A SUPER-TRUST in charge of more than 60 UK schools is set to take over three primaries on an Oxford estate.

Blackbird Academy Trust, which runs Windale, Pegasus and Orchard Meadow primary schools, has announced it will merge with United Learning - one of the country's biggest multi-academy trusts.

It means the schools in Blackbird and Greater Leys, which teach 1,059 pupils, will ultimately be run by United Learning - whose nearest offices are in London.

Multi-academy trusts are responsible for governance across a group of schools, and Blackbird Academy Trust has served that purpose for the estate's mainstream educators since 2013.

Headteachers were positive about becoming part of a much bigger network, and said it will open access to a wealth of shared expertise and pooled resources.

Chris Jones, chair of Blackbird Academy Trust, said: "It is our responsibility to secure high performance over the long term.

"We concluded some time ago that this could best be achieved under a bigger parent trust.

"United Learning has the track record, resources and values which we believe will greatly benefit the pupils, staff and parents."

He stressed the trust's current sponsors - the Dragon School in North Oxford, and education charities the Hamilton Trust and Family Links - will continue to work closely with the new trust.

United Learning currently runs 61 schools, both state and private.

In Oxfordshire these are North Oxfordshire Academy, Hanwell Fields Community School and Hill View Primary School, in Banbury.

Jon Coles, chief executive of United Learning, said: "There is a great deal to admire about the schools and we know how popular they are with local families.

"There are, of course, also areas for further improvement that the schools are ambitious to achieve.

"They will be able to retain everything that is currently successful whilst accessing the sharing of expertise, best practice and operational management.

"That will help them drive up improvement at pace."

In 2016 there were 1009 multi-academy trusts in England, of which 10 had more than 20 schools.

United Learning ranked fifth in terms of size at that point, though many trusts have since expanded.

Blackbird Academy Trust's annual report, released in January, highlighted concerns about teacher recruitment but was positive about the schools' improvements.

Last year Orchard Meadow and Windale got out of special measures and improved from Ofsted's worst 'inadequate' rating to 'requires improvement'.

Katie Geran-Haq, headteacher at Windale, said her staff were 'delighted' by the new partnership.

She added: "It will support and strengthen many of the good practices we have already put in place.

"Becoming part of a larger trust will enable the sharing of ideas and have a positive impact on teaching and learning."

She said the three schools' 'strong relationship' will continue.

Francis Murphy, head at Pegasus, said he was 'pleased and excited' to become part of United Learning.

He said: "At the heart of our decision was to ensure we can continue to give children of Blackbird and Greater Leys curriculum enrichment and exciting opportunities.

"One of the great things about United Learning is that they believe in school autonomy and enabling schools to respond to the needs of their community."

The merger will take place over the rest of this academic year.