was chosen by the Board because of its excellent track record of school improvement and its strong moral purpose of addressing inequality through education.

“Since then, E-ACT has provided significant school improvement support to Merchants’ Academy and, with two new and collaborative headteachers at the helm for primary and secondary, positive changes are beginning to embed.

“Transferring Merchants’ Academy into E-ACT is absolutely the right decision for the students and staff, who will now benefit from all that a much larger, national multi-academy trust will bring.

“When we helped to found Merchants’ Academy in 2008, SMV made a commitment to the community of South Bristol that our support would be long-term.

“Going forward, we will be working more closely with partner organisations in south Bristol that are rooted in the community, to provide support to young people through a series of community-led initiatives.

“Working together, we aim to broaden horizons, helping to develop the confidence and skills of young people, and provide access to opportunities that will help them achieve success.”