Aerodrome Primary Academy Joins ‘Banji’s Class’ and Shines on Britain’s Got Talent

In a bid to bring creativity and inspiration to young minds, author Banji Alexander visited Aerodrome Primary Academy earlier this year. During his visit, Banji shared his plans to turn his book into a musical. Excited about the possibilities, he invited children from five schools in the local area to audition for 'Banji's Class.'

This unique opportunity gave pupils the chance to audition to become part of 'Banji's Class,' an exclusive group who would perform at the London Palladium and audition for Britain's Got Talent. The group would perform a song from the musical that Banji had written.

Aerodrome Primary Academy was thrilled to be one of the schools chosen to participate in 'Banji's Class.' Pupils from Year 5 and 6 were given the chance to audition for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The children worked tirelessly, rehearsing for many weekends alongside the pupils from the other schools. The goal was to create a fantastic performance that would stand out and impress the judges at Britain's Got Talent – and impress them they did!

The song that the group performed is called 'New King.' The children have poured their hearts and souls into the song and this together with the King Charles III’s Coronation also resulted in the project gaining attention from the BBC. Over the past few weeks, they have been featured on various media channels. Check them all out here!

Watch the music video

and their brilliant BGT performance

St Margaret’s Receives ‘Highly Commended’ Award

St. Margaret's Primary Academy in Lowestoft has received a "highly commended" in recognition for its submission to the Greenest County Awards 2023. The awards showcase the efforts of individuals, communities, businesses, schools, and third sector organizations in Suffolk who are at the forefront of addressing the climate crisis and preserving our ecosystem.

These are just some of the activities that St. Margaret's 'Eco Council' and its students have undertaken in the past year.

Growing their own food

The school allotment has been used by students to cultivate and harvest strawberries, potatoes, spinach, and tomatoes. The tomatoes were then donated to the school kitchen to be transformed into nutritious snacks for break time.

Biodiversity In the school grounds

St. Margaret's Primary Academy participated in The Queen's Green Canopy initiative by planting more than 60 trees on the school grounds. Additionally, the students have designated a wild area named 'The Secret Garden' where a pond with newts, a small meadow of wildflowers, and a bug hotel have been set up to promote the growth of wildlife, encouraging nature to thrive.

Educating each other about plastic

The school 'eco council' lead an assembly to highlight the massive Issues surrounding the amount of plastic that ends up in our seas.

The school pledges to stop single use plastics in the school kitchen, ordered re-fillable glue sticks and all children use re-usable water bottles. The school eco council also regularly litter pick in the playground to stop plastic waste ending up in the local river and then into the ocean.

St Margarets' Forest School Leader Ben Heffernan is very impressed:

“I feel the greatest success has been how much engagement it has created from students who want to help with all things eco at break and lunch. We have actually had to order more green jackets due to so many children wanting to be part of this movement.”

The school's commitment to being eco-friendly remains strong as they gear up for the next academic year with new initiatives. The addition of a composting bin and a polytunnel is a significant step towards creating a sustainable environment, and the school is excited to continue their eco-school journey at full speed ahead motivating its students to become responsible global citizens and contribute to a better tomorrow.

Read about the REAch2 response to the environment in our Five Year Strategy.


REAch2 Secures Bid Funding for Heat Decarbonisation Projects

REAch2 Academy Trust has successfully secured funding from Salix for its heat decarbonisation projects. The funding worth £1,042,350 will be used to improve heating systems in four of the Trust's academies. The project aims to promote sustainability by making the academies more energy-efficient, reducing their carbon footprint, and protecting the environment.

Jon Collinson, Head of Estates and Facilities, expressed his gratitude to Salix for recognising the importance of the project and providing the necessary funding:

"We are extremely grateful to Salix for recognising the importance of this project and providing us with the necessary funding. This funding will enable us to achieve some of our strategic goal to contribute to a more sustainable future for our pupils and the wider community. We are excited to begin work on the heat decarbonisation projects at Brampton, Tymberwood, Riverside, and Kirby academies, and we will keep you updated on our progress."

Jon Collinson
Head of Estates

The Trust's Chief Operating Officer, Katherine Alexander, emphasised the Trust's commitment to promoting environmental sustainability in all its operations.

"At REAch2 Academy Trust, we are committed to promoting environmental sustainability in all our operations. Our heat decarbonisation project is just one example of our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and create a more sustainable future for all."

Heat decarbonisation

What Is Heat Decarbonisation? We are glad you asked!

Heat decarbonisation refers to the process of reducing or eliminating the greenhouse gas emissions that result from heating buildings and homes. This is typically done by replacing fossil fuel-based heating systems, such as gas or oil boilers, with renewable and low-carbon alternatives, such as heat pumps, solar thermal systems, or biomass boilers.

The aim is to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, which is an important step in mitigating climate change. By decarbonising heat, we can help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere and create a more sustainable future for our planet and our children and our children's children.

Read more about our Sustainability Goals, including significantly reducing our carbon footprint through improving our built estate, in our five year strategy.


Government Commits to Rebuilding Chigwell Primary Academy

Our school leaders and staff at Chigwell Primary Academy are today celebrating the news that the academy has been selected to be on the Government’s list to rebuild.

The long-awaited good news comes after seven years of lobbying for investment by the school and the Trust to make sure the school buildings and facilities are fit for purpose.

Chigwell Primary Academy joined REAch2 in 2015 and it was clear even then that significant funding was needed from the Government to address years of dilapidation and repair needs.

In June earlier this year, over 350 parents and staff signed a petition organised by the school and REAch2 to make the case to Government for the need for a new school building.

Our Chief Executive Cathie Paine remarks:

“The school has been in urgent need of major capital investment since the school joined the REAch2 family in 2015 and there has been a huge effort since then to explore ways to make the buildings fit for purpose, despite the brilliant job that the whole school team do day in, day out to create a warm and nurturing environment in which children can thrive. “

cathie paine, chief exective of REAch2 Academy Trust

Our Chief Executive Cathie Paine remarks:

“The school has been in urgent need of major capital investment since the school joined the REAch2 family in 2015 and there has been a huge effort since then to explore ways to make the buildings fit for purpose, despite the brilliant job that the whole school team do day in, day out to create a warm and nurturing environment in which children can thrive. “

Cathie Paine, CEO of REAch2 Academy Trust

Children still thrive at the school despite the challenges of the building. Elaine Brook, Executive Headteacher of Chigwell Primary Academy adds:

“As a school, we work tirelessly to ensure the children have the best learning experiences possible and this has been challenging in our current building.  The opportunities this new building will provide for our children are exciting to consider.  Our school community has been faithful and supported the school through this challenging time and this is something we can all celebrate.”

Local MP, Dame Eleanor Laing has played a key role in supporting the school. She comments:

"This is great news.  I have had several meetings with the Minister and have presented evidence of the urgent need for new buildings for the School.  I am delighted that plans can now go ahead for this much needed project.  Chigwell Primary Academy is a great school.  It has brilliant teachers and supportive parents. We can now look forward to future generations of children benefitting from new buildings."

National School Meal Week 2022 – an interview with the Trust Catering manager


This week is National School Meals Week so we took the opportunity to speak with Trust Catering Lead, Dee Formby. LACA are focusing on ‘green issues’ with NSMW running at the same time as COP27.

LACA - the school food people; are focusing on ‘green issues’ with NSMW running at the same time as COP27. School caterers across the country are working hard to lessen the impact the industry has on the planet and that is certainly the case for REAchEat, our Academy Trust’s in house school food provision.

For #NSMW22 our CEO, Cathie Paine, caught up with Dee Formby, Trust catering Lead.

Dee Formby

I know you believe passionately that all children should be eating a healthy school meal – tell me a bit more about this and your vision for school food. What should all REAch2 schools be able to provide?

School meals are more than food on a plate. The advantages of our children having a healthy, satisfying meal at school are far reaching. Whether it be for their own health or their reaching their potential at school, we should be striving to show them and their families that the food served at school is tasty, exciting and a part of their school experience.

There’s no doubt about it, the tastes of children are not the same as ours. Food that we think is great / traditional does not always translate into empty plates and uptake figures. Careful analysis of current meal uptake helps shape future menus, collaboration with catering teams and our children ensures that each school, whilst part of our Trust, has a menu that meets the individual requirements of the school and their children.

girl at salad bar picking food to eat

You have been a real driving force behind community fridges. For those in the Trust who may not be aware of this scheme can you give us the highlights?

The community fridge scheme launched in 2019 at Unity Primary Academy along with another 4 schools who took part in the pilot. Working with Amica CDA, the generous sponsor of the scheme, 16 schools across the trust now benefit from a Community Fridge with a waiting list available for any school from the trust interested in taking part.

Locally, schools are working with supermarkets and Fare Share’s national network of charitable food redistributors alongside their own surplus of healthy portioned meals, direct from the school kitchen.

Fridges are positioned carefully in discreet areas away from crowded corridors and are free from any potential stigma or data collection. Beccles Academy is our flagship school, who took the mission of the Community Fridge and developed a robust support structure within the school, including second hand uniforms, toys, books, a swap shop and even a parent cafe twice a week.

a boy eating lunch at school

The theme for NSMW 2022 is ‘Go Green School Lunch’. Are there any schools that you can highlight that have introduced more sustainable practices in their school meal provision such as ‘Meat Free Mondays’?

Reach2Eat menus are produced twice a year, featuring Meat Free Mondays and plant-based meals. We also cater for Vegans, vegetarians, dietary requirements, and lifestyle choices. Schools have already reduced their reliance on plastic containers and pots, as well as changing to recyclable cling film and the aim is for all schools to recycle plastics, tins, and food waste. This supports the Trust’s 5-year strategy which includes Sustainability goals.

Unity Primary Academy are leading the way in school meals week and taking part each day and will be joined by the Mayor and Mayoress of Colchester on Friday.

An aim is to make our schools more energy efficient by upgrading their ovens, some of which require 40% less working time, use 18% less energy and reduce cost of goods by up to 15% compared to older models.

Even with rising food costs, Camulos, Sprites, Phoenix, Gunton and Beccles still use local producers of fruit and veg to supply their fruit and salad bars and the main supplier, Thomas Ridleye, are based in Suffolk.

REAch2 Academy Trust Announces New National Director of Education

Launches new era of leadership, collaboration and national connection across our family of academies

REAch2 Academy Trust is excited to announce the appointment of Andrew Rigby as their new National Director of Education, effective January 1, 2023.

"The selection of Andrew for this key position signals a bold, new era of leadership, driven by a desire for excellence in primary education, visionary innovation and collaborative working across our family of schools" said Cathie Paine, CEO. "With this appointment, we are excited to build on our touchstone values and strategic commitments in fresh and dynamic ways, to propel learning forward and continue our track record as a high-performing Multi-Academy Trust."

Mr. Rigby brings to his new position more than 20 years of progressively responsible leadership roles. This includes 10 years of senior leadership in an inner-city school and a Senior Curriculum Advisor for Excellence in Cities.

"I am thrilled, honoured, and deeply humbled to be joining an exceptional group of leaders, educators and employees within a Trust that is always aiming higher in its aspirations for children and families,” says Mr. Rigby. "I look forward to sharing my passion for how great schools can make a real difference to children’s life chances, while at the same time learning and collaborating with everyone I encounter on this exciting journey."

Andrew Rigby

"I am thrilled, honoured, and deeply humbled to be joining an exceptional group of leaders, educators and employees within a Trust that is always aiming higher in its aspirations for children and families,” says Mr. Rigby. "I look forward to sharing my passion for how great schools can make a real difference to children’s life chances, while at the same time learning and collaborating with everyone I encounter on this exciting journey."

Andrew Rigby

Mr. Rigby is currently the Director of Excellence and Standards at REAch2. Prior to that he was Regional Director for 16 schools across London, Kent, Suffolk and Sussex, a role he took up after 6 years in headship.

The Death of Her Majesty The Queen – Statement

On behalf of the REAch2 Academy Trust, I would like to express my sadness at the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As well as being our Queen, of course, Her Majesty had her own family so our sincerest condolences go to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been our constant for 70 years; it is simply remarkable when we look back at the service she has given to our country over that very long period of time. She lived through a period of vast social, material and technological change but what remained the same was her integrity, her humble leadership, her tremendous work ethic, and her highest expectations to do the best for those with the least.

It is these values that will be our constant in REAch2 both in this period of national mourning and in the years to come.


Catherine Paine

CEO - REAch2 Academy Trust

REAch2 captures the views of both children and adults across all 60 academies and staff

During the months of February – April, REAch2 carried out its first annual survey in order to gather the views of children, parents, carers and staff across all 60 academies.

Cathie Paine, CEO, explains, “We believe that REAch2 is a family connected by a common desire to learn from each other, share experiences and be mutually supportive across the entire academy community. Every school and every individual, be it child, parent or staff, is included in this vision.

These surveys are pivotal, and I want to thank everyone who gave us their views. The responses mean we are able to get the unique perspective of parents and children as well as providing an insight into multiple areas of Trust life. It’s important to know how our children, parents and carers and staff feel about a range of topics including the environment, wellbeing and what it means to be part of REAch2. It was brilliant to see so many positive results but there is definitely lots still to do!

We want to build on the surveys, learning from them year on year and the findings will inform our strategic planning and help us improve”.

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REAch2 accredited to provide Initial Teacher Training

The largest primary-only family of schools in the country, REAch2 Academy Trust, has been accredited to provide Initial Teacher Training (ITT) following a rigorous government process. As a result of the accreditation, REAch2 will be running its ITT programme nationwide from 2024 across its 60 schools and beyond.

The accreditation process was designed to ensure that all accredited ITT providers are able to deliver high-quality ITT against the new Quality Requirements which will become part of the ITT criteria 2024/2025, and come into effect in September 2024. Recent reforms to ITT required all existing providers to re-apply for accreditation, as well as offering new providers the opportunity to apply for accreditation. 80 providers were accredited in the first wave, only one out of every three applying, highlighting the strength of the REAch2 application and the quality of the programme they will be providing.

Copperfield Academy Classroom Teacher with Children

As primary specialists, the REAch2 ITT programme will ensure trainees receive extensive training in learning how to work expertly with the youngest children, ensuring they develop a strong foundation for future learning and easing their transition to secondary school.

The REAch2 ITT programme will give trainees the opportunity to train in well-established local networks of schools at the heart of their communities while benefiting from all the advantages of being part of a national network of primary practitioners.

Andrea Wright, Head of Early Career Teacher Development at REAch2 Academy Trust, said:

“This is an exciting new chapter for REAch2, building on the success of the REAch Teach Primary Partnership’s current ITT provision. REAch2 represents one of the largest networks of primary education professionals and is committed to creating expert primary practitioners and future school leaders who provide exceptional opportunities for learning for all children.

“We want trainees to: ‘Train locally, grow nationally’ benefiting from a broad and strong national network of schools who share our vision and values. We know that great teachers shape children’s lives, and we can’t wait to get started in training the next generation of expert primary teachers to do just this.”

Andrea Wright
Head of Early Career Teacher Development

Cathie Paine, CEO at REAch2 Academy Trust, said:
“We are all delighted to be accredited as an Initial Teacher Training provider and are looking forward to helping develop new teachers. My vision for REAch2 is for every one of our schools to be great, and that will only happen with great teachers in the classroom. This is wonderful news that we can start to train the next generation of expert primary teachers to do just this.”

26th May is Thank a Teacher Day!

National Thank a Teacher Day takes place on Thursday 26th May! With school prizes, celebrity contests, and on-the-day activities, it's set to be a nationwide celebration of the UK's amazing school staff.   

This year, the theme will recognise the schools at the heart of our communities. From the teachers helping students make sense of the outside world, to the support staff keeping things running, it's our chance to say a big thank you. 

Following the success of last year, which saw the likes of David Walliams, Nadiya Hussain and Stephen Fry all getting involved to thank their teachers, this year aims to be bigger than ever.  

It’s easy to get involved – on the day or after. You can a free thank you e-card (designed by a secret celebrity artist) to any school staff member you’re grateful to. 

Our CEO, Cathie Paine, has recorded her own special thank you to teachers in her past and teachers across the organisation in the present. 

Who will you say thank you to?