By the end of the 19th century, the dearth of high-quality academic education for girls had been recognised as a major social issue: while opportunities to attend university and join the professions were gradually appearing, the academic preparation which would provide access to those opportunities was sorely lacking. Our founders leapt into action. We began with Surbiton High School in January 1884, followed by Sunderland High School later in the same year and Guildford High School in 1888. Over the next one hundred years, the Group sometimes grew and sometimes shrank as it ‘floated off’ established schools, many of which continue to thrive separately, but all three of those early schools remain in the Group today.
As the Millennium approached, our Trustees reflected on the future and asked themselves: ‘what would our founders have done had they been alive today?’ The answer was to respond to the key education issue of the day by raising the aspirations and life chances of young people living in some of the most deprived parts of the country. They looked to the newly-launched Academies Programme which initially replaced the country’s worst-performing schools with academies. They accepted the government’s invitation to develop one or more new academies and they established a new, linked charity to do so, with our first opening in Manchester in 2003 quickly followed by others in London, the Midlands and the North West.
Over the past ten years, the Group, still as two linked charities, has grown at pace and today comprises of over 30 academies and 13 independent schools with more joining each year. In August 2012, we came to the view that the depth and value of our connections mean that we want to emphasise more strongly our unity, coming together as a group as ‘United Learning’.
We are uniquely united across both the state and independent sectors; we make learning and improvement our focus. Together, we are currently educating over 37,000 students and employing over 7000 members of staff including over 3000 teachers.