New £18m extension marks total transformation of Co-op Academy

New £18m extension marks total transformation of Co-op Academy

The total transformation from one of the worst schools in the country to one of the best of its kind was completed today (13 July) when an £18m extension to the Co-operative Academy of Manchester was officially opened.

The expansion, which will double the size of the academy in Higher Blackley, North Manchester, is a clear indication of the exceptional progress that has been made since the Co-op took over Plant Hill Arts College in 2009 and sponsored the new academy from 2010.

Back then the school was notorious and bottom of the national league table for truancy with a persistent absence figure of nearly 29 per cent. The students were 10 times more likely to ‘bunk off’ than the national average.

The old school was completely replaced in September 2010 with a new purpose-built academy and since then it has not only transformed the quality of education offered to the students but has also played a major role in regenerating the whole community.

Earlier this year Ofsted re-affirmed the academy’s status as “good” with inspectors recognising that many features were outstanding including leadership and management and calling out that attendance figures were exemplary and well above national averages.

As well as creating extra capacity, the expansion will increase the opportunities for students and the local community with a new 300-seat theatre offering a professional venue for academy students and local groups. There is also a new climbing wall, sports pitch and fitness suite which will increase the sports offer available to students in lessons and after-school clubs.

Principal Steve Brice said: “The official opening of the extension marks a very proud day for the Co-op Academy of Manchester.

“The academy sets very high standards for itself and all its students.  We have some of the very best staff and students and the new extension will enable them to have access to some of the very best facilities to support teaching and learning.

“Staff and Governors are committed to providing truly outstanding experiences and outcomes for all students and we are driven to improve the life chances of students and add value to the local community.”

“The academy has gone from strength to strength in recent years.  We are extremely proud of what we do at the academy and are delighted that the local authority approached us to extend the reach of this to even more young people in the city.  The new building not only gives us much needed space to develop our offer, but also allows much larger intakes to benefit from what we do.


Frank Norris, Director of the Co-op Academies Trust, which runs 12 other academies in the Manchester, Leeds and Stoke-on-Trent areas, said: “We seek to help those communities, like Higher Blackley, that have the greatest educational challenges and need additional help to support their young people.

“We understand the effect of having a good school that was previously failing or weak is immense in regenerating communities.

“It is testament to all the students, teachers, support staff and governors that the DfE had the confidence to support this major expansion”