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Industry must make major investment in education, says Co-op

The UK will only get the flexible, highly skilled and motivated workforce it needs to tackle the productivity gap* if industry makes a major investment in education, the Co-op warned today (8 May).

The UK will only get the flexible, highly skilled and motivated workforce it needs to tackle the productivity gap* if industry makes a major investment in education, the Co-op warned today (8 May).

The Co-op, which is committed to trebling the number of academies it sponsors, said businesses must play an increasing role in supporting the all-round development of students, to help support and prepare the workforce of the future.

Speaking in her blog at the launch of the Co-op Academies Trust annual report, Pippa Wicks, Deputy CEO at the Co-op, said that industry demands high quality, values-led talent but too few invest both the time and money to make this happen.

She said: “We are all acutely aware of the productivity gap which exists in the UK and the dynamic nature of the global economy, which is only set to intensify.  I am not suggesting every business follows the Co-op into sponsoring academies but industry can offer schools and their pupils so much more from providing senior managers as governors to offering structured work experience programmes and site visits.

 “We’ve seen how our investment creates a win / win all-round.  The academies we have sponsored have all seen improvements and pupils’ aspirations have been raised, whilst our colleagues have benefitted greatly from being directly involved in this journey.”

The Co-op recently announced it was putting a further £3.6m into its academies programme to kick-start the next growth phase which will see the number of schools increase from 12 at present to 40 in the next three years across the north of England.

Pippa Wicks added: “We look to help those communities that have the greatest educational challenges and need additional help to support their young people. The effect of a good school that was previously failing or weak is immense in regenerating communities and we have established a great track record of turning around schools, which were previously struggling.

The annual report, which shows that all the Co-op academies inspected by Ofsted in the past two years have received a “good” rating, underlines the success the Trust has had implementing ambitious turnaround plans for the predominantly weak schools it has adopted in the Leeds, Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent areas.

On joining the Trust the academies had the following Ofsted ratings:

  • Special Measures 4
  • Serious Weaknesses 3
  • Required improvement 2
  • Good 2
  • New build with no rating 1

The academies provide students with vocational opportunities such as work placements and seven apprentices were recently recruited to Co-op Insurance through the academies programme. It is estimated that 250-300 candidates will join the Co-op by 2022

Frank Norris, Director of the Co-op Academies Trust said: “The Trust has demonstrated that co-operative values and principles, strong governance and the ability to leverage the support of the Co-op in areas such as brand, communications, HR, property, insurance and IT, can have a dramatic impact on school improvement.

“Co-op colleagues serve as school governors and provide mentoring and careers advice along with work placement support. A step change increase in the number of Trust academies will improve efficiency, provide better value for money, increase the scale and variety of school improvement services and enhance effectiveness for existing academies.

“By providing a great education, Co-op Academies are changing the lives of thousands of young people. “

The current academies have in excess of 10,000 students and employ more than 1,000 teachers and support staff. Under the new plan, that is expected to grow to more than 40,000 students and 4,000 staff.

The Co-op expansion plans reflects a significant existing pipeline of schools that wish to join the programme, which is backed by the Department for Education (DfE). The Trust’s backing will complement the DfE’s funding for the schools.

The Co-op opened its first academy in 2010 in Manchester, followed soon after by schools in Stoke-on-Trent and Leeds.  It has grown rapidly as increasing numbers of schools have asked to join the programme, driven by improving results, an unflinching commitment to good attendance, impressive Ofsted inspections and the popularity of the Academies with students, parents and teachers.

The Trust has consistently been one of the highest performing multi-academy trusts in the north in the Government’s Multi-Academy Trust League Table and has also been recognised by the Sutton Trust Charity as one of the top performing multi-academy trusts for disadvantaged students.

You can read the Co-op Academies 2017 Annual Report below.

To read Pippa Wick’s blog click here.


*According to Office of National Statistics the UK’s long-running nominal productivity gap with the other six G7 economies was 16.3 per cent % in 2016 in output per hour worked terms.