Teachers, employers and support

Raising Aspirations at Leeds Cooperative Academy 

Raising Aspirations at Leeds Cooperative Academy

Leeds Co-op Academy, part of the Co-operative Academies Trust, is an 11–18 secondary school in Leeds. It has approximately 900 students, 50% of whom are eligible for free school meals. The percentage of students at the school who speak English as an additional language, at 73%, is well above the national average.   


Project summary

The school’s Raising Aspirations project was developed from a four-year programme (Burberry Inspire) in which they were already involved. This programme, delivered by Burberry in partnership with the Ideas Foundation, aimed to give Year 7-9 students an insight into creative careers. In the first year of the Burberry Inspire programme, the school worked with Leeds Young Film to develop students’ filming and photography skills. This proved such a successful partnership that the school was keen to continue the relationship beyond the Burberry Inspire programme.   

“Trying to increase the number of students going into creative careers doesn’t stop in Year 9. And if you do stop in Years 10 and 11, they’ll pick something else.” (School staff)  


Film Club

Delivered by two film makers from Leeds Young Film, the aim of the club was for students to create their own fictional short films, from concept development and scriptwriting, to filming and editing. Through this process, the students would develop an understanding of the different stages of film making and the variety of roles involved. 


Staff CPD

Leeds Young Film delivered staff training on how film can enhance classroom-based learning and engagement.    


Movie Con

Movie Con aimed to bring aspects of the Leeds Young Film Festival to the school through workshops on stop motion animation, stunt fighting, stage make-up and special effects. The workshops were repeated so that each student in the school took part in at least one activity. Each workshop involved a talk from the workshop leader about their own career and how they got into the industry. The foyer of the school was also decorated with a red carpet alongside a ‘magic selfie mirror’ that sent students’ selfies to their email inbox.


Film Club

Between 15 and 20 students regularly attended Film Club, with high levels of engagement and enthusiasm reported by staff. Students would often come to the sessions with ideas they had written down or been working during the preceding week.    

“It was so nice to see them engaged and really wanting to do something.” (School staff)  

The students developed a strong sense of ownership over the film-making process and a good group dynamic emerged.   

One student was said to have completely changed her career aspirations as a result of being involved in Film Club. Described as “very able”, the student had not previously considered a career in film, but is now studying film studies at A-level and applied for a paid position with a film crew. She was selected for interview from more than 70 applicants, and although she was not offered the position, she was nonetheless offered a work shadowing placement.    

“It unlocked skills she didn’t know she had.” (School staff)  

As well as greater awareness of creative careers, the students involved in Film Club are reported to have gained new skills in:    

  • Problem solving, teamwork and communication: the students often had lots of ideas for what to include in the story and worked well together to fit these within the constraints of the project (budget, location, available resources etc.).   
  • Literacy: students learnt what makes a good character and a compelling narrative through discussing ideas and script writing.   
  • Digital: students learnt how to use the cameras and film editing software. Some have since put these skills into practice in other areas of the school by volunteering to take and edit photos for school trips and events.   

Staff also reported that Film Club provided some of the more isolated students, who perhaps did not have a large friendship group, to share their ideas and have a ‘voice’ in the school. For example, staff described the impact Film Club had on one Year 8 student who, when she first joined, appeared to lack confidence:   

“She joined film club and she was like a different person. You could see a spark; she was given space to be herself and have her ideas valued by the group.” (School staff)  

Movie Con   

Staff commented that students engaged well with Movie Con, due in particular to the interactive nature of the workshops. They also appreciated having been given insight into the different roles available within the creative industries.    


Staff CPD   

One staff CPD workshop was delivered prior to the onset of COVID-19 in March 2020. Whilst staff felt the workshop was useful, they did not feel able to comment on its impact.


Success factors 


The project would not have been possible without the Raising Aspirations funding, not least because of the technical expertise and equipment involved. Despite Leeds Young Film offering a lot of their time on a pro bono basis, there were still significant expenses.     


Project management   

The school Careers Co-ordinator has been key to the success of the project, handling a host of important issues such as securing consent for filming, engaging students and reminding them of tasks and deadlines, and completing health and safety checks. The project is unlikely to have had the momentum or success in their absence.