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Sixth-form rebrokered from troubled academy chain

Free school with links to Manchester City Football Club is to be moved out of grammar school-sponsored trust

Connell Sixth Form College

Free school with links to Manchester City Football Club is to be moved out of grammar school-sponsored trust

Co-op Academies Trust is set to take on a free school sixth-form college from a controversial academy chain facing financial struggles.

Connell Sixth Form College in Manchester was deemed to be financially unviable if it remained with Bright Futures Educational Trust (BFET) – an academy chain sponsored by Altrincham Grammar School for Girls.

The Department for Education has now agreed for it to be rebrokered to Co-op Academies Trust, the UK's largest corporate sponsor of schools.

Tes revealed earlier this year that BFET owed £5.8 million to the government's Education and Skills Funding Agency.

In 2016 it was served with a financial notice to improve by the Department for Education.

Last year, BFET rebrokered one of its schools, Wigan UTC, and it is now also cutting its ties with Connell Sixth-Form College.

BFET and Ofsted have said previously that the college is "not financially sustainable" within the trust. 

Staff will now transfer to Co-op Academies Trust. There are no plans to make any staff redundant.

Connell, which opened in 2013, runs academic and vocational courses and is based next to Manchester City Football Club’s Etihad Stadium.

Links to Manchester City FC

The college was named in honour of the family who founded the team that evolved into Manchester City Football Club, and some of its students come from the club's Youth Academy.

It was rated as "good" in all inspection areas by Ofsted in January this year.

Frank Norris, director of the Co-op Academies Trust, said: “The excellent facilities and the quality of the teaching, together with its location and first-class transport links, mean that for the first time we will be able to offer sixth-form places to the whole of Greater Manchester. 

“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."

Co-op Academies currently runs 12 schools in Greater Manchester, Leeds and Stoke-on-Trent but plans to more than treble in size to run 40 schools by 2022.

John Stephens, the chief executive of BFET, said: “BFET has been in constructive discussions with the Department for Education, Manchester City Council and other partners for some time to secure the future of Connell Sixth-Form College.

“In line with our planning for sustainability, we are delighted that Connell will transfer to the Co-op Academies Trust. This will enable Connell to continue providing high-quality post-16 education to the young people of Greater Manchester.”

Jane Hopcroft, Connell’s principal, said: “This is fantastic news and a very positive strategic move that will ensure sixth-formers in the area enjoy access to a broad, high-quality post-16 offer.

“I am confident that this transition will build further on our strengths to develop and improve the educational landscape for the benefit of school leavers, businesses and the wider local community.”

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