Co-op Academies Trust welcomes Manchester sixth form college

It will be the first sixth form college in the country to offer BTEC Level 3 students a chance to gain paid work experience while still studying

Connell Sixth Form College in East Manchester has become the first college to join the Co-op Academies Trust, which controls 18 schools across West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and North Staffordshire.

It will change its name to Connell Co-op College and offer academic and vocational courses, some of which include one-day paid work experience with the Co-op Group, which sponsors the trust. For the remainder of the time they will study for a BTEC Level 3 qualification across a range of business areas.

The Co-op Group already offers 16-year-olds leaving its academies the chance to become an apprentice. Students at Connell will be able to continue their sixth form studies while receiving a grant and working at the Group – the first time in the such a combination is available to teenagers in the UK.

Rated as “good” by Ofsted, the college attracts students from across Manchester, including pupils from the Trust’s four academies in North Manchester and Salford. The College is part of the Etihad campus, and players from Manchester City’s Academy – boys and girls aged 16-18 – have attended in recent years.

All staff from the college, which was previously run by Bright Future Educational Trust, have been transferred to the Co-op Academies Trust.

Trust director Frank Norris said: “The excellent facilities and the quality of the teaching, together with its location and first class transport links, means that we can offer sixth form places to the whole of the Manchester conurbation.

“As well as the innovative BTEC courses, including the ground-breaking work experience, we intend to offer a well-rounded blend of courses designed to appeal to all students regardless of their sixth form preferences.

“We have demonstrated that a focus on improving the quality of teaching, strongly applying co-operative values and principles, effective governance and the ability to leverage the resources from the Co-op can have a dramatic positive impact.”

Related: Interview with Russell Gill, chair of the Co-op Academies Trust

Steve Murrells, CEO of the Co-op Group, which is the largest sponsor of academies in the country, said: “By providing a great education, Co-op Academies are changing the lives of thousands of young people. Our approach to education is built on the same principles as all co-operatives across the world – working to empower teachers and young people to work together to create a better school and a better community.

“Connell Co-op College means we can substantially extend our post 16 offer and at a time when education and work practices are changing radically our holistic approach empowers us to improve the employability of all our students.

“There is a golden thread running from our academies, through work experience programmes and our apprenticeship schemes, providing a unique pathway to work for young people.”

Academies minister Lord Agnew said: “Co-op Academies Trust has a strong track record of closing the gap between disadvantaged students and their peers – including at nearby Co-op Academy North Manchester.

“Joining the trust is positive move for students currently studying at Connell Sixth Form College – and would-be students from across the city. I look forward to seeing the college, its students and staff thrive.”