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Kirkby Stephen gets the UK’s first co-operative converter Academy

The strong community’s comprehensive wins the chance after holding Outstanding Ofsted status for a fourth year

As is only proper, when you recall where the Rochdale Pioneers came from, the north has opened the country’s first co-operative converter academy school.

The sonorous title is being used for the first time by Kirkby Stephen Grammar School, a comprehensive which serves the sort of well-defined community where such educational models ought to thrive.

It does. A specialist sports college but with a bunch of other achievements, it was judged ‘outstanding’ in a report from 2008 by Ofsted, which also gave the same accolade to its VIth form separately. Outstanding schools are not inspected regularly unless concerns are raised, and an interim check by Ofsted this year confirmed the honour.

The co-op model for getting academy status, and the possible funding, flexibility et al that goes therewith, is only on offer to schools with a strong Ofsted record like this. The model has been developed as an alternative to ‘sponsor’ academies by the Co-operative College and solicitors Cobbetts.

It is seen as a possible way ahead for community comprehensives and those already run on the co-op model, as Kirkby Stephen has been, with students, staff, parents and local people entitled to join, just as in a traditional retail co-op. The divi comes in happy and wise students, all being well.

David Keetley, Kirkby Stephen’s headteacher, says:

The membership scheme and the forum offered by the co-operative model will provide the local community with a stronger voice in the education provision in this area and help shape future developments.
Their expertise and experience will also strengthen our governance. We endorse the co-operative values and will build on our existing partnerships and work with new partners for the benefit of all our pupils and the local community. The freedoms offered by becoming an Academy bring greater financial security and more options for our small school. We are very excited about it.

Julie Thorpe, Head of School and Youth Programmes at the Co-operative College, says:

It is great to see Kirkby Stephen established at the first co-operative converter Academy. The co-operative model means that whilst they have independent status they will remain owned and controlled by their stakeholders – the students, staff, parents, and local community, rather than being taken over by a private company. Lots of other schools are considering this option and several more will open in the coming months. Co-operative Academies offer a real, bottom-up, democratic model – one which offers a true voice to the people who really care about the success of their school.

As well as advising converter schemes such as Kirkby Stephen’s, the Co-Op sponsors two new academies, in Manchester and Birmingham. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds