A short history of our academy

Co-op Academy Manchester opened in 2010 (as ‘The Co-operative Academy of Manchester‘) in a brand new £23 million building, as the first school to be sponsored by The Co-op. The academy’s first Principal, Kathy Leaver, was tasked with dramatically improving the chances for students in Higher Blackley. The academy was built on the site of Plant Hill Arts College (formerly Plant Hill High School) which had served the community for many decades, but which closed in 2010 after some years of poor exam results and high truancy rates.

The new school soon made massive strides in raising standards for the young people in our community.  In 2013, Ofsted recognized the improvements made and the Manchester Evening News praised us in a special editorial for our exam results, which were the most improved in Manchester. 2013 also saw our talented musicians perform for the Queen as she officially opened the Co-op’s new head office, 1 Angel Square.

By 2014, the academy achieved the highest attendance rates in Manchester with figures in the top rankings of national league tables. Principal Kathy Leaver retired, leaving behind an academy with much higher expectations of what our young people are capable of. New Principal Mr Brice soon found himself welcoming Ofsted inspectors who awarded the academy it’s first ‘good’ rating. They said, “The academy has been transformed. It has raised aspiration for the local community and improved the lives of students. There is a very strong capacity to continue this improvement.”

Mr Brice’s dynamic vision for the academy was soon seen, for example in his enthusiasm for performing arts. In 2015, students staged the first of our incredibly successful shows (Little Shop of Horrors) which gave students new chances to flourish as singers, actors and behind the scenes. The academy soon found itself being asked by Manchester City Council to increase its capacity and take on more students – a mark of how the community’s confidence in the school had increased.

January 2016 saw the official opening of The Hive – a building on the academy site which aims to create a buzz about employability and entrepreneurship in Higher Blackley. The Hive is a partnership venture with Yes Manchester who offer free drop-in support for people looking for work, as well as offering office pods for start-ups and small businesses. For our students, this is a chance to see exciting businesses on the academy’s doorstep.

Another aspect of the academy which developed at this time was the input our student leaders had; in 2016 our students helped us shape a new Family system which students took much greater pride in being a part of.

In February 2018 Ofsted visited the academy and confirmed the academy is a good school with an ever-increasing number of outstanding features.

Construction of a £18 milion expansion was completed in time for the start of the 2018-19 academic year. The new 330-seat theatre offers a professional venue for our academy shows, and the new climbing wall, sports pitch and fitness suite increased the sports offer available to students in lessons and in after-school clubs. At the gala opening of the new extension Mr Brice said, “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 academy sets very high standards for itself and all its students.  Staff and Governors are committed to providing truly outstanding experiences and outcomes for all students and are driven to improve the life chances of students and add value to the local community.