PUPILS will get better education opportunities after five small primary schools established a groundbreaking partnership.

The union, the first of its kind in Somerset, involves the schools pooling cash to cut costs and making the best use of resources.

Ashill, Neroche and Winsham Community Primary Schools, have joined Buckland St Mary and Combe St Nicholas primary schools in the Willow Schools Co-operative Trust.

It cements work they have already done together for several years.

Winsham head teacher Sarah Stringer said: “This is another way of working for schools and building on the success of small informal partnerships.

“It offers us an exciting and sustainable future for our schools and provides an opportunity to connect up to all the other school Co-operative Trusts in the country and to share their positive values.”

Heads and governors at the schools – all rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED – have joined together because of “increased pressures on management to cut costs, often at the expense of the education of our children.”

In a joint statement, they said: “We know we have a formula that works. This move allows us to safeguard this success for the future and safeguard our future as individual communities.

“The trust will see us working strategically together towards a shared vision for the continued educational advancement of each school.

“With the active involvement of the wider community, and the protection of our educational assets, we’ll be working together to make best use of resources, all striving together to achieve better outcomes for our children and families.”

Education Minister and Yeovil MP David Laws said: “This is an excellent way for small schools to work together and to share resources and expertise.”

Cllr Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Council cabinet member for children and families, said: “I welcome this initiative by local schools to build on existing collaborative working for the benefit of all pupils.”

Malcolm Barton, from the Bath and Wells Diocese, said: “The diocese wishes all five schools every success with this new venture and would welcome the opportunity to continue to support both the two church schools (Buckland and Combe) and the three foundation schools.”

Other schools have expressed an interest in joining the Willow Schools Co-operative Trust.


  • Community schools become local authority-funded foundation schools, maintaining ties to local areas.
  • They band together to share resources and expertise.
  • They maximise buying power and can source services which may otherwise be unaffordable.
  • Schools retain their own head or senior teacher and governing body.
  • Schools manage their own budgets, making a contribution to the trust.
  • Schools, including parents, staff, students and the community, take part in the election of members of a forum which elects members to the trust board.
  • The trust's management is carried out by a board including a head and a chairman of governors from each school.
  • Trusts can invite partners to join, such as the local authority, secondary or higher education representatives or local business, in advisory or member capacities.
  • The Foundation Schools Trust holds the assets of members – buildings and land.
  • There are over 700 co-operative schools in the UK and could be over 1,000 within the next year.