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We turned 10!

On Thursday 14 September, over 100 guests gathered to celebrate us reaching our 10th birthday. Local community members, charities and partners came together to look back on how far we've come and celebrate our many successes.

Lloyd Thomas, Chair of Governors, opened the speeches, saying: “Governance and co-operation go hand in hand and I’ve personally learnt so much in my time. Not least how much it takes to run a successful College. I’m looking to the future with huge optimism and I'll know we will continue to grow, we will continue to thrive and we will support our community along the way."

Principal, Emma Soper, spoke about Connell’s journey over the past 10 years and the role previous principals and governors have played: “We’re proud of our college and the role we play in supporting students to move onto their next steps - with 80% of students progressing to Universities. We’ve been declared the highest performing sixth form college in the city for A Level and BTEC progress - a huge achievement. I’m excited for the future and our continued growth, helping students to become work-ready cooperators!”

Former Principal, Jane Hopcroft, shared: "In the early days, staff used the term 'Connell Family.' And that reflects our community and our culture perfectly. It’s a big part of why Connell is so special. The perfect partner for Connell was a trust whose values aligned with ours - Co-op Academies Trust. Seeing the impact this has had and the way student numbers soared has been fantastic.”

City in the Community brought the football club’s four trophies from last season - a very popular moment for guests! With them came Pete Bradshaw, Director of Sustainability at Manchester City Football Club. Pete spoke about the importance for students to have the right resources and the right tools:

“Education can be a powerful tool. The development of our community in East Manchester is key to providing a stable foundation that enables education to play its part. Connell is at the centre of this community. And through commitment and collaboration, Manchester City’s partnership with the college is helping transform young people and their community. I believe students here will achieve greatness and be inspirational to those around them. You are the process of change!”

Councillor Gary Bridges, Executive Member for Early Years, Children and Young People, added: “The collaboration between Connell, the Trust, the Co-op, and all other partnerships, is what makes Connell and its community unique. Young people at Connell are making fantastic progress and I can’t wait to continue working with the college.”

It wouldn’t have been a celebration without visits from alumni. Former students Angel, Joe, Rachael, James and Katie all spoke at the event with some inspiring stories to tell of their time at the College: 

Angel (BTEC Business Studies)

Angel spoke about her fond memories at Connell, thanks to the help of staff and the confidence they had in her abilities: "The disciplines I learnt at Connell still apply. They are very valuable for everything else in life." 

Angel thanked staff for helping her ‘smash it’ and has credited her fantastic experience at Connell for helping her progress to studying her degree, and now working in a multinational company. 


Joe was keen to study at Connell due to the college’s partnership with Manchester City Football Club, their great facilities and Good Ofsted report. Working now for City in the Community, Joe’s tutors were integral in his progress at college, leading him to study his teaching degree at Manchester Metropolitan University. Joe didn’t believe he could do his A Levels and now teaches A Levels !


Rachael studied at Connell during the Covid-19 pandemic and spoke about the way her teachers supported her during what was a very challenging period. She said: “they’re the best teachers I’ve ever had” and how she couldn’t have got through it without them. Rachael added how Connell helped her realise how much she loves to learn and how grateful she is for this and the opportunities available.


James felt ‘aimless’ when he first joined Connell and didn’t believe he was academically centred, but he thanked his teachers for the belief they had in him and his abilities. He now studies at Cambridge - a huge achievement!


Katie started at Connell in 2020 despite a 1.5 hour commute, stating: “This was the environment I really wanted to learn in." Studying Health and Social Care, Katie hadn’t sat her GCSEs and had been out of a classroom for six months due to the pandemic. Despite a challenging start, she was always encouraged to work to the best of her ability. Katie is now in her second year of Midwifery and thanks Connell for the support she received whilst there.