New Diocese-sponsored Academy opens in Bristol

First published 6th September 2012

On 2 September, the new Fishponds Church of England Academy in Bristol became the first Academy sponsored by the Diocese, opening its doors for the first year of its new status.

Formerly St Matthias and Dr Bells Church of England Primary School, the school was invited by the Department for Education to become an Academy. The governors and the Principal, Mr Mike Eatwell, were keen to grasp the opportunity and the Diocese is pleased to be the sponsor.

Until March 2012 the school had been in Special Measures following its Ofsted inspection in 2010. Its new Academy status means that the Diocese as sponsor will take over responsibility for improving standards as well as ensuring the Academy retains a distinctively Christian character and designation.

John Swainston, Interim Director of Education for the Diocese, said:

In line with the National Societys recent report (The Church School of the Future) we are putting school improvement hand-in-hand with Christian distinctiveness as the two core aims for the Academy.

In order to pursue its aim to sponsor the Academy, the Diocese had to gain accredited sponsor status, set up an Academies Company (Diocese of Bristol Academies Company) and form an Academies Trust (Bristol Church Academies Trust). As a Sponsored Academy the Local Board of Governors has a majority of church nominations and reports to the Trust.

Staff at the Dioceses Department for Children and Young People have put in an enormous amount of work to help make this happen, continued John.

Our prayers and efforts are for the continuing provision of a good quality and distinctively Christian education at this new Academy and for the rest of the 15,000 children in our Dioceses schools.

Using a grant from the Department for Education, Cabot Learning Federation has been sub-contracted to deliver School Improvement Services. This extra support secured for the Academy is a great opportunity to continue the good work started since Mr Eatwell took up his key leadership post eighteen months ago.

Bishop Mike will formally open Fishponds Church of England Academy on 18 October 2012.

Additonal information:


Academies are state schools that receive all their funding directly from the Government rather than via the local authority. Academies have to buy in services such as employer liabilities, payroll, pensions, maternity costs, school improvement services, education welfare, school meals and behaviour support.

The Secretary of State for Education has agreed with the Church of England that where failing Church Schools become Academies they are sponsored by a Diocese and retain their faith designation. Every Academy has to be run by a limited company that is also a Charitable Trust. For the Fishponds Church of England Academy, this is Bristol Church Academies Trust (BCAT).

Diocese of Bristol Academies Company (DoBAC)

DoBAC is the parent company of the Trust and aims to ensure the new Academy is an inclusive community with links into the Church.

Cabot Learning Federation (CLF)

CLF is sponsored by Rolls-Royce and the University of the West of England and it runs six secondary and four primary Academies in the Bristol area. Its remit for Fishponds Church of England Academy includes support for the leadership team, training for the Local Board and continuing professional development for teachers. It will also work with students to improve performance and attendance, and to assist them in the transition to secondary school.

The Church School of the Future

This report drew out the many challenges that have emerged since the Coalition Governments Academy programme has begun to be worked out in dioceses, saying that the change of many Church of England schools to Academy status should in no way compromise or undermine their distinctive Christian character.

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