Organised by the National Governance Association, the biennial awards recognise the contribution of governors, trustees and clerks to the education of children and young people.
The Co-op Trust is made up of 20 schools and college academies whose governing bodies are led by a senior manager who works for the Co-op Group, supported by at least one other manager from the business. They are supported by parents, staff and co-opted governors, who bring their knowledge of academies’ local partners and communities, their needs and aspirations.
Last year the Group announced plans to treble the number of academies it sponsored by 2021.
Frank Norris, director of the Co-op Academies Trust, said: “We believe it is essential that each of our academies maintains its own autonomous governing body. That is why one of the biggest contributions our sponsor, the Co-op, makes is to encourage high-quality members of staff to be governors and this encourages other high calibre volunteers who want to be governors to step up into these important roles.
“We operate in some of the most economically challenged areas in the north of England and many schools in such areas cannot always attract governors with the expertise needed to challenge and support.
“The trust has demonstrated that co-operative values and principles, strong governance coupled with the ability to leverage the support of the Co-op in areas such as brand, communications, HR, property, insurance and IT, can have a dramatic impact on school improvement.
“Our trust undertook a major review in 2014 when it merged three of its trusts into one legal entity. It was complex and painful at the time but it has ensured we have a governance arrangement that is fit for purpose. We formally review our way of working each year and have undertaken an external review to ensure we can cope with our current growth strategy.
“I am delighted that the work of our governors, trust board, and our strong central governance team have been recognised by these prestigious awards.”
The trust received the award at a House of Commons ceremony on 22 May.