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Meet the Cohort & Alumni

2022/23 Alumni Stories - say hello to our first cohort of Co-op Teachers!


Emily Ballentine - Primary 5-11

I decided to train with Co-op Academies Trust as I have witnessed first hand what difference the teachers in the academies are making to the lives of students. Working as a Teaching Assistant made me realise that I would love to be a teacher and work with young people in a class of my own.

After applying, the course leader got in touch to speak with me and offered me an interview. This made the process feel more welcoming and more personal compared to experience I had had with other providers.

The interview process was well structured and supportive to benefit you and let you demonstrate your strengths, not to catch you out. When applying, make sure that you are prepared and just be yourself, they want to see what you are like and what qualities you have to offer. Do not feel put off by the hidden task! 

The induction sessions over the summer and in September at Angel Square (Co-op HQ) were excellent and brought us together as a cohort and gave an insight to the programme ahead. I truly feel the start of my training year has been fantastic. As you are in school from day one, you get to build those relationships with your class, mentor and wider school staff which are vital to a successful year. You also get to experience subject knowledge days which help build your curriculum and pedagogical knowledge to bring back into the classroom. My mentor has been very supportive in allowing me to observe them and other teachers in different year groups teach which I can then reflect on and work into my own practice. Weekly mentor meetings allow you to discuss how you are getting on and reflect on your teaching whilst setting targets to ensure you are always progressing. The Co-op Academies Trust programme is supportive and developmental and truly enables you to make an excellent start into your teaching career.

Becca Spedding - Primary SEND

As someone who had worked with children and adults with learning disabilities for several years, a programme with an SEND specialism was important for me when choosing to do my teacher training. I chose to apply for Co-op Academies Trust’s Primary SEND programme after recommendations and my own research of courses in my area. What appealed to me was that, right from applying and being offered my interview, the entire process was welcoming and supportive. The interview process itself was one of the best I have been a part of. It was an interesting experience with each professional on the panel having a different specialism so discussions could be opened up around the topic I had chosen. 

The advice I would give to all future applicants would be to just go for it!

It can be daunting and you may be nervous but I had so much fun in my interview and Co-op Academies Trust made sure I felt relaxed and truly took an interest in me. That being said, one thing I would recommend is to really plan for your interview. Think of things you may not have thought of before (like SEND or children who have English as an Additional Language) the panel will want to hear your insights into the world of education and it will help in the future when you plan your lessons. 

Starting my course has been phenomenal. I feel so supported not just by the team at Co-op Academies Trust but by my school, my mentors and my course leader. We have had knowledge enhancement weeks which has improved my subject knowledge and my ability to teach. I am starting to teach this week, it was quite nerve racking but my mentors have all been so supportive and offered advice whenever I have needed it. The critique is always constructive and never critical so I am always supported. Everything is so proactive and I feel so secure beginning my teaching career at Co-op Academies Trust. 

Patrick Crossley - Secondary Maths 

Co-op Academies Trust Teacher Training stood out from the moment I began applying for various teacher training programmes. Whilst I received various template ‘cut and paste’ emails from other providers, I received a call from the course leader of Co-op Academies Trust telling me that he had read my application, highlighting parts of my CV which he had found interesting and telling me that staff were excited to invite me to interview at a time which worked for me. I was impressed from the outset by the School Direct programme, the values of the organisation and how these were communicated in my interactions with all staff.

The interview process was noticeably different from other interviews I’d had for teacher training programmes. One thing that stood out to me was a deeper and more holistic process, with a greater emphasis on pastoral issues, pedagogy, and my philosophy of teaching and education. Another was the supportive atmosphere by the Co-op Academies teachers who had all taken the time to meet me.

Since I’ve started my teacher training, I’ve been lucky enough to join a supportive and experienced community of teachers who have consistently made time for me and have given me advice and observations to help me reflect on my teaching. I love the way that the teaching staff strive to develop students personally as well as academically and give them access and agency in society. 

My advice to any prospective trainee teachers would be to make sure the programme you apply to aligns with your values and treats you as an individual, providing resources for you to develop into the kind of teacher you want to be.

A message from our CEO, Dr Chris Tomlinson: 

What does a Co-op Teacher look like?

I am very proud of the fact that I work for and lead Co-op Academies Trust, which is a major part of the Co-op’s community strategy. Belonging to such a successful and ethical organisation is truly inspirational. Education is one of the founding principles of the Co-op. A good education can give young people a chance to fulfil their potential.

As a Trust we want to be successful, but it isn’t just what we do, it’s how we do it that is important. Our “Ways of Being”: 

  • Do what matters most
  • Be yourself, always
  • Show you care
  • Succeed together 

They give us clear direction and clarity in all that we do. We want colleagues who really want to follow that strong moral code.

We put people and communities first. We understand totally the commitment we have in training Co-op teachers who will lead our academies in the future. Our Career professional development programmes (CPD) across the Trust are innovative, good quality and delivered by excellent professionals. We provide a lifelong CPD commitment not just at the start of your career but also throughout. But we understand that the first few years of training and developing the art of teaching is crucial, so provide the very best start to your professional career in education. 

That’s why we’ve started our own ITT in partnership with Bright Futures Education Trust. Bringing together expertise from across Primary, Secondary, Special and Further Education to promote excellence in all aspects of education. Our trainees benefit from focused, central and school-based training, working in our academies and partner schools across our four geographical areas for the duration of the programme.

Our overall aims and objectives of our programme are to:

  • Produce high-quality and highly employable teachers for our Trust
  • Deliver high-quality, innovative, research-led practice 
  • Develop reflective and responsive practitioners who maintain and practice these approaches over time 
  • Foster practice which promotes high-quality outcomes for learners 
  • Ensure a supportive and nurturing environment which will allow trainees to flourish
  • Work with us to best shape the lives of young people through our Primary and Secondary Teacher Training courses.

Our Trust is a positive and vibrant educational environment to be a part of. Our colleagues really make a difference working with pupils and transforming communities.

If that sounds like something you would like to be a part of, then I encourage you to come and join our team. 

Dr Chris Tomlinson, CEO of Co-op Academies Trust