November 26, 2014

Director of the Trust Monthly Letter

26 November 2014

Dear Colleague

It has been an interesting few weeks with a number of key decisions to share and to highlight some important events that are coming up.

The results from academy based assessments and externally marked examinations in the summer can now begin to be compared against the national results. The changes introduced this year by the coalition government to GCSEs resulted in a large drop in the proportion of students gaining five good grades including English and mathematics. Our academies performed well overall and it is now clear that they are either catching up more rapidly with the national average or have matched it. Bearing in mind the very low starting points for many of our students this is really good news. In addition, the results for the primary academies are strong in terms of pupil progress and they are either meeting or are very close to the government’s floor standard for this aspect. All of this is great news for our children and a reflection of the hard work by staff, whether directly teaching the pupils/students or not.

The trust places a considerable level of importance on the role of the chair of governors. This is in line with the government and Ofsted’s current approach so when a chair of governors informs me that they intend standing down this is important news. When the colleague is Moira Lees, the chair of governors at The co-operative Academy of Manchester, it is particularly apposite because she has played a crucial role in the success of the academy and in ensuring there is a strong bond between the academy and the sponsor. There is little doubt that she will be missed when she stands down at the end of this term. I will inform you of the name of the new chair as soon as the governing body has ratified the decision.

I am delighted for Steve McMullan that he has been appointed as HMI with Ofsted and will commence his work in January. He has played a crucial role in supporting the four primary academies and latterly has been working very strategically across the trust as my Deputy. Steve has been allocated to the east Midlands region but will be ineligible for work in our academies. A pity because I’m sure he would view the progress in our academies very positively. I am currently discussing with the trust board a temporary arrangement to cover for Steve. I will let you know about this as soon as it becomes clear.

I am pleased to report that a new Finance Director, Mike Gerrard was appointed recently. He will commence his duties on 8 December and will be visiting all of the academies before the Christmas break. I am very grateful for the excellent work Steve Cooper and Lynn Hadfield have provided during the past year. They will return to their substantive roles at Manchester and Stoke respectively, in January 2015.

In late summer, Eileen McCarthy, the Principal at The co-operative academy of Leeds informed me that she would be leaving the academy at the end of April 2015. Eileen’s contribution has been immense and has played a crucial role in improving the attitudes of students to learning since she took up her position prior to the academy being sponsored by The co-operative Group. The recruitment programme for finding a replacement is well underway and I will inform you of the new Principal in due course. Also following John Briddon’s decision to stand down as Chair of Governors at the academy Alan Kinson, an IT expert from The Group, has taken on this important role.

It wouldn’t be a normal term without the occasional visit from the DfE and Ofsted. I am pleased to report that the visits to our secondary academies have all been positive. The Co-operative academy of Manchester had a full Ofsted inspection recently, and I am delighted to report that the inspectors judged it as ‘good’ and identified leadership and management and a number of other aspects as ‘outstanding’. A copy of the report will be posted on the Ofsted website and our trust website shortly.

The first trust board meeting took place in September and a strategy day is planned later this week. The board will meet again before Christmas at the Manchester academy and then at the academy in Stoke-on-Trent in late January. They are intending to hold a future meeting in Leeds soon.

At the first trust board meeting approval was given to a travel and expenses policy for governors and trust board members. None of our governors or trust board members get paid for the work they provide although I note that Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector at Ofsted, continues to promote the idea. The trust board believes it is reasonable for governors and trust board members to claim for travel to and from either their place of work or home to the academy, whichever is the shortest. The policy will be uploaded to the trust website shortly and will be operational from January 2015. Please note that all governor claims are to be approved by the chair of governors and will be subject to checking by me for audit purposes. Funding for payments will come from individual academy budgets for governors and the central trust budget for board member expenses.

I have been increasingly impressed by the way staff in our academies work collaboratively to ensure they share and learn from each other. I have produced a list of the current collaborative work that is underway. I am, however, conscious that this focuses very strongly on the teaching workforce. I know that there is strong collaboration between finance staff in all of our academies but I am less sure about other non-teaching contacts. This may be happening or it may be an area we will need give further attention to but I would be grateful for any suggestions with regard to collaboration involving teaching and non-teaching staff between the academies. I have provided the list of current collaborations at the end of this letter. Please note the opportunity for a short secondment for developing a safeguarding network across our academies involving staff and governors. Details of how colleagues can apply for this role will be circulated next week.

Now, let me turn my attention to some important events that are taking place in 2015. Following the success of the first annual governor conference we have already identified Saturday 25 April 2015 as the date for the next one. The conference is open to all governors but if a member of staff would like to attend we would be very happy to accommodate this. If you would like to get involved in helping to coordinate the event please drop Heather Unwin an email at The second major event is the inaugural Recognition Evening for staff and pupils/students on Thursday 26 February between 6pm and 7.30pm in Manchester. The purpose of the evening is to draw further attention to the fantastic work of many across our academies and for the sponsor, The co-operative Group, to acknowledge this. All costs (transport, food and non-alcoholic drinks) will be borne by the trust. Further details will be forwarded to governors and headteachers/Principals shortly.

During the past few weeks I have made a concerted effort to raise the profile of the trust in national and specialist press outlets. You may have seen the article that appeared on the BBC website, in the TES and a host of regional newspapers where I was encouraging Ofsted to inspect the central trust team. In my previous work as a senior manager at Ofsted I was aware of a difference of opinion between the inspectorate and the DfE as to whether there existed a statutory right for the central function of academy chains to be inspected. I feel as though all academy chains should be subject to the same inspection arrangements as local authorities. The latest edition of Governor Matters, the glossy booklet from the National Governors’ Association contains an article about our trust, how it has merged into a single entity recently and the clear successes of our academies. Two further articles will appear shortly; one on the BBC website will draw attention to the really innovative approach of the Manchester academy when they arranged in September for 45 prefects to be given leadership training by key staff from The co-operative Group; and also the SSAT are including an article that explains how our trust has grown and developed over the past three years or so. These articles will be carried on the trust website.

And finally, The Co-operative Group has launched a campaign to support the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal to stop the spread of Ebola and care for those most in need.

At the beginning of the month the Group’s new members’ Council held its inaugural meeting and one of its first decisions was to commit the Group to playing a part in tackling the humanitarian crisis that Ebola has brought to West Africa.

The Council’s decision was in keeping with the Co-op’s values and traditions. From supporting Belgian refugees 100 years ago, through to more recent events such as the 2004 Tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the Co-op has always responded to causes that touch the hearts of its members and colleagues.

If colleagues wish to donate they can do so by texting HOPE to 70000 to donate £5 via mobile phone or visit the DEC’s website at to give any amount they wish online.

Best wishes




Director of the Trust

Current collaborations

Meetings of Headteachers

These meetings currently take place every half term and last for up to two hours. The agenda is compiled through discussion and the meetings are chaired by Steve McMullan.

Meetings of Principals

These meetings currently take place every half term with a jointly agreed agenda. The meetings take place at 1 Angel Square, Manchester and are chaired by Frank Norris.

Joint meetings of Headteachers and Principals

An initial joint meeting of Headteachers and Principals was held in Manchester during summer 2014. A further meeting is to be held in early November to consider performance management issues and a number of operational issues.

Meetings of chair of governors of the secondary academies

These informal meetings normally take place every half term or so and are held at one of the secondary academies. An agenda is compiled by Frank Norris. Each meeting usually starts with a tour of an academy and involves some element of governor training.

Meetings of chair of governors of the primary academies

These meetings take place every half term and are usually held at the Shine centre in Leeds.  Steve McMullan leads the group. Agendas are shared in advance and some element of governor training is included.

Meetings of Vice Principal’s (Curriculum)

These meetings originated from a desire of the trust for a clear curriculum and qualifications statement for Key Stages 3 and 4 respectively. They take place at one of the secondary academies and have agendas that are now self-generating.

Meetings of Primary Deputy Headteachers

These meetings are every half term and currently focus on School Direct student recruitment.

Meetings of the heads of mathematics

This group met for the first time by telephone conference in last summer 2014. Ian Lancashire (CAL) asked the trust to facilitate an opportunity for the heads of mathematics at the three academies to discuss common issues and to share innovative ideas. The group shares a ‘tweak of the week’ with each other. A face to face meeting is planned for later this term.

Meetings of the heads of ICT

This group met when the trust was asked to comment to the DfE on changes in the ICT curriculum. The three heads of department met at 1 Angel Square. Further irregular meetings are planned for the future.


Future or emerging collaborations

Child Protection Network

This group will meet once every term to discuss best practice in this important area. It is proposed that a 10 day secondment will be made available by the trust for a member of academy staff to prepare and lead the network meetings. Initially these meetings will take place at 1 Angel Square in Manchester but it is proposed that future meetings will be hosted by one of the academies on a rotational basis. Further details of the secondment will be forwarded to all staff shortly. The network meeting will initially be for an operational lead for child protection and the governor responsible for this area. Funding for the secondment and all travel costs for participants for the network meetings will be borne by the trust.

SEND network

The SEND leads from the secondary academies are currently considering establishing regular meetings to share best practice and consider the significant changes that are currently being introduced. The group is very receptive to inviting primary staff to these meetings. To help establish a vehicle for greater collaboration the trust has invited Eric Craven ex-HMI and former SEND lead with Ofsted to meet with all SEND leads and the governors responsible for this area on 10 February between 10am and noon at 1 Angel Square, Manchester. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the national SEND changes and how they will impact on inspection. Funding for Eric Craven’s fee and transport to and from Manchester will be borne by the trust.

Trust-wide Masters level qualification in Leadership and Management

Chris Walton (Headteacher at Woodlands Primary Academy) and Frank Norris have been working with Manchester Metropolitan University to provide a Masters qualification for our staff. This qualification will enable credits for the Masters to be gained by pursuing existing in-house training as well as tutor led elements provided by the university. Chris and I are hoping to have this course up and running by September 2015.

Curriculum Updates

Moving English Forward Part 2 (funded jointly by the central trust and each academy)

In addition to the developing programme of collaborations between academies the trust is delighted to provide an opportunity for Heads of English/Literacy and governors with a responsibility in this area in all academies to attend a training day at 1 Angel Square, Manchester on 16 January 2015 with Phil Jarrett. Phil was the HMI responsible for writing the seminal paper ‘Moving English Forward’ that was published in 2012 and has been influential in the revamping of Ofsted’s approach to evaluating teaching. Phil will provide an update on developments and will enable each academy to review their existing plans for the subject/area. Funding for Phil Jarrett’s fee and transport to and from Manchester will be borne by the trust.