A ‘new chapter’ in Catholic education is being launched after six schools united to form an Academy Trust.

The schools, which will now no longer be maintained by the local authority, have agreed to join forces under the newly-formed Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust.

They are Sacred Heart Ilkley, St Mary’s Horsforth, St Joseph’s Pudsey, St Joseph’s Otley, Ss Peter and Paul Yeadon and St Mary’s Menston.

Governors at the schools agreed the final documents to convert into academies. St Mary’s Horsforth, St Joseph’s Pudsey, St Joseph’s Otley and St Mary’s Menston all received approval, and converted on March 1. Ss Peter and Paul and Sacred Heart Ilkley expect to receive approval to convert from April 1.

They are all following an academy model set by the Catholic Diocese of Leeds where schools convert as a Multi Academy Trust. The multiple conversion is intended to ensure they are strengthened as Catholic schools in the diocese and that there are economies of scale. It is also aiming to produce more coherence in education and to see that no school is left behind.

A spokesman said the six schools were the start of the trust, and others might choose to join later.

Robert Pritchard, head teacher of St Mary’s, Menston, and director of the Trust, said: “We now hope to grow together, offering Catholic education from four to 18, serving the diocese, the parishes and the parents. There are now increased opportunities for us to improve our provision further and offer even better outcomes in the future.”

On the St Mary’s website, he says: “We hope that this will be the start of a new chapter in Catholic education in this part of Leeds and Bradford, and will strengthen the work we all do together. Staff and governors have worked hard to get to this point, and I would like to thank them for their support. We have a vision for Catholic education that goes beyond individual schools and changes our perception from ‘my’ school, to ‘our’ schools. The challenge for us all is: how can we share our gifts and talents to ensure the education for all of our children is outstanding?”