Meet our new Trustee – Maggie Cooper

June 23, 2023

We are delighted to announce that we have appointed a new Trustee to Wessex Learning Trust, Maggie Cooper. To get to know Maggie a bit more, we asked her some questions about her career path so far, why she’s excited about joining the Trust and how she thinks her experience can support the Trust at such a crucial time of growth.

Can you tell us about your career so far and what attracted you to become a Trustee at Wessex Learning Trust?

Thank you for inviting me to take part in this interview and to try to capture a bit about who I am, my background and passions, and what I hope to contribute to the WLT Board of Trustees.

After graduating as a speech and language therapist I found my dream job in Cornwall, working with children and adults with all types of debilitating communication difficulty. I later became especially interested in helping very young children to communicate effectively, and worked in and alongside schools and nurseries in inner city Plymouth. I went back to university in my mid 30’s and became a researcher and academic. Most of my research interest was in the area of early word learning in infants under 24 months. This led me to become an educator in speech and language therapy (SLT), and to lead the undergraduate SLT programme at Plymouth Marjon University, for 10 years. I taught on a wide range of undergraduate programmes including psychology and linguistics. I also enjoyed working with the Early Years programmes and helped develop and teach on Marjon’s first Early Years Practitioner Foundation degree. From 2013 I was very lucky to have the opportunity to take on international contracts. I helped develop new degree programmes in Athens, and Hanoi, and ran exam boards for teacher training colleges across Malaysia

Since retiring from my academic career I have worked in a voluntary capacity as a Justice of the Peace, sitting in adult criminal courts and, more recently, youth courts. I sit on a Youth Justice Operational Board working with Youth Justice Services, Children’s Services, and the police. Our collective aim is to reduce offending and re-offending by children.

Throughout my working life I have found it very fulfilling to take on voluntary governance roles. Initially, I served for six years as a primary school governor, and then became a non-executive director of a trailblazer Sure Start project, in an inner-city community. I served as a governor of Plymouth Marjon University for four years, and as Dean of School sat on the Senior Management Team Board, and Academic Board for several years. In 2017, I was invited to become a trustee of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. Each of these Boards functioned very differently, yet there were similarities. Each has taught me a great deal about new and varied communities, the importance of teamwork at all levels of an organisation, and the importance of listening to the views of the communities you serve. It is this interest in organisational governance, along with a passion for helping to give young people the very best start in life, that attracted me to the Wessex Learning Trust.

What do you think are important qualities a Multi-Academy Trust Trustee should have?

As a member of a Board with broad ranging responsibilities it is important to hold on to the organisation’s strategic aims and mission. Trustees have an important supporting role and this requires empathy, listening skills and recognising and respecting differences between individuals and communities. Trustees also have leadership responsibilities requiring vision, a strong work ethic and clear communication. All trustees need to share common goals and values in order to work effectively as a team. I believe it is particularly important to focus on the lived experience of the individuals who play a part in creating a successful learning environment, including teachers and support staff, parents, and children.

How do you think your previous experience will support the future of the Trust?

I would like to believe that my experience in governance will be helpful to the Trust. I also have a long history of working within and beside different educational settings, from pre-school and early years right through to higher education. This will allow me to bring some perspective and a foundation on which to build new learning. I have a background in social research and know how important it is to collect reliable data, and use the data to inform decision making. As a Department Head I learnt how important it is to create a working environment that recruits, supports and develops the very best teachers, and attracts and retains highly valued non-teaching staff. Importantly, I would bring to this role my experience as a parent and grandmother, experience that has taught me how to be a ‘foot soldier’ and the importance of working in partnership with schools.

What are you excited about in your new role as Trustee?

I’m excited to learn more about the 17 academies that form the WLT, and to learn about them as varied and distinctive learning communities. I look forward to meeting new people, and learning about their achievements, and the challenges they face. I believe that WLT is an organisation that recognises the fragility of the environment and works to have a positive impact, and reduce any negative impact. This is a cause that will be vital for future generations and will create a legacy far beyond my lifetime.

When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?

When I have free-time I am a keen dog walker – but not quite as keen as my dog! I like to cook and read, and I enjoy sea swimming. I travel a lot, and in 2017 enjoyed some voluntary work with a charity in Cambodia, teaching English. I secret myself away to my French hideaway whenever I can. I have a lot of family in Canada and enjoy following their ice hockey careers. I love the company of children and my three grandchildren are the sunshine in my life. I feel lucky to be able to spend plenty of time with them.