Co-operative Academy of Manchester doubles in size following £18m extension

'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'

The Co-operative Academy in Manchester has doubled in size with the official opening last week of a new £18m extension, which has a 300-seat theatre, climbing wall, sports pitch and fitness suite.

The Co-op Group took over Plant Hill Arts College in 2009, which was then at the bottom of the national league table for truancy with a persistent absence figure of nearly 29%. Under the Group’s sponsorship, the old school was replaced with a new purpose-built academy.

This year, Ofsted rated the academy as “good”, with many features, including leadership and management, rated outstanding. Before the Group took over, pupils were 10 times more likely to skip school, but attendance figures are now well above the national average.

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.

The Co-op Academies Trust is a charity controlled by trustees appointed by the Co-op Group, which gets its day-to-day funding from the DfE. It currently operates 12 academies across Greater Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent and West Yorkshire. In April, the Co-op Group announced it aimed to treble the number of academies it sponsored to 40 over the next three years.

The retailer allocated £3.6m into the Co-op Academies Trust to kick-start the next growth phase. Pupils can also benefit from work placements and apprenticeships at the Co-op Group. It is estimated that 250-300 candidates from Co-op Group sponsored academies will join the retailer by 2022.

Frank Norris, director of the Co-op Academies Trust, 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 Department for Education had the confidence to support this major expansion.”

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