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Celebrating Co-op Fortnight- Let’s build something together

Lockdown: It’s been a funny old time. 

Lockdown: It’s been a funny old time. As parents, we have two primary aged children at home. It’s been a blessing to spend so much time with Isla (Year 4) and Gideon (Year 2) and to be involved in their education day to day. But it has also been hard, trying to balance their wants and needs with that of our work – mine as a Partnership Manager at the Co-op and my wife as a Children’s Social Worker.

It’s been a wonderful learning experience for us all but I look forward to the day when they can return fully to school, to be surrounded by their friends, and continue developing under the guidance of brilliant teachers. It’s certainly made me appreciate the work of the staff at our academies and the environments that they have helped create. Thank you!

I’ve been the Chair of Governors at Co-op Academy Brownhill for four years now, with a couple of years before that spent as Vice-Chair at Co-op Academy Woodlands. I’ve also previously shared offices with the West Yorkshire Hub’s finance team, so it’s fair to say I’m pretty engrained.

This has enabled me to see our academies and their culture develop from when they first joined the trust, to becoming an established Co-op Academy. They each have different characteristics reflecting the pupils, staff and communities that they are part of.  What is great is that they all share something – the values of co-operation. This is especially right to talk about now during Co-op Fortnight (24 June – 5 July).

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‘Being Co-op’ is about creating an environment that celebrates difference. Where both students and colleagues feel responsible, valued, empowered and trusted to do the right thing for each other and our community. The ‘Ways of Being Co-op’ guide our future – no matter what we do, they’re how we do it:

These values, and the co-operative values that inspired them, bring about the difference that I think will help the children and young people in our care to become more than great achievers! They are nurtured as active citizens, participating as co-operators, to help transform their communities.

At Brownhill, I know the support staff have given during lockdown. I know the hours of contact time they have put in with pupils and families to check on their wellbeing and learning in a safe way. I know the dedication of staff to ensure that meals have been provided for all those that need it. I know about the time spent providing physical worksheets to help our children learn and overcome situations where digital access has not been possible. I also know that these are just a few of the ways they have cared for those who need it. It is no coincidence that it is co-operative values that explicitly underpin their vision.

I often find myself asking why I’m a Governor at a Co-op Academy and the answer to that lies within the co-operative values and principles. Very practically, co-operatives co-operate with other co-operatives and help each other to grow! Co-op Academies Trust is massive! In fact, in 2020 the Trust became the 23rd largest co-op. But the growth that I’m so keen to be a part of is that of our young people as citizens. The original Rochdale Pioneers wanted this too. That’s why one of their first actions on building the shop at 31 Toad Lane was to build a library above the store, so everyone, no matter what gender or wealth, had access to learn!

The actions taken by the governors, staff, parents and carers at Brownhill, despite not being able to be fully open, are a modern day reflection of our values. It is the actions of staff like Mr Ingle, who has been coming in and managing our garden as an alternative learning environment, that really live out ‘show you care’. An act of co-operation to help our children achieve no matter the challenges they face.

Co-operation offers solutions that can help us in these challenging times and will help us in recovery. Co-op Fortnight is about just that! Let’s #KeepCooperating.