A new Staffordshire school academy trust has been launched following seven years of close partnership between three schools.

On Wednesday, November 1, the academy, called the Central Co-operative Learning Trust, was formed between William Shrewsbury, in Church Road Stretton, John of Rolleston Primary School, on Chapel Lane and Outwoods Primary School, also in Rolleston.

Two children from each school were present on the day at William Shrewsbury Primary School to exchange gifts, including commemorative books, ties, hats, book bags and bags.

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Representing William Shrewsbury were pupils Evan Campbell and Danni Lupton, from John of Rolleston were Taia Howelles and James Copley, and Jack Clark and Zara Williams from Outwoods Primary.

The schools have been working together for the past seven years, with the link-up such a successful partnership for staff, pupils and communities that bosses at each decided to establish an academy trust.

Bernadette Hunter, head teacher of William Shrewsbury, said: "We believe the time is right to take this step, to take control of our own destiny. We are going through a time when there are a lot of changes in education, on both a national and county level.

"Each of the schools will retain their own independence. Each school will keep its own uniform and logo, but there will be opportunities for schools and staff to work together, to offer mutual support."

Lesley Wells, headteacher at Outwoods Primary School, spoke of her excitement at the forming of the academy.

She said: "I am delighted to be forming the new multi-academy trust with our partner schools. Having previously had the privilege of creating Outwoods Primary nine years ago this is the perfect opportunity to take the school onto the next level."

Head teacher of John of Rolleston Primary, Ian Bateman said: "I am looking forward to the continued development of co-operative working across the three schools. We will be working closely together whilst at the same time retaining the unique nature of the individual schools."

There were two additional reasons to celebrate for William Shrewsbury, as a plaque was unveiled in the school's reception area.

The Stretton school recently celebrated two landmark anniversaries, 50 years since the Church Road site opened and 175 years since the first school in Bridge Street, also Stretton, opened.

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The new plaque plays homage to these dates and is inscribed: "This plaque commemorates 50 years of learning at William Shrewsbury Primary School and 175 years of education in Stretton."

It was unveiled by headteacher Bernadette Hunter alongside the oldest and youngest current students in the school, Sofia Constanides, 11, and Halimah Khan, 4.

What does becoming an academy mean?

When a school becomes an academy, it becomes independent, state-funded and receives funding from central government, rather than through the nearby authority.

The day-to-day running of the school remains the responsibility of the head teacher, but is overseen by a charitable body called academy trusts.

These trusts can provide advice, support, expertise and a strategic overview of the school's activities. They control their own admissions process and have more freedom then other schools for innovation.

What are the benefits of academy status?

According to the Government, academy schools drive up the standards as the power and governance of the school returns to the head teachers. They get the final say on pay, length of the school day and term times.

They also get more freedom to innovate and can even opt out of the national curriculum and implement a different system.

Who oversees academies?

Academies are still inspected by Ofsted, like normal schools, and any rated as outstanding by inspectors will no longer be routinely inspected.

Regional school commissioners were introduced in 2014 to approve the transition for schools to become academies.

There are eight regional commissioners, who each work with a small board of head teachers. They cover quite a large geographical area and act on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education.