Director’s Letter | June 2019

Director’s Letter | June 2019


This is the penultimate letter I will write to you all, as I prepare to stand down from my role as CEO at the end of August. It’s been a very busy few months in the Trust with the examination and assessment period coming to an end and quite a bit of change in terms of personnel and roles as we begin to roll out a hub structure to offer more local support.

Grange, Southfield and Delius

After quite a few months of concerted effort I was delighted to be able to welcome Co-op Academy Grange, Co-op Academy Southfield and Co-op Academy Delius to the Trust; that makes 23 in total. All three academies are located in Bradford with Grange being the largest secondary academy and Southfield and Delius our first special academies for children with moderate and severe learning difficulties and/or autistic spectrum disorders. Previously Southfield and Grange were in a single academy trust and Delius was an important local partner school. Having them all under our roof will provide great opportunities for their children and staff to cooperate with other local Trust academies and I am sure we can gain a great deal from them. All three academies are a great fit for our trust as they have adopted a similar set of values and have a clear commitment to serve all of the children in their area. The two special academies have been judged ‘Good’ by Ofsted and Co-op Academy Grange is on a rapid journey of improvement. It is judged as ‘requires improvement’ but moved impressively and swiftly from a previous special measures judgement.

Chris Tomlinson – CEO Designate

Chris will join the Trust on 1 July and will take over the reins on 1 September. We are trying to ensure he gets around the Trust as much as possible before the summer break but clearly he won’t be able to get to every academy. Recently, Chris took part in a podcast that captured his education philosophy and what he values. It aligns really well with our Trust’s values and provides a little more depth than, say a press statement. You can find the podcast here. (40 mins)

Chris has made clear his desire to strengthen even further our commitment to effective school improvement strategies but particularly for those eligible for pupil premium funding.

Ofsted at Co-op Academy Swinton

Two inspectors visited our Swinton academy recently for a Section 8 inspection. This is a one day visit that gauges how well the academy is doing. The outcome was precisely what the academy expected and there will be a further visit in a couple of years. The report is not yet published but I will share it in my next, and final, Director’s letter.

Central Team

Claire Scanlan, the Trust’s Head of Governance is leaving the Trust on 7 August with her actual last day in the office on 26 July. Claire has brought increased rigour to our governance arrangements and this helped enormously when we were assessed by the National Governor Association recently for a major award. In addition, we now have a more secure approach to GDPR issues. I want to put on record my gratitude for her contribution to the Trust’s development and wish her well for the future. An advert for Claire’s replacement is currently on the Trust’s website.

Chloe Golightly, the Central Team apprentice has secured a role with Concept Incentives in Wilmslow. Chloe has grown in confidence during her two years with our Trust and we will be sad to see her leave. The Trust will shortly advertise a Level 2 / 3 apprenticeship opportunity in the next few days as a replacement. This role will be advertised on the Trust website. We are very keen to ensure this opportunity is shared with current or former academy students.

Recent Trust Appointments

I am pleased to inform you that Matt Hacker will commence his duties as Principal at Co-op Academy Walkden starting in September. Matt is currently Deputy Headteacher at Altrincham College.

As part of the West Yorkshire hub development, the Trust has appointed Sophie Johnson as the new Governance Manager. Sophie currently works as the senior executive services advisor for the Department of Corrections in New Zealand.  Sophie starts with us on the 29th July.

Liz Plumb has been appointed as the administrator as part of the West Yorkshire Hub team.  Liz starts on the 8th July and will spend time working alongside Lynda as part of her induction.

Following the resignation of Sarah Hill of Co-op Academy Nightingale, we recently appointed Philip Pearce as their new deputy head teacher.  Philip was recently the assistant head teacher of The British College of Gava and lead Foundation Stage and KS1.  We wish Sarah every success in her new role with North Yorkshire County Council.

We have been very busy recruiting a new senior leadership team at Co-op Academy Beckfield from September. Catharine Sarginson from Berwick Middle School will be the deputy head teacher.  Caroline Kelly, from Lee Mount Primary School in Halifax, will be the KS2 leader and Rebecca Fleet, from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Bristol, will complete the senior leadership team as EYFS/KS1 leader.

I also want to thank Matt Phillips (Co-op Academy Nightingale) and Shaheen Rasool (Central Team) for their support at Co-op Academy Beckfield since January. And while I’m in the mood for thanks I want to also recognise the fantastic work Nick Lowry, Jenny Crowther-Green and Georgina Winterburn have provided in supporting academies in our Trust or in those just about to join.

West Yorkshire Hub Base

We recently received approval for us to adopt an adjacent building at Co-op Academy Parkland in Bradford and to establish it as the new West Yorkshire hub office. The office should be fully ready by the end of August and will include office space as well as high quality conference room. The building was previously a largely unused children’s centre so we want to begin to encourage local groups to use the facilities so that it can make a difference to the local community. Trust staff focussing on local governance, finance and HR support will be based there. The intention is to establish a Manchester hub base at Connell Co-op College close to the Etihad Stadium in the autumn. We are about a year away from establishing a Stoke-on-Trent hub base and a little further away from a Merseyside hub base.

Interest from new schools/academies

As you know, the Trust is in the middle of a concerted growth programme. The bulk of our Trust is currently in the West Yorkshire area with a fairly strong presence around Greater Manchester. The Trust Board has made clear its commitment to try and balance out the locations so much effort has been given to developing the Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire area. Currently, we have serious interest from six academies in this area. No further growth is expected until mid autumn when it is anticipated that at least a further three academies will join.

New Free School in Leeds

Leeds City Council is seeking a sponsor for a new secondary Free School on a site close to Torre Road and Trent Road. With the birth rate increasing and proposed new housing in the area, it is projected that more than 500 additional secondary places will be required across parts of East Leeds by 2023-24 with the new free school accommodating 1,200 places once it reaches capacity.

Given that we already support four primary schools and a secondary in East Leeds, we intend seeking Trust Board approval to bid for the proposed new secondary school in the area. We’re committed to the community here, and we see this as a fantastic opportunity to go further and change the lives of more young people.

We are ideally placed to deliver the new academy and the new school would complement our other local academies.

The new school will also include provision for 30 young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) with a dedicated resource providing one-to-one support and access to specialist teaching methods, yet still enabling access to mainstream education, as appropriate to their individual needs.

Despite having the highest percentage of disadvantaged children of any multi-academy trust in the country, Department of Education performance measures for 2018 show our pupils are making strong progress, particularly in Leeds. The application process will not open until Autumn, but I wanted to make you aware of our proposal.

We are also developing a submission for a new special Free School in Leeds close to Roundhay Park. This application is to offer provision for students with moderate and severe learning difficulties and/or on the autistic spectrum. We are progressing this application because we now have sufficient expertise in the Trust with colleagues at Delius and Southfield able to provide the expertise and experience necessary for this project.

If you have any views on the new academies or would like more information you can find it here.

Curriculum Development

In the past few months all staff will have had an opportunity to consider the Trust’s Curriculum statement within the new strategic plan. A key element is our Trust’s commitment to ensuring the curriculum offer prepares them well for their future lives. I have copied a couple of important paragraphs from the statement below:

Achieving high standards is important, whether this is in the respect and tolerance they show to each other and society in general, or in their studies and the contribution they make to academy life. We want our children to work hard, show resilience and be ready and skilled to manage whatever the world throws at them. Doing as well as they possibly can in examinations and assessments is important and we take their attainment seriously to make it as good as it can be.

We know that functional skills such as reading, writing, oracy and numeracy are vitally important and are an entitlement regardless of the child’s age but, we are also clear that examination and assessment outcomes alone are by no means enough. We are committed to ensuring all of the talents and skills they have are developed to the full. When a child leaves one of our academies they will know how to keep themselves safe and healthy. They will have a broad experience that includes academic, sporting/physical activity, dramatic, artistic, musical and most importantly, personal growth opportunities. Our academies will provide time for students to learn and enjoy their studies before and after the school day. We know that this can play a crucial role in keeping their interest and excitement. This is particularly important for some of our most vulnerable children.

With this statement in mind, I have tried over the past few years, to extend the arts provision through the deployment of Company Chameleon, a contemporary dance group based in Manchester and encouraged greater social action through a national charity called Envision. I was proud of six secondary academies who performed a specially commissioned dance piece based on The Ways of Being in front of 1000 Co-op staff at 1 Angel Square recently. I was amazed at the social enterprise revealed by academy student councils within a project organised by Envision and funded jointly by the Co-op’s charity, The Foundation. And anyone who attended the Co-op’s AGM will know what fantastic ambassadors the many academy pupils and students were for our Trust and for co-operation, in general.

Looking forward, the Trust is in discussion with Opera North, The Globe Theatre and two digital organisations to ensure our students have the best opportunities we can provide and enable us to draw on our increased scale to reduce costs. I will share more news on the progress of these discussions in my final Director’s letter.

At the end of the day, we need to ensure as many children as possible reach their full potential and have the opportunity to engage in rich, varied and exciting academy experiences. This commitment should enhance their learning and level of enjoyment so that they can do as well as they can in their assessments and examinations.

National Governance Award

I was delighted to join governors from Co-op Academy Stoke-on-Trent and the central Trust team at an award ceremony at the Houses of Parliament recently. The Stoke academy nominated themselves for an award but because they are part of a Trust their application needed to be included in the Multi Academy Trust (MAT) category. Following two intensive assessments (one by telephone and the other face to face) our Trust was awarded the Outstanding MAT Governance Award. The award is a tribute to the fantastic work undertaken by our governors and for the support they receive from a great central governance team.

Contextual Value Added (CVA) measure

The Trust has long held the view that the government’s current measure for assessing progress does not give credit to some schools in the most challenging communities. This was highlighted in the work undertaken by Dr George Leckie at University of Bristol who created a progress measure that took into account additional issues such as EAL, SEND. Running our 2016 GCSE results through the Leckie algorithm revealed a significant upward shift in relative performance. It is my view that both the current Progress 8 measure and the CVA measure are required in order to provide a fairer analysis. Recently, we hosted Lord Jim O’Neill and Henri Murison from the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and I was delighted to see them referring to our Trust and the work we had undertaken with Leckie when they attended the Education Select Committee recently. They promoted my view that both measures are necessary. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership intend releasing Leckie’s contextual value added measure for all schools based on 2018 outcomes in the next few weeks and I will publicise this as soon as it becomes available. If you are interested in the CVA methodology (it is quite interesting, honest!) you can view Dr Leckie explaining it here.

Preparing for university and apprenticeships

I am pleased to report that 23 Year 10 students have been approved to attend a week long residential at Somerville College, Oxford as part of the Trust’s engagement with Universify. Previously, only two academies sent students to Oxford for this fantastic, free opportunity. This year we have increased the level of engagement to six academies and hence the significant increase in student numbers.

I recently attended the opening of the Greater Manchester base of IntoUniversity at Co-op Academy North Manchester. This charity offers primary and secondary pupils in local schools the chance to attend after school classes and they also work with specific groups during the school day. The seed funding for this development has been provided by the Co-op.

The Co-op have made a commitment to enable more academy students to benefit from their apprenticeship programmes in the future. An interesting opportunity arose recently that included an apprenticeship leading to qualified solicitor status with a starting salary of £18k. If you believe a current student or former student might benefit from the opportunity please share this link with them.

This is just the start with much more progressing as we roll out a BTEC Business Studies course at Connell Co-op College next year which will include a grant at a full apprentice rate, paid for by the Co-op, for the 40 or so days of work placement they will undertake across the Co-op.

Student Work Placements

Preparing children for their future lives is a key function of an education service. One issue that is an aspect of this is preparation for a working life. With this in mind every secondary academy is invited to offer up to 20 work placement opportunities within the Co-op. Many of the academies offer this to students during late June/early July but some offer time during the October and February half term breaks. The commitment from Co-op staff is huge for these opportunities and nearly all students find the opportunity interesting and useful. Currently, all primary academies have the opportunity to experience a Massive Maths Day run by the finance team at the Co-op. In addition, some Co-op staff visit academies, when asked, to talk about their role and their career path. We need to formalise all of this engagement a little better so that all academies know what the Co-op offer for students is. This work is being undertaken and should be shared with academies in the autumn.

Academy Councils

I have really enjoyed meeting a number of school/academy councils over the past few months.

Holding one of their meetings at 1 Angel Square has allowed some of the central Trust staff to get involved in their work. If any academy would like a central Trust colleague to support their Council by joining them for their meetings by telephone please let me know.

Deputy Prime Minister visits the Co-op and the Trust

David Lidington MP, who is currently the Deputy PM will be visiting Co-op Academy Manchester on 27 June. He is keen to get a feel for the improvements the relationship between the Co-op and the Trust have made for our children and also to see a start up business centre, known as The Hive at the academy.

New Trust Board trustee

I am pleased to report that Patsy Kane OBE, the current CEO of the Education and Leadership Trust will be joining the Trust Board in September.  Patsy has an impressive record of senior leadership in academies with a strong commitment to cooperation. She is standing down from her role at the end of the summer term and we are very fortunate to have the benefit of her education experience.

Ensuring we don’t make judgements too early

I offer this graph because it doesn’t really need any narrative.


I was truly shocked and humbled when I received notification from the Cabinet Office that I had been awarded an MBE for my services to education. As I come to the end of my association with the Trust I have been blessed with an amazing group of colleagues at all levels who have made the work enjoyable, thrilling and a positive experience. I know recipients often say I am receiving it for my team and family but to be honest that is how I feel.

Best wishes

Frank Norris