The Co-operative Party has been working with the Co-operative College. College Principal Mervyn Wilson has written for the Co-operative News outlining the growth of co-op schools to over 450 schools across England. As Mervyn outlines, “this represents a co-operative response to the break-up of the education system, seen by many as a stage in its privatisation. The attraction of the co-operative model is that it enables schools and governing bodies to safeguard their values and community links. Most trusts comprise groups of schools working together with key stakeholders for the benefit of their local communities. Often, such shared trusts provide a legal framework for existing collaborative partnerships.”
The Bill will call for schools to be able to register themselves as Industrial & Provident Societies and for an amendment to the Education Act 2006 to ensure that nursery schools are able to establish school Trusts. Schools currently have to work around existing legislation as no provision is made in the relevant acts for Industrial & Provident Societies. Nursery schools are currently excluded from becoming parts of Trusts, and the Bill proposes that enabling nursery schools to become full members of Trusts, or academies, would help provide a vehicle for parental and family engagement in Early Years education.
Pat McGovern, head teacher at Helston Community College and one of the key drivers of the 18-strong Helston and Lizard Peninsula Education Partnership Trust, said:
“There is a strong sense of community in Cornwall, and it is natural for us to think of how we do things ourselves through shared action.
“The last thing the people of Cornwall want to see is a big education chain coming in to run school services and take money out of the area. That money is best kept serving the local economy and local community. Our co-operative is about a mutual solution to local needs.”
Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg MP said:
“Co-operative schools play an important part in our education system, we in the Labour Party want to see their continued development. The continued expansion and use of Co-operative values and models in education is something that we are studying within our policy review. This Bill gives further examples of practical measures we could take forward this important area of policy.”
The briefing note concludes by stating: “Let’s look at how the experience of co-operative schools can be shared with other parts of the education system – from Sure Start and early years to FE and HE institutions, based on not just conviction but growing evidence that co-operation and mutual working can secure sustainable improvement alongside strong accountability to the communities served.”