Director’s Letter | March 2019
As we head towards a rather bizarre Easter holiday period with some academies having the two weeks before the festival and some nearly two weeks after, I thought I would drop you a quick letter to bring you up to speed with some of the latest Trust issues.
Since I last wrote, we have received two visits from Ofsted inspectors, their reports have been published and both academies have made significant progress. Co-op Academy Leeds was judged overall as still requiring improvement but there were significant strengths in leadership and management, behaviour and welfare, attendance, 6th form provision and personal development including careers guidance. The two areas judged to be less than good were outcomes and teaching (wrongly in my opinion). Those of you have been on my journey as CEO will understand my continuing frustration with Ofsted over inspections at this academy which has pupils with some of the lowest attainment on entry in the country overall. Few inspectors have ever visited such an academy, or even led one, so I found the reasons for withholding a Good overall judgement bewildering. Having achieved Progress 8 scores that have been at, or just below the national average, for the last three years and having scores above those for sponsored academies nationally it is sadly not surprising to see inspectors buckle under the weight of evidence supporting a Good overall judgement. You can read the inspection report here.
A fortnight later Co-op Academy North Manchester received its first inspection as a trust academy. It was previously judged as having serious weaknesses when sponsored by its previous trust. I am delighted to say the academy was judged Good overall. The report is glowing tribute to the efforts of many staff and governors who have worked tirelessly for the students and their community. You can read their inspection report here.
Co-op Academy Bebington and Connell Co-op College
I am delighted to report that two new academies will join the Trust on 1 April. Co-op Academy Bebington, on The Wirral and Connell Co-op College situated in East Manchester become the 19th and 20th academies. Staff have already received their formal induction in Manchester.
The Impact of Austerity
The education service nationally has struggled to cope with the impact of austerity since 2010. The trust’s financial rules, namely that each academy must achieve 5% reserves of their annual income excluding pupil premium funding and contribute a minimal top slice for central services, have helped us cope because they have ensured we take early action to address future problems. The reserves policy also ensures that academies must manage their financial affairs prudently and not rely on support from others. A tough line but sensible. We are financially stronger than many but budgets are tightening and sadly we have a small number of academies implementing managed staff reductions to cope.
The impact of austerity has also hit the most vulnerable families the most. This has been felt in many ways but I am sure you have noticed the loss of essential local services that used to be provided by local authorities. The demands on our academies have increased as services have been lost. I have been impressed by the way our academies have adapted provision to meet this increasing need. A good example is with the increasing use of ‘in-house’ specialist support for young people with behaviour and mental issues. We have some amazing provision such as the Henry Barran Centre in Leeds which was acknowledged fully in the recent Ofsted report. We need to develop more high quality provision so that we do not have to rely on expensive alternative provision. Against this rather uncertain backdrop I am pleased to report that overall, pupil/student attendance is rising and fixed term and permanent exclusions are falling and we are developing greater skill and range of provision to meet the changing needs of students. We have, however, still much to do.
The new CEO
Russell Gill (Chair of the Trust Board) and I spent two enjoyable days with Chris Tomlinson (Designate CEO) visiting two academies in London he is responsible for. There were many similarities and some differences in our approaches but I feel sure he will bring added impetus to further improve academic standards across the Trust. We have arranged for Chris to visit the Trust in May for a couple of days when he will have a chance to meet the senior central trust staff and visit a couple of our academies with the respective Chief Education Officer (formerly Education Directors).
Work Experience Opportunity for Staff
Many of you will know that the Co-op provides nearly 200 work experience opportunities for students each year. In addition, the sponsor also ensures that their staff engage with pupils and students in a variety of ways so that they better understand the world of work. Recently, Steve Murrells (CEO of the Co-op) and I visited three academies in Leeds. During the visits we began to consider whether Trust staff would like a shadowing opportunity alongside a senior Co-op staff member at 1 Angel Square. The opportunities would have to be voluntary on your part and take place at times when your academy was on holiday but if you would like the chance to spend a couple of days seeing what work is like in a multi-billion pound organisation, please drop me an email. In the first instance I am thinking of up to four opportunities.
On 22 March, we celebrated our annual recognition event for staff at the Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City Football Club. The evening was a great success and I was delighted that over 150 colleagues attended, including some chairs of governors and Trust Board members. The evening was by far the most successful recognition event ever and included more opportunities for colleagues to chat informally between academies. In addition, having access to the pitchside area with the stadium illuminated with our trust logo and the Ways of Being made it all so powerful. We are planning to introduce student recognition events in each of our locations in the summer. The dates, venues and timings will be shared with you all shortly. Nominations will be made by staff on behalf of the pupils and students.
Trust Strategic vision 2019-2022
Following a huge amount of discussion and work, the Trust Board have finalised our vision for the next three years. Headteachers and Principals have been asked to present that vision to Governors and staff and to begin the process of considering how their academy will work towards achieving our collective goals. It’s an incredibly exciting time for the Trust and our work towards our new vision will be the driving force behind all our strategic decisions.