February 05, 2016

Director of the Trust Letter - February 2016

5 February 2016

Dear Colleagues

Where did January go? I intended issuing this letter a few weeks ago but life has been rather hectic recently so apologies for the tardiness. I hope your new term has progressed well. My diary usually involves at least two days a week visiting our academies so if I haven’t seen you yet, I can assure you, I probably will very soon.

The new term began with the very sad news that Andy Carr, a member of staff at Manchester Creative and Media Academy (MCMA), suffered a heart attack during a training session at the academy and passed away later that day. Andy’s wife, Liza is a member of the senior leadership team at the academy. The loss has been deeply felt and many academy staff were able to attend the funeral when the academy closed early. Our thoughts are with Liza, and Andy’s wider family at this very sad time.

We expected MCMA to transfer to our trust on 1 February but despite the very best efforts of senior staff at the academy and our staff there remained three very minor legal issues that couldn’t be resolved in time. We are therefore transferring the academy across on 1 March. In the meantime, all activities at the academy, such as the first meeting of the new governing body will go ahead as planned. The academy received a very positive Ofsted monitoring report recently with credit rightly going to staff including senior leaders and the governors. I am pleased that the trust’s contribution was also recognised. You can read the report at


Northern Funding and future growth

In the autumn statement the Chancellor made available £10m to support the development of local hubs for academy chains in seven areas of the north. An initial tranche of five academy chains were allocated half of the funding late last year. The remaining funds are subject to a formal application from interested trusts. After careful consideration we submitted a bid for the Greater Manchester area which, if successful would lead to up to two secondaries and three or four primaries joining in due course.

Interest in our trust continues and a number of schools and academies are seriously considering the benefits of joining. We have a strong track record of improvement especially in terms of pupil/student progress and Ofsted outcomes but due to the nature of the academies and the areas they serve they do experience some level of fragility at times. A good example is at Nightingale Primary where the planned incremental growth over seven years has been aborted due to severe pressure on places in the immediate area. The academy has agreed to temporarily increase the number of Year 1 places from 60 to 75 and has accepted an additional class of Year 2 pupils. The academy has coped remarkably well with this sudden surge of additional places as well as appointing talented teachers and support staff for the pupils.

The planned increase in student numbers at The Co-operative Academy of Manchester from 180 per year to 300 per year has been given formal approval by the city council. To accommodate this increase the trust will be responsible for building the £17m extension. A Project Director has just been appointed and it is anticipated that the extension will be ready by August 2017 with additional interior work and sports playing field facilities ready by early 2018. The Co-operative Academy of Leeds (CAL) is in discussion with Shakespeare Primary School that adjoins their site with a view of taking over the full site in the future. To accommodate the rapid increase in pupil numbers in central Leeds, Shakespeare may move to the site where CAL was previously located. If these plans materialise it will significantly increase student numbers at CAL.

Trust Recognition Event

Last year, the trust introduced a recognition event to publicise the magnificent work of staff and pupils/students in making a real co-operative difference in the communities where they work and live. It was a great occasion. Following feedback from headteachers/Principals and those who attended last year’s event we have decided to host two events this year. The first is for staff on 25 February and the second is for pupils and students in late summer. We are considering the most convenient date and time for this. Both events are hosted at 1 Angel Square in Manchester. Each academy has been asked to nominate colleagues for the following awards:

  • The Equity & Equality Recognition Award
  • The Self-Help & Self-Responsibility Recognition Award
  • The Democracy Recognition Award
  • The Solidarity Recognition Award
  • The Caring for Others Recognition Award
  • The Social Responsibility Recognition Award
  • The Openness & Honesty Recognition Award

In addition, the trust will be awarding two outstanding contribution awards. Please support this event because it is an uplifting experience for those receiving the award and also enables us to share the great work you all do with our trust’s sponsor, The Co-operative Group.

In 2014, CAL was shortlisted for the International School of the Year at the prestigious TES Awards. It is hoped that those nominated for trust recognition will consider having their award entered for the TES event. This is optional but it would be wonderful if a trust colleague had their contribution recognised more widely.

Recruitment challenges

We have been working closely with all academies to try and support them in addressing some of the pressure that is being experienced nationally regarding teacher recruitment. A recent survey undertaken by Juliet Caunt, the trust’s Head of HR, has revealed that secondary academies are currently finding it very difficult to recruit teachers of mathematics, science and in some cases senior leader roles. Primaries on the other hand are finding teachers of Year 2 and Year 6 respectively, in short supply and candidates for the most senior leadership roles particularly difficult to find. It would be great if our staff could help us to recruit by sharing job adverts from time to time via social media.

If you have reviewed the trust’s website in the past year you may have stumbled across a short video where I promote the value of working in our academies and for our trust. This very low budget video appeared reasonable at the time but it doesn’t fully explain a number of important issues such as the professional development opportunities, the links with the Co-operative Group and the staff benefits package. The trust has been working with Staffordshire University to produce a small number of films that explain to staff and students why our trust and each academy are good places to work and learn. We hope that these films can be used for a variety of purposes including attracting new staff to our academies. In addition to these films, the trust and the academies have also undertaken the following activities to assist in recruitment.

  • Trust wide recruitment brochures
  • Trust benefit package
  • Adherence to national terms and conditions
  • Very strong CPD at all levels
  • Development of bursary package for student teachers
  • Teach First students deployed
  • Strong links with Future Leaders etc
  • Full page spread in TES with follow up open evenings
  • Developing links with Manchester Metropolitan University and Leeds Trinity University
  • Establishment of Schools Direct Programme through Leeds Trinity for all of our primaries in Leeds
  • Recognition event for staff


School Councils

We are always trying to strengthen the link between our sponsor, The Co-operative Group and our trust and to do it in a way that supports the development and understanding of the co-operative values. Many of our academies have pupil/student councils and we are considering offering a topic/theme or subject for them all to consider so that we gain a trust-wide perspective. Further details will be coming shortly but in the meantime I was struck by this photograph of the Brownhill council pondering over democracy and equality issues.

Primary Academies

Recently, Sue Eland, Primary Academy Improvement Manager (PAIM) has agreed a series of visits to each academy. These visits are very extensive with the PAIM involved in facilitating some of these as well as coordinating the work of a small number of high quality, part time specialist consultants. The PAIM also joins each full governing body meeting and leads on development work.

Oakwood Primary Academy choir performed to Co-operative Group colleagues at 1 Angel Square just before Christmas. The group of 30 pupils treated staff to some wonderful Christmas carols in the atrium of the building and then in the dining room as staff tucked into a festive lunch. Two members of the Co-operative Group’s Executive Team welcomed the pupils and gave them a hamper of co-op goodies to share with pupils when they got back to the academy.

We have had a great response to the Foretel Survey with at least 80% of staff in each of our primary academies completing the survey.  A special mention must go to Brownhill and Woodlands where 89% and 95% of you took the time to share your views. This survey is the first of its kind for our primary academies and it is anticipated that we will be able to draw on the extensive information you will have provided to help learning improve further for our pupils and students. It is also an important part of what makes us a co-operative so I’m delighted to see such a great response.

Last term, the primaries collaborated to appoint Ciara Mahoney as a communication officer. Ciara has made an impressive start with our approach to social media being transformed with parents benefiting from more regular contact and information on school events and achievements. While I am mentioning achievements I would like to congratulate Oakwood Primary Academy for achieving the Intermediate Level for supporting International Understanding and Learning by the British Council recently.

Secondary Academies

A new Vice Principal, Rachel Hepworth, joined CAM in January and a new Head of Mathematics is due to start at the academy in June. The academy achieved the Inspiring Gold IAG Award (Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance Quality Award) recently and congratulations should go to Judith Godfrey for steering the academy to this fantastic achievement.

I was very impressed with the tone and actions described so clearly by Nick Lowry, the Principal at The Co-operative Academy of Stoke in his recent blog. Nick drew on the co-operative values of equality and equity in describing the actions of the academy in supporting a family from Syria recently. It can be found at http://www.cas.coop/about/principals-blog/2016/01/25/equality-equity-everyone-is-welcome-here

Many of you will have attended the professional development sessions organised by Tony Stephens. At the end of each session he asks delegates to complete an evaluation using a 1-5 rating, with 1 as high. So far, 66% of participants have rated the events as 1, and 98% as 1 or 2.

Students from CAM and CAL were invited to 1 Angel Square to speak in Spanish via video link to a group of students from a school in Tilimuqui, a remote village in Argentina, on their graduation day. The Co-operative’s Fairtrade Wine sales helped bring clean water to the village of Tilimuqui, who were then able to go on and build the secondary school so local children can get an education past the age of 14. This was a milestone event being the school’s first ever graduation day and it was a very moving occasion which demonstrated the fantastic pioneering work done by our sponsor as well as our brilliant academy students. Both academies are now looking to continue to build on this relationship with the school which is very exciting.

The trust is hosting a Future Leaders seminar at Nightingale Primary Academy in Leeds on Friday 5 February at 3.45pm. Any Leeds based member of staff (primary and secondary) is encouraged to attend to find out more about the programmes on offer. If you are intending to come along please let your Headteacher/Principal know.

Year 10 students at CAS have taken part in an induction for an eMentoring scheme being offered by The Co-operative. Each mentee is matched with a dedicated volunteer (mentor) who provides one-to-one support and acts as a positive role model.  Through this safe and secure eMentoring relationship, the advice and support provided by the mentor helps increase aspirations to Further or Higher education, training or employment.  It can encourage attainment, motivation and self-esteem and improve ICT, literacy and communication skills – vital skills needed in today’s world. If you would like your students to take advantage of the eMentoring scheme just speak to your headteacher/Principal.

Just in case you didn’t know but earlier this week Louis Smith visited CAL to promote resilience and perseverance. I wasn’t able to attend personally but he apparently went down a storm!


The trust employs Carolyn Eyre, a highly regarded safeguarding consultant, who provides up to 10 days training and support for child protection leads in all of our academies. Colleagues attend three meetings a year and benefit from the opportunity to meet at one another’s academy. At the most recent meeting attention was drawn to ‘Keeping children safe in education 2016’ a government consultation launched late in 2015. Responses are due by 16th February and Carolyn is coordinating a trust-wide response. Key proposals included in the consultation are for:

  • all staff to have Child Protection training at least annually
  • all Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) to update their training at least annually
  • schools should have an over-arching safeguarding policy and a CP policy
  • more info on what ‘early help’ means in schools
  • clarification of the ‘cover’ needed for the DSL
  • more info on Child Sexual Exploitation, Female Genital Mutilation and e-safety
  • greater emphasis on safeguarding children with disabilities and Special Educational Needs



Latest Trust Board Meeting

I always provide a short summary of the issues discussed at recent trust board meetings. The latest one took place at 1 Angel Square, Manchester on 1 February. The board discussed the following main issues:


Description and action (where necessary)

MCMA transfer date

The board noted the reasons for the delay and approved transfer from 1 March. It was noted that the Director of the Trust would speak directly with staff at the academy to explain the reasons for the delay.

Risk Register

The board reviewed and approved risk register including actions to mitigate risk

Considered proposals for allowing chairs of governors to be appointed in exceptional circumstances

Some academies had faced difficulties in appointing new chairs of governors when chairs had stood down. The board approved that interim chairs could stand for up to 6 months to ease the speed of appointment. The board also approved interim arrangements at Nightingale and Brownhill.

Trust self-assessment approval

The Director of the Trust provided a summary statement for the current self-assessment of the trust. This was approved with further iterations to be shared periodically with formal approval taking place once a year.

Director’s Report

Discussion centred on:

  • MCMA transfer
  • Additional DfE funding for growth of trusts in the north of England
  • Interest from other schools and academies in joining the trust
  • Student growth across all academies
  • Strengthening our relationship with our local education partners
  • Performance of each academy including school improvement work provided by the trust
  • Measures to support safeguarding work in each academy
  • Work undertaken to improve teacher recruitment

Employee benefits (range and take up)

Board noted current level of take up and discussed discount card for staff

Teacher pay progression summary

Board noted data and compared this with the figures for 2014. This information will be shared with trade union colleagues at our next JCNC.


Keeping up to date

You can keep up to date on developments in the trust through this half term communication to staff (any comments on the style and approach always welcome) or through the trust’s website at http://co-operative.academy/  or through our twitter account @CoopAcademies

Plans are emerging for the creation of a trust Linkedin page to support the recruitment of staff etc. I will arrange for this to be shared as soon as it is ready.

Annual Governor Conference

The annual governor conference will be held on 23 April at 1 Angel Square, Manchester. This is the only event in the year when we bring all of our governors together so please do your best to attend. All staff are welcome to attend also. We are delighted have Mark Williams Senior HMI at Ofsted providing the keynote speech. Mark spoke at our conference two years ago when he was the national lead for academies and free schools. His role is now more broadly based and he will draw on this to provide an insight into inspection findings from the new framework introduced in September 2015. Governors will receive an agenda shortly but can staff wishing to attend just let Heather Unwin know at heather.unwin@co-operative.coop.

And finally

I hope the news and information in this letter are useful and provides a strong basis for ensuring our staff and pupils/students have the best environment and opportunity to grow and develop. I am conscious of the outstanding work our staff undertake on a regular basis. Working with children and young people can be draining and frustrating at times but we know that our best efforts do make a massive difference. Making small gains each day in our work and in the outcomes of the pupils and students produces strong progress over time. Keep up the great work.


Frank Norris

Director of the Trust