The Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) is the sponsor of the Merchants’ Academy Trust. As a sponsor, the Merchants are heavily involved in all aspects of the Trust’s activities, with strong representation on the governing bodies. They also work closely with the Department for Education, Bristol City Council and the local community. Its membership comprises prominent and successful men and women, prepared to give their time and skills to contribute to the prosperity and wellbeing of the greater Bristol area.
THE MERCHANTS’ ROOTS IN EDUCATION
The Merchant Venturers have been involved in education in Bristol for at least 400 years — archival records show that they were running a school for the children of mariners as early as 1595. This grew into the Bristol Trade School in the 18th century, which subsequently became the Merchant Venturers’ School and later the Merchant Venturers’ Technical College.
In 1708 Edward Colston founded Colston’s School and endowed it, appointing the Merchant Venturers as managers of the endowment. In 1891 Colston’s Girls’ School was created under the auspices of the same foundation.
In 2008 the Society of Merchant Venturers’ commitment to see a step change in the quality of secondary education in Bristol and this is reflected in its provision of skills and resources to the state sector in its sponsorship of Merchants’ Academy in Withywood which has subsequently made rapid improvement. In the same year Colston’s Girls’ School converted to Academy status.
In September 2016 the SMV opened their third sponsored Academy, Venturers’ Academy, the first state funded school in Bristol for students with a diagnosis of Autism joining the Merchants’ Academy Multi Academy Trust.
Both Merchants’ Academy and Venturers’ Academy are also co-sponsored by the University of Bristol, the only schools which the University sponsors. The University of Bristol ranks as one of the top 10 universities in the United Kingdom. It is actively involved in the development of the Academy curriculum and allows students and staff to access its excellent academic facilities. The University also offers support in other areas such as mentoring and the provision of vocational work placements.