Leaders of the Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust (NPCAT) have expressed their delight at the prospect of a school in the village where their patron was born joining them.
St Hedda’s in Egton Bridge, North Yorkshire, is set to become the 27th school in the NPCAT family on April 1 after the trust entered into constructive talks with the Department for Education (DfE).
“As a trust we are committed to continuing the missionary work of Blessed Nicholas Postgate in all of our schools,” said trust chief executive officer Hugh Hegarty.
“Bringing the school in the village where Blessed Nicholas was born into a family would be a very proud achievement for us.
“We see this very much as St Hedda’s coming home and we’re looking forward to helping build a more vibrant school community that will benefit from being part of one of the largest Catholic multi-academy trusts in the country.”
Headteacher Hilary Thompson added: “St Hedda’s is a fantastic school and we are looking forward to becoming an active member of the trust. Our school motto is ‘Let your light shine’ and this is at the centre of all we believe in and do.”
Blessed Nicholas Postgate (1596 or 1597–August 7 1679) ministered to the Catholic families of the area after his ordination in France in 1630.
He continued despite fierce persecution of Catholics but was arrested near Whitby in 1697, when he was 82, and condemned to death. He was hanged, drawn and quartered at York and is one of the last Catholics in England to be put to death for their faith.
Known as the Martyr of the Moors, he is one of the 85 Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales beatified by Pope John Paul II in November 1987.
St Hedda’s – which is graded outstanding by Ofsted – has 16 pupils aged from four to 11. It is situated in the Esk Valley, at the heart of the North York Moors National Park and around eight miles from Whitby.
The only Roman Catholic primary school in the rural area outside Whitby, it also serves surrounding villages from Goathland to Castleton.
The Diocese of Middlesbrough’s director of schools, Kevin Duffy, said the proposal is good news for all concerned.
“The application still requires formal approval by the DfE, but following on from the very sad news of the governors at St Hilda’s RC Primary in Whitby proposing to consult on closure of their school, it is a relief for all concerned that a solution to secure the future of Catholic education at St Hedda’s could be identified,” he said.
Mr Hegarty plans to visit parishes in the area to talk to meet parents, including those whose children don’t currently attend St Hedda’s, to outline a new transport strategy designed to overcome what he believes has been a barrier to some of them sending their children to a Catholic school.
“Tremendous work has been undertaken in recent years to ensure St Hedda’s continues to serve and attract children from the Catholic population of the Esk Valley,” he said.
“The current positive financial position and the quality of education provide further validation of this ongoing commitment from local parishes.
“Over the next few months I will arrange to meet with all parents and carers and set out our vision for the growth of the school.”
St Hedda’s origins date back to 1798, when records show lessons took place in the original church building. The present school building is equipped to provide education for the 21st century, with two large classrooms, a library and computing area and admin offices.
It also has access to early years provision in the parish rooms by an outside provider, “Little Teapots”, and a modern canteen building that has an additional classroom for small group work.
The DfE has recently identified NPCAT as the sixth-highest performing multi-academy trust in the UK for Key Stage 2 outcomes in 2019, out of 287 eligible trusts accounting for 1,788 schools nationwide. It has a student population of more than 9,000.