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Co-op to turbo charge academy schools plan

The Co-op is today announcing a multi-million pound plan to accelerate the roll out of its highly successful Academy schools programme

The Co-op is today announcing a multi-million pound plan to accelerate the roll out of its highly successful Academy schools programme, with the ambition to more than treble the number of academies it sponsors to 40 in the next three years.

The Co-op is already the UK’s largest corporate sponsor of Academies, having opened three in the last year to take its current total to 12. Under the existing strategy, the Co-op takes over predominantly weak schools in economically challenged communities in the North, putting in place ambitious turnaround plans.

Co-op Academies have enjoyed huge success, with a strategy designed to empower teachers and young people to work together for a better education and a better community, in line with the Co-op’s own values. The 12 Academies currently have almost 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 is now putting a further £3.6m into the Co-op Academies Trust to kick-start the next growth phase. This reflects a significant 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 Trust has demonstrated that co-operative values and principles, strong governance and the ability to leverage the resources 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 also 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.

This boost to improving the north-south educational divide comes a week after a report by Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield clearly highlighted that children from poorer homes in northern England face an education gap that starts before school and widens over time. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership has also called on businesses in the North to do more to help close the skills gap with the South and today’s announcement clearly supports that ambition.

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 Co-op’s sponsorship directly benefits both the Trust and the Academies, allowing them to take advantage of expertise in the business and close ties in terms of work experience programmes and other employability initiatives. A growing number of school leavers have gone on to Co-op apprenticeship schemes.

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

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.

The work with Academies is part of the Co-op’s new Stronger Co-ops, Stronger Communities plan to create the Co-op of the future, which has been launched today.

Steve Murrells, Co-op Group Chief Executive Officer, said:

“Through a great education, Co-op Academies are changing the lives of thousands of young people. Our approach to education is built on the same principles as all co-operatives across the world – working to empower teachers and young people to work together for a better education and a better community. And through the Trust our different Academies work together to share learning and experience. That means our Academies create substantial social value and broader economic benefits for the often challenging communities in which they operate.

“The effect of a good school that was previously failing or weak is immense and we have established a great track record of turning round schools. We also improve employability thanks to a holistic approach at a time when education and work practices are changing radically. We see a golden thread running from our academies, through work experience programmes and our apprenticeship schemes, providing a unique pathway to work for young people.

“We are very proud of our track record in improving schools and that makes us confident that the time is right to significantly accelerate our ambitions. Our academies carry our name and act as a powerful reminder of the Co-op’s commitment to education and the needs of young people, as well as the distinctive role we play in communities.”

Frank Norris, CEO of Co-op Academies Trust, said:

“Our Trust has benefited greatly from the support and encouragement of the Co-op as our sponsor. We have an impressive story of improvement for academies in some of the most challenging circumstances in the north of England. Our aim is to increase the number of children benefiting from our unique educational offer so that we can play a significant role in helping to drive up standards. To have such a significant financial contribution from the Co-op is a testament to our track record but also to their ambition to play their part in our important work.”



Notes to editors

About the Co-operative Academies Trust

The Co-operative Academies Trust is a charitable entity controlled by trustees appointed by the Co-op. It currently operates 12 academies (5 primary and 7 secondary) in Greater Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent and West Yorkshire with 10,000 students. The Trust employs 1,000 teachers and assistants and draws governors from senior management within the Co-op.

Working in some of the most economically and socially challenging areas in the country, the Trust has demonstrated that co-operative values and principles, strong governance and the ability to leverage the resources of the Co-op can have a dramatic impact on school improvement, which has been recognised by Ofsted, the Department of Education and independent researchers such as The Sutton Trust.

About the Co-op

The Co-op, one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives with interests across food, funerals, insurance, electrical and legal services, has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, The Co-opoperates 2,500 food stores and over 1,000 funeral homes, with more than 63,000 colleagues and an annual revenue of £9.5bn. Underlying Profit before Tax excludes one-off items, property and business disposals, change in value of investment properties, finance income and non-cash finance costs, and share of profits and losses from associates and joint ventures. A reconciliation of Operating Profit to Underlying Profit before Tax is provided in the Consolidated Income Statement. * Like-for-like sales is a measure of year-on-year sales growth for stores that have been open for more than one year.

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