By Frank Norris, Director of the Co-op Academies Trust

I am delighted to let you know that we’ve become not only the fastest growing multi academy trust in the country, but also the most diverse.

Bringing any school into the Trust is always exciting however today’s announcement is particularly significant as we have welcomed the Trust’s first special schools.

These are the Co-op Academy Southfield and Co-op Academy Delius and are both situated in Bradford, alongside another new addition to our trust from the city, The Grange Technology College (Co-op Academy Grange).

Diversity is something to be celebrated and I am thrilled that our Trust will now be supporting students, with a wide range of physical, emotional and developmental needs from their first steps into education in reception through to the day they receive their A level or Btec results.

We’re now supporting over 15,000 students in 23 schools – 10 primaries, 10 secondaries, a sixth form college and these two new special additions, and are well on our way to reach our target of 40 academies by 2020.

Co-op Academy Delius is a primary school offering high quality specialist provision for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities, severe learning difficulties and those with Autistic Spectrum Condition. Co-op Academy Southfield comprises two elements: the main school, which supports students aged 11 – 16 years in the main campus building with a range of physical, developmental and emotional needs, and the Pathfinder Vocational Centre  which provides outstanding specialist education and training aimed at providing pathways for life after school for post16 students. Both special schools joining the trust are led by national and local leaders in special educational needs provision and have been rated “good” by Ofsted.

To see both schools in action, teaching pupils with complex medical, physical, emotional and learning difficulties and disabilities, is inspirational and something that should be witnessed by all teachers and leaders. There’s much to be gained from staff co-operating across mainstream and special settings. As our Trust grows we’re moving towards a hub system based on the geographical areas – West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester Merseyside and North Staffordshire. It’s our intention to support academies with specialist provision in these areas in the future and to enable staff to share their expertise and insight more regularly.

We’ll do this to provide students in our care with the best possible education so they can fulfil their full potential, and by doing so, help further regenerate the communities they are located in.