Co-op Academies Community Apprentice Programme

Micaela, from Envision writes about their work inspiring social action in education with the Co-op Academies as part of the Co-op Foundation #iwill Fund.

From mental health and period poverty to the environment and LGBTQ+ rights, 80 students from six Co-op Academies, as part of the Community Apprentice programme, have reached over 4000 young people through their inventive social action projects.

Working in partnership with the Co-op Academies Trust, funded by the Co-op Foundation and #iwill Fund, we launched a pilot to deliver our successful Community Apprentice programme in six secondary academies across Manchester and Leeds. We tasked six teams of fifteen students to design and deliver social action projects on an issue of their choosing. We added an exciting twist, challenging teams to get as many of their fellow students involved in their projects as possible – we have been blown away by the results.

The academies have joined together at three events over the past year launching in October at the Social Action Summit where Envision staff ran workshops on what exactly is ‘social action’. In January, the teams presented to a panel of ‘Dragons’ at our Dragons Den style pitching event in an attempt to secure £200 of seed funding for their projects. This month we met again at the Co-op Group headquarters in Manchester for the Boardroom Final where the teams presented a short film of the outcomes of their projects and the skills they have developed throughout the programme.

The programme empowers students to tackle social issues prevalent in their communities. Through the social action double benefit students improve four key skills: leadership, confidence, determination and teamwork. The academies chose a range of issues including mental health, environment, LGBTQ+ rights, period poverty and youth loneliness. With the main task challenging teams to get others involved in their projects they had to think creatively and came up with original ideas.

At Co-op Academy North Manchester, the team tackled Period Poverty. They contacted and partnered with Always who sent them resources alongside 3000 sanitary products which they distributed in their school canteen every morning – setting up a rota to make sure they didn’t miss a day.

I got involved in the project as I wanted to help people and make them feel comfortable speaking about periods… I have developed confidence because I never speak to people out loud.’ Maddie, Co-op Academy North Manchester.

In Co-op Academy Swinton, the team wanted to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ students establishing a weekly lunch club. They tackled homophobia & transphobia through education delivering assemblies and producing a monthly newsletter titled ‘zine’. They also held the academies very first ‘Pride Day’.

What I have enjoyed most about taking part, is seeing all my friends passionate about the project, having fun but also being really hard working and showing they care about the LGBTQ+ cause.’ Deniz, Co-op Academy Swinton.

Co-op Academy Manchester connected the environment to relationships with their project ‘the birds and the bees’. They had students making ‘fat balls’ in science lessons to feed birds in their local area and have created a bee friendly garden with 3 beehives, planting over 400 trees.

Through all six academies projects they have reached over 4000 young people engaging them in activities to tackle their social issues.

‘I have been very impressed with the reach they have gone to and the way they have challenged themselves to reach people they wouldn’t normally reach.’ Kerri Hall, Director of Partnerships and Impact, Step Up to Serve.

This is not the end for our social action leaders. Each team has big plans to continue their projects within their academy communities. To help encourage them, we tasked each student to write a social action pledge detailing one action they can do to continue their impact.

The Co-op Academies Community Apprentice project will continue into 2020 expanding to 10 Co-op Academies empowering even more young people through social action.

To see more from the academies projects watch their showcase videos on our Vimeo:

To find out more information about the Community Apprentice programme please visit our website: