EARLIER this month, Chard's Holyrood Academy entered a formal partnership with the Chard Community Hub.

The collaboration between the two local forces aims to help disadvantaged children in the town.

Holyrood Academy Headteacher Dave MacCormick explained how one of the biggest concerns for headteachers is the growing gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more advantaged peers, an issue which has become more prominent since the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

“The best schools are able to help communities to address that disadvantage gap at the earliest possible age," Mr MacCormick explained.

"The gap already exists at age two, when children go into nursery – all that happens throughout school is that gap widens, especially quickly in secondary schools.

“What I and my team sat down and did is think 'where in the country is addressing the disadvantage gap really well?'"

The meeting led the Holyrood staff to London, where Reach Academy Feltham had set up a similar partnership with a community centre to support families and communities to mitigate the disadvantage gap from an early age.

Holyrood Academy then helped the Chard Community Hub to move into a larger premises, and are set to appoint a new Centre Manager on Monday December 4, paid for solely by fundraising efforts.

Mr MacCormick explained the new partnership operates upon three key principles to fill service gaps that exist in Chard.

  1. Early years provision – improve antenatal, perinatal and toddler provision in town.
  2. Food poverty – help to feed hungry children.
  3. Improve transport links in and out of the town – work with the Town Council and Somerset Council.

Work has already begun to mitigate the disadvantage gap in the town, as Dave stated that one of the first things on the new Centre Manager's agenda will be to set up a range of workshops and classes for pregnant mums, new parents, babies, and toddlers, starting in January.

The community larder, community fridge, and promotion of the £2 transport fare are just some of the ways the Chard Community Hub and Holyrood Academy are already impacting on the local community.

“When you see that the systems and a structures that sit around schools are so fragmented, and some are so broken, it feels quite empowering to take some ownership and take some of these issues into your own hands," the Holyrood Head explained.

“What we’ve managed to do is make a real difference by understanding the challenges in the town, understanding what people need and want, and starting to provide some of that

“I wish the public sector was able to function properly and provide these services to people, so I feel frustration because of that, but I also feel a real sense of connection to the local community."