The Co-operative College has appointed Simon Parkinson as the new principal and chief executive, due to take over in April.
Mr Parkinson has a master’s degree in public administration and comes from the Royal Mencap Society (RMS), a leading charity for people with learning disabilities, where he has worked for the past 16 years.
As director of external relations and communities, he was responsible for building and supporting membership of RMS, and leading its specialist education, learning and work provision. Mr Parkinson is also a governor at Honley High School, a co-operative trust in West Yorkshire.
Throughout its transition to the co-operative model, Honley received support from the Co-operative Schools Society as well as the Co-operative College.
By becoming a co-operative trust, the high school has joined a network of co-operative schools. “It has really helped us to see how we build our community links,” said Mr Parkinson. “It has allowed us to be a bit more outward-looking rather than inward-looking.”
Mr Parkinson grew up in Salford and has lived in Rochdale, the birthplace of the modern co-operative movement, for 10 years.
“I am excited by the opportunity to lead the Co-operative College through the next stage of its journey and I am looking forward to meeting as many people as possible in the co-operative movement and understanding how the College can continue to support their work,” he said. “A big part of why we exist should be about helping the movement develop, not just about existing in our own right.”
The College’s new chief executive and principal designate added that he would be using Twitter (@SimonParkinson6) and LinkedIn as a way of promoting the work of the College.
Mr Parkinson will be taking over from Mervyn Wilson, who is retiring at the end of March after more than two decades of working in the field of co-operative education, identity and governance with co-ops from all over the world.
“I would like to acknowledge the great job that my predecessor, Mervyn Wilson, has done over many years at the College. Everyone at the College wishes him well for the future,” said Mr Parkinson.
Mr Wilson added: “After more than 20 years at the College, with over 14 of those as principal, I am pleased to have a successor who has a foot in and outside the co-operative movement. I am confident that I am leaving the College with a very capable team, and that Simon has the experience, expertise and enthusiasm to build on the College’s work for the future.”
Nigel Todd, chair of the College’s board of governors, which oversaw the recruitment process, said: “We are delighted with the appointment of Simon Parkinson. He will be joining us at a point when the College embarks on a new and exciting phase in its long history, becoming an educational co-operative in its own right. Simon’s background in a national, membership based voluntary organisation, and his awareness of the co-operative movement, are tremendous assets to bring to the roles of principal and chief executive.”
The College will also welcome Dr Cilla Ross as its new vice-principal, following the retirement of Dr Linda Shaw, the current vice-principal – co-operative education and research, who has been with the College for more than 14 years.
Dr Ross joined the College as a staff member in 2014, having previously worked as a college associate, delivering programmes for Twin Trading in Ghana and Tanzania on behalf of the College, as well as co-managing projects in East Africa. She has a background working in adult and trade union education.
“The College has a strong team in place, which builds on its existing strength and depth,” said Mr Wilson. “This means that means the College can lose some veterans but retain the institutional and residual knowledge, which has been built up over its long history. With the College centenary fast approaching, and with a much more diverse co-operative sector than when I joined the College, there are now major opportunities for Simon and the team to seize.”
Simon Parkinson and Cilla Ross will be joining Emma Willder, who will continue to serve as vice principal for finance and resources, on the College’s senior team.