PLANS to transform Ilminster and Crewkerne’s “unsustainable” school system have been unveiled to the public for the first time.

A review of the education provision in the two towns is currently being undertaken by Futures for Somerset, on behalf of Somerset County Council (SCC).

However, two key schools in the area - Swanmead Community School and Maiden Beech Academy - are currently in the process of joining the Bridgwater & Taunton College multi-academy trust (BTCT).

A recent letter from SCC revealed the results of the review were expected to be published by the end of the summer term, and also addressed ‘rumours’ about ‘proposals for a change in age range’ at the two schools.

Now, Peter Elliott, chief executive of BTCT, has confirmed their intentions.

He said: “We know that both Maiden Beech and Swanmead have submitted applications to join our trust.

“We believe as a trust that the current three-tier system is unsustainable moving forwards.

“We have put a lot of time and consideration into what is the best option, and we have arrived at the conclusion that we need to expand these middle schools, so add years 9, 10 and 11.

“The first schools will stay as first schools and the middle schools will grow.”

Swanmead is expected to have joined BTCT by November, with Maiden Beech completing the process earlier, as it is already an academy.

For an academy to increase its age range, it will need to make an application to the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC).

The SCC letter added that there is a ‘statutory process that must be followed prior to a decision being made by the RSC, which includes the need for a formal consultation process’.

“What we are keen to do is work with Swanmead and Maiden Beech to plan the potential for the future,” Mr Elliott added. “We will keep and eye on and be mindful of the local authorities recommendations, but we are pretty set sure that this is the way forward for us.”

Mark Walker is the headteacher of Swanmead Community School in Ilminster.

He said: “The detail of this review will be interesting, but it will just be an option.

“We are in the process of going through, as are Maiden Beech, joining Bridgwater and Taunton College Trust.

“Once that has occurred, I am sure the trust will read with interest the detail of the review.

“The ambition and intention of the trust, that will be their decision on what to do.”

Mr Walker added he understands BTCT has ‘ambitions’ for Swanmead, as well as for Maiden Beech.

“In terms of Swanmead School, which is a local authority school and will continue to do so until advised, we want to be very clear about our situation with regards to joining the multi-academy trust,” Mr Walker added.

“It is really clear in terms of education in the two towns that things need to change.

“The number of children in these two towns isn’t fully catered for by the provision there.

“Inevitably, stakeholders around Ilminster and Crewkerne will be interested in the detail of this report.”

See SCC's full letter to parents below:

Chard & Ilminster News: