St Mary the Virgin Primary School officially joins SAST

St Mary the Virgin Primary School in Gillingham has, as of the 1st June 2019, become an academy and joined the Sherborne Area Schools’ Trust (SAST).

Headteacher Sarah Bullmore said “We are very excited to formally join SAST, we have worked closely together over the last year as part of the North Dorset Teaching School Alliance and have long-standing relationships with the other schools in the Trust. We look forward to working with our new colleagues, sharing best practice and providing opportunities for staff training and development which will benefit all of our pupils. We have a lead role in supporting other local schools and being at the heart of bringing the highest quality education to our part of Dorset now and in the future”.

The mission of the Trust is centred on working together for outstanding education – to be a special collaboration of high performing primary, secondary and alternative provision schools. SAST seeks to ensure an excellent and sustainable 0-19 education for children across North and West Dorset and South Somerset. At the heart of the Trust is the desire to work in partnership, to collaborate with others and to be outward facing for the benefit of children and staff. The schools have extensive links beyond the immediate area and are keen to extend these further. The Gryphon School was designated as a National Teaching School and National Support School in the summer of 2017 and leads the North Dorset Teaching School Alliance of which SAST is at the heart. St Mary’s plays an instrumental role within the Teaching School offer through school to school support, Initial Teacher Training and teacher training opportunities.

The Trust now has ten schools including eight primary schools and two secondary schools. It has the scale, capacity, expertise and performance to grow and develop with other schools.  SAST has large town primary schools with over 300 children, smaller village primary schools and also nursery provision. Their popular secondary schools including a Sixth Form of over 400 students cover both North Dorset and South Somerset. There is a mix of formerly maintained and Church of England schools – previously voluntary controlled and voluntary-aided in the Diocese of Salisbury and Bath and Wells, which retain their Christian ethos.

Steve Hillier, CEO of SAST said “This is an exciting period in the Trust’s development, and we are keen for schools to come together across the Blackmore Vale area, from Sherborne to Gillingham, and from North Dorset to South Somerset. Our strength is sustaining the distinctiveness of each school whilst reaping all the benefits of collaboration and partnership to deliver excellent education across the area”.

Working in collaboration with the school headteachers and Trust leaders, SAST provides improvement support and background services including finance, HR, estates, compliance and IT to member schools to raise standards even further and to deliver high quality education.

The educational benefits for the children, staff, parents and wider community are the key factor in making any decision to change status. The benefits are anticipated to include

  • Helping children make even better progress and improved outcomes
  • Preserving, protecting and enhancing what the school already has
  • Add to the experience, expertise and quality of the Trust
  • Even better teaching and learning
  • It will provide the resources to continue to support outstanding teaching and learning
  • High impact school to school leadership support
  • More integrated and co-ordinated support for children and families
  • Securing and managing resources and facilities to sustain high quality provision

The Department for Education and the Diocese of Salisbury have approved and supported this move. Formal consultations have taken place with staff and parents.

St Mary’s will keep its distinct identity, character and name, and there are no plans to change the school uniform, the school day, or admissions criteria. The school’s day-to-day organisation, experiences and opportunities will feel the same for children and their families. The school’s well-established school ethos and values will continue to underpin a high quality of education for all children, staff and the community.

The positive relationships with the other Gillingham partnership schools will continue including the close links with Gillingham School.


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