July 21, 2015

Director of the Trust Newsletter


Dear Colleagues

My final Director’s letter of the academic year and much to share but the first item is one of great sadness.

A few days ago I attended the funeral of Helen Williams, a long serving and deeply loved and respected teacher at Oakwood Primary Academy. The moving ceremony at a church close to her Bishopthorpe home near York was a fitting tribute to a wonderful mother, person, teacher and colleague. Helen’s husband Rob read a touching and upbeat eulogy that made clear his love for Helen and the joy she had imparted to others in her life. Her two young children will remember her for the love she offered and the fun she gave them. I would like to thank all of the staff at Oakwood and many local schools for their support in ensuring as many colleagues as possible could attend the funeral. The academy intend launching the new Viking Longship that figures prominently in the grounds in memory of Helen. Pupils will also be releasing balloons in her honour.

Oakwood is a ‘good’ school

It has been a period of mixed emotions at Oakwood because in early June Ofsted judged the academy as ‘good’. This is the first time in 11 years that the school has achieved this grade. It is nice to know that Helen would have been aware of this great news. Strong Ofsted grades are not achieved without the school staff and pupils pulling hard together and this is no exception. May I personally thank Rebecca Ingram for leading the academy successfully through the inspection and demonstrating to inspectors the significant difference staff and governors make to the lives of young people and families in the area. This outcome now means that all of our Co-operative sponsored primary academies are good schools.

Senior leaders departing and others joining

Chris Walton, Head Teacher at Woodlands Primary Academy, leaves to take up a new role in Sheffield at the end of this academic year after nine successful years. I want to take this opportunity to thank Chris for his support and encouragement and we wish him well in his new ventures. Despite several attempts to find a permanent replacement head teacher, the governors and the trust board agreed to ask Georgina Winterburn to be the Executive Head Teacher across both Brownhill and Woodlands and were delighted that she accepted. This arrangement will be for one year. I am also pleased to report that Sarah Woodland was appointed as Deputy Head Teacher at Nightingale Primary Academy. While the Executive Head Teacher arrangements are in place across our primary academies we have agreed to call the Deputy Head Teachers (Bev Blanchfield, Adele Clark, Sarah Trussler, Sarah Woodland and Jo Speak) Head/s of School to reflect their increased responsibility.

Carlton Bramwell, the Senior Vice Principal at The Co-operative Academy of Manchester, will leave at the end of this term to take up a headship at West Leigh High School. Carlton has played a big role in the improvements at the academy and we wish him well as he steps up for the big job at his new school. Following the retirement of Eileen McCarthy at The Co-operative Academy of Leeds, Jonny Mitchell has taken up the reins and has quickly gotten to grips with some important senior leadership restructuring and budget issues. I am pleased to report that he and the governors appointed Mary Ruggles and Caroline Foster to Vice Principal positions recently.

Nightingale official opening

Nightingale Primary Academy was officially opened in June. Richard Pennycook (CEO of The Co-operative Group) was in attendance alongside the Lord Mayor of Leeds, the Deputy Lieutenant of Yorkshire and a host of local dignitaries. The event received strong media coverage including local television and Richard helpfully referred to it very positively in a video blog he issued to all of The Co-operative’s staff. He strongly encouraged other employees to get involved as governors at our trust academies and recently met with some of our chairs of governors to consider how we can further strengthen the link between the sponsor and the academies.

Trust central team appointments

A key element in the enhancement of stronger links between our academies and the sponsor is the recent appointment of Joan Keysell to the role of Chief Operating Manager for the trust. Joan has worked at a senior level at The Co-operative Group for many years and brings significant expertise, knowledge and contacts.

A further important appointment has been that of Tony Stephens to the position of Academy Improvement Manager for secondary academies. Tony has quickly made a very positive impact and his education email updates have become a very useful aid especially as we have entered a post-election period with the new administration keen to make an early impression. If you would like to be copied into these updates please contact Tony at tony.stephens@co-operative.coop

Chairs of governors stepping down

I was informed recently that two chairs of governors will be standing down from their roles after a number of years. Ann Nicholl (Oakwood) has decided to retire from all of her governor duties and feels that following the recent Ofsted now seems a good time to leave. Andy Charlwood (Brownhill) will stand down as chair but intends continuing to work as a governor. Both of these colleagues (like so many other governors) have selflessly devoted a considerable amount of their own time for the benefit of pupils and staff. I thank them sincerely for their strong contribution. The trust board is currently considering who to recommend as replacements for Ann and Andy.

Key Stage 2 results

The unvalidated Key Stage 2 test results have been received and I am pleased to report that Woodlands was the first primary academy in the trust to meet the government’s current attainment floor standard. They have almost certainly achieved the progress measure as well. The other academies are likely to have met or moved very close to the progress measure and so may be deemed to have met the floor standard. Much depends at this stage on a small number of re-marks and notification of the national median figures for progress.

Student numbers on the rise

The rise in pupil/student numbers in the cities of Leeds and Manchester has resulted in the local councils having to look at a wide range of options. These have seen our Manchester academy enter into discussion to increase the number admitted into each year group from 180 to 210. The Council has contributed a significant sum to enable some modifications to take place to the building to help in accommodating the increase. In Leeds there are also ongoing discussions about how the trust can assist in accommodating more pupils/students. The number of students continues to rise at The Co-operative Academy of Stoke and some alterations to existing rooms will help accommodate more as well better utilise the space available. In this regard, I have to mention that the academy has acquired a London ‘bendy’ bus and has positioned it in on a hard surface with access for students. The academy has stripped much of the interior and intends developing it as a student meeting place as well as a small learning area. I am very taken with it because it was such a relatively cheap way to provide additional covered space for students during break time and before the start of the academy day.


I would like to draw your attention to the large sculpture of an orrery (a mechanical model of the solar system) at The Co-operative Academy of Stoke that acts as a memorial to Duncan Strowger, the science teacher who passed away last summer. The memorial was completed in conjunction with the Realise Foundation.  The Realise Foundation is a charitable foundation that gets young people into work by creating apprenticeships for previously hard to reach young people.  The courtyard was then landscaped by the Eco-Schools lead Phillipa Oakes-White and her team of students.  The end result is a beautiful memorial to Duncan's life.

Recent trust board meeting

The trust board met on 14 July in Manchester and discussed a number of important issues including:

  • the outcomes of an engagement and culture survey conducted on our behalf by Foretel for our three secondary academies
  • the trust’s strategic plan and how it will be shared with pupils/students, staff, governors and parents
  • approval of budget proposals for the coming year and consideration of budgetary predictions for the next three years
  • approval of the new disciplinary policy and grievance policy

The trust board was keen to provide colleagues with an organisation chart to show the various roles and responsibilities undertaken across the trust. You will find an updated chart on the trust website at http://co-operative.academy/


Recent examples of engagement between the sponsor and the academies

The Co-operative Group provides many opportunities for colleagues and pupils/students to engage with its staff and businesses. It is impossible to list them all but the following are a few examples that have taken place in the past few months:

  • The Co-operative Food Commercial team worked with two Year 4 classes at Brownhill to design the Co-operative Food's Christmas crackers for 2016. It was a fantastic day for all involved. Designers from Hallmark, one of the suppliers to the Co-operative Food, attended to explain what makes a good design and pupils had a go at making up their own cracker jokes! The academy was presented with a laptop as a thank you gift for taking part.
  • I personally thanked the students from The Co-operative Academy of Leeds who had assisted in the Principal’s selection by escorting them round the Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum in Rochdale and providing lunch at 1 Angel Square.
  • Over 30 students from The Co-operative Academy of Manchester spent two weeks on work experience in various departments at the 1 Angel Square building in Manchester city centre. They met the CEO and the Chair of The Co-operative Group.
  • The School Council from Oakwood visited the Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum to explore the Co-operative's heritage before going to 1 Angel Square to participate in a Fairtrade related activity.
  • The Co-operative Group provided food for the barbecue at The Co-operative Academy of Leeds’ summer fair.

A few colleagues have asked me recently about the history of The Co-operative Group and why it is so committed to education, particularly in inner city areas. I always find the short video, ‘The story of the Rochdale Pioneers’ (less than 5 mins in length) a useful starting point. The link below takes you to it.



First Primary Academy Conference

I am delighted to report that invitations to the inaugural primary academy conference on 23 October 2015 in Leeds have been circulated. The theme of the conference is ‘Moving Forward Together’ and the organisation committee, made up of senior leaders (not the head teachers) from the four primary academies, have been hard at work finalising the arrangements. May I remind all attendees that their preference sheets should be returned to the named colleague as soon as possible? If any governors or staff from other academies would like to attend please can you kindly let Heather Unwin know by the closing date for bookings on 10 September.

Thank you!

I realise that some staff are leaving the trust at the end of this academic year for a variety of reasons. I am disappointed that I cannot thank each of you personally but I wish you well and I hope that wherever or whatever you are involved in works out well for you. The success of our trust has been down to your hard work and dedication.

Holiday reading

I was asked recently what were the three best books I had read this year? I thought hard and tried to recall how many I had actually read. I wondered whether I had actually read three in total but one of the great things about an e-reader is that it is relatively easy to find out. It appears that I have read just four books in 2015! Pretty pathetic really. If you are interested they were:

‘Capital’ by Thomas Piketty (really interesting but not a decent holiday read)

‘The Establishment’ by Owen Jones (a tasty read about politics)

‘The Grapes of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck (a book I’ve read a few times)

‘What if everything you knew about education was wrong?’ by David Didau (a brilliant book that promotes real challenge)

I hope you have some time for reading and enjoyment over the next few weeks.


Frank Norris

Director of the Trust

July 2015