Director’s Letter | February 2019

Director’s Letter | February 2019

As you know, I have decided to stand down as CEO of the Trust at the end of August 2019. I will have been in post six years at that point and heading towards my 64th birthday so I felt it was time to pass the baton on. I am delighted that the Trust Board has recruited Chris Tomlinson, from the Harris Federation in London as my successor. Chris will join us on 1 July so there will be a period of time when we can work together before I move on. Russell Gill and I are heading to London at the end of February to visit a few of the academies where Chris has responsibility and we will begin the process of planning his induction.

New Strategic Plan

A key element of Chris’ role in the early years will be delivering the Trust’s new strategic plan. This plan is the culmination of the Frank’s Roadshows that I held in the spring of 2018 when I visited every academy in the Trust at the time and encouraged you all to email me your thoughts and ideas. I received nearly 200 emails so thank you for your interest. The Trust will shortly roll out a communications plan so that all staff, governors and school councils are made aware of it and get a sense of the shift in focus. For the first time we will have a curriculum statement that we expect to be delivered in all of our academies and a stronger focus on the work we do in our communities. This is in addition to delivering interesting, relevant and compassionate lessons for our pupils and students.

As part of the review of the Trust’s work for delivering the new strategic plan I have created a clearer job title for the various colleagues working in the central team.

Executive Leadership Team

Chief Executive Officer: Frank Norris

Chief Operating Officer: Gary Lagar

Chief Education Officer(s): Lynda Johnson (West Yorkshire), Ian Burchett (Greater Manchester) and Mark Williams (Stoke-on-Trent and The Wirral)

Chief People Officer: Juliet Caunt


Associate Leadership Team

Head of Estates and Facilities: Carol Mitsi

Head of IT*: Dawn Boardman (seconded from the Co-op)

Head of Brand and Engagement: Joe Dundas

Head of Governance and Special Projects: Claire Scanlan

Head of Acquisition & Development*: Martin Sweeney

*currently temporary appointment

Hub Structure

You will be aware that the Trust Board approved a move to a hub structure back in 2017 so that we could maintain our close oversight of the academies. The first hub to be formed is in West Yorkshire and this will be based at Co-op Academy Parkland. There is a children’s centre at the academy that is only occasionally used by the council. The facility will have conference facilities as well as meeting rooms and work stations. I would like to thank Co-op Academy Nightingale for accommodating our Leeds based staff for the past few years. They now need the space to accommodate their first Year 6 cohort in September 2019. The Greater Manchester hub will follow in September and we will do our utmost to learn from the West Yorkshire hub development. All being well the Greater Manchester hub base will be at Connell Co-op College which is within the Manchester City FC campus and has excellent Metrolink connections from the city centre.

IT Strategy – To support Trust Growth

The Trust has been trying to manage without a coordinated IT strategy. With many schools/academies joining from a host of local authorities many have brought with them their local systems. These don’t always allow us to share information and therefore help reduce the workload on staff. The Co-op awarded the Trust £3.6m to support the growth strategy and to enable us to introduce an integrated IT system. In support of this work I am pleased to announce that Dawn Boardman, a senior Co-op IT colleague, will join us for 12 months on secondment.


As I write, we are less than 50 days from a possible cliff edge Brexit. The Trust has this issue identified on its risk register because we have students from across the world in many of our academies and there is a risk that some may feel unwelcome in society and may choose to return to their original countries. Our academies are welcoming communities and I am pleased that we have only seen a relatively small tail off from students from overseas in our academies. If there is a no deal scenario our academies are reliant on our existing suppliers to provide food, resources and equipment and if their supply chains are affected the impact could be significant for our children. I have asked all academies to review their business continuity plans and their risk registers to make sure they have fully reviewed the various scenarios. I appreciate that there is a limit to how much we can mitigate against these risks but we must do all we can to support our children and their families. If any colleagues are concerned about their continued right to work in the UK post-Brexit, I would strongly encourage them to contact their Headteacher/Principal or HR Manager so that we can provide support.

New senior appointments

With the departure of Rebecca Ingram as Headteacher at Co-op Academy Oakwood at the end of the autumn term we have appointed Rimah Aasim as a temporary replacement until the end of August. We are about to commence the recruitment for the permanent position now. In addition, the governing body at Co-op Academy Beckfield appointed Richard Ireland as the new headteacher to commence from mid April. Richard is currently deputy headteacher at Christ Church Primary Academy in Shipley, a Good school according to Ofsted.


I have been impressed by the way many of the academies have taken the new IRIS technology to improve teaching and learning. You will recall that the Trust has invested in this technology for all academies and funded an IRIS co-ordinator role to help integrate the technology and method of sharing expertise. As the Trust grows we can no longer rely solely on face to face training and development. The technology allows secure and confidential sharing by staff of observations they have recorded of themselves. It isn’t used for performance management outcomes but many are identifying engagement with the technology as a key objective. The following email was received from one of the key organisers about developments at Co-op Academy Woodlands

‘I was so impressed with what the staff had created in such a short period, effectively lead by Tom Trower and Adele of course. I felt like applauding every group as they showed what they had been researching with school development themes: Vocabulary, SEND (lego therapy, autism, behaviour), Early years (maths mastery, play, IRIS with TAs, number blocks), KS1 and 2 (maths mastery, cuisenaire rods), More able, EAL etc. It was so insightful and inspiring and I personally learnt loads.  Exceptional progress.  Great to not just hear what was happening but seeing the children talking and working was amazing.  The staff were all really keen to investigate further and described plans around measuring impact over next term.’

If you want to know more you can find it on the following link

IRIS Connect Film Club


Co-op Academy Leeds was inspected on 22nd and 23rd January. The report remains confidential until it is published but I was delighted that the inspectors saw the many improvements that have been achieved at the academy. I will share the report with you all soon as it is published.

Co-op Academy North Manchester also had the call recently. The inspection is ongoing as I finish this letter but all seems well and I will report the findings when the report is published.

Performance tables

On 24 January, the DfE published the league tables for 2018 assessments and examinations. The tables indicate that as a multi-academy trust our performance is better than found in similar academy trusts and in the case of primary outcomes better than the national picture, a truly fantastic achievement. Interestingly, the data indicates that we have the lowest (primary) and second lowest (secondary) attainment on entry scores of all multi academy trusts in the country. These scores are based on our 6 longest serving academies and those we have had time to impact positively on.

Setting in schools

Following a few requests I am pleased to report that the following staff have volunteered to review the empirical and academy-based evidence on the effectiveness of setting in schools.

Paul Ackroyd – Stoke-on-Trent

Rebecca Smith – North Manchester

Georgina Winterburn – Brownhill & Woodlands

Shaheen Rasool – Beckfield and Central Team

Brendan Sloan – Swinton

Claire Dawson – Stoke-on-Trent

Emma Moss – Priesthorpe

Ian Burchett – Chief Education Officer

The decision to review our approach to setting which is frequently deployed in many secondary schools was triggered by research from the UCL Institute of Education and Queen’s University Belfast.

Finance system improvements

Significant progress has been made recently with the development and introduction of the new financial system, known as Civica. It has been a tough few months for finance staff but the programmed training sessions with staff, outlined before Christmas, have now been completed and Academy teams, in conjunction with the regional finance teams, have been actively using the new system and processing data in line with a revised plan. I am grateful for the tolerance and commitment shown during this difficult period.

Foretel survey

The Your Voice (Foretel) Survey was recently completed and I am delighted with the high levels of engagement from staff and parents/carers. It was a record year for the proportion of parents/carers participating. The results will be shared with headteachers and Principals in March and then they will be shared with the various stakeholders. Thanks for giving your views.

Staff Recognition Event

Over 250 nominations were made for this year’s recognition awards. A panel of judges will determine the overall winners using an anonymous selection process. This year’s event takes place on Friday 22 March at The Etihad Stadium, the home of Manchester City FC. The size of the Trust now makes the 1 Angel Square Auditorium too small. How things have changed since the inaugural event when there were just 6 academies participating.

Co-op Membership

As a Trust we are wedded to the internationally recognised co-operative values. The Co-op Ways of Being namely;

Succeed Together

Show You Care

Do What Matters Most

Be Yourself Always

have enabled us to introduce the values to our pupils and students. With this in mind I would urge you all to take advantage of the benefits of becoming a member of the Co-op. Nearly 70% of you have granted the Trust permission to pass your details on to the Co-op so that they can create a Colleague Membership Card. Unfortunately, there remain some of you who haven’t yet contacted the Co-op Membership Team to get your card delivered. If you need assistance with this please contact your local HR Officer/Manager or Jennica Rama.

Support staff pay changes

In April 2019 the NJC spine points, used for paying support staff, will be renumbered. The Trust will continue to follow the grading scales agreed by trade unions and operated in each local authority area. HR and finance colleagues are currently reviewing these local agreements to ensure that colleagues are correctly mapped across to the new spine points. Individual letters will be provided during the early part of the summer term to confirm any changes.

New academies joining

The next Director’s letter will be in April. Between now and then we anticipate that Co-op Academy Bebington, a large secondary school on The Wirral and Connell Co-op College, currently known as Connell 6th Form College will have joined our Trust. Bringing the total to 20!

Steve Murrells, Co-op CEO visits three academies

On 12 February, Steve Murrells joined me on a visit to Co-op Academy Priesthorpe. Oakwood and Nightingale. We were joined by the three chairs of governors, all senior managers from different parts of the Co-op business. We met pupils/students and staff and visited a number of classrooms. I was very proud of our academies and the those who work and learn in them. It was the level of positivity and professionalism shown by so many staff that struck me, and Steve!

Best wishes

Frank Norris