On Wednesday 23rd October in Westminster Hall, a debate titled ‘Co-operatives in education’ took place. The debate was an opportunity for Lab/Co-operative MPs to add further support to the role of co-operation within education. The debate sought not only to focus on co-operative schools but the role our values, principles and governance can play in FE, Early Years provision and curriculum.

The debate, lead by Steve Baker MP, revealed deep support from those present for the work done by the Co-operative College, Society of Co-operative Schools and Co-operatives UK.

Labour/Co-operative Member Meg Munn pressed the Government for support for her recent Ten Minute Rule Bill titled ‘Co-operative Schools Bill’ (could add link to other places on website). She stated that:

‘This revolution in structures and governance is gaining momentum, and we should all be supporting it. That is why I want the Government to take more seriously the proposals that I made back in April this year in my ten-minute rule Bill.’

When responding the Conservative Minister made direct reference to the Bill and gave a commitment to ensure further meetings were arranged for a further detailed discussion to be held. Gavin Shuker MP supported his Co-operative colleague, he believed that:

‘… the best way to harness leadership is not usually to parachute it in from outside but to empower members of the community who, day in and day out, serve young people and families to get on and lead. That goes right to the heart of how the co-operative governance model works.’

The debate further underlined that the experience of co-operation in education and co-operative schools has led to supported from Parliamentarians across the nation and across political dividing lines. This mood was articulated by Gavin Shuker:

‘Despite co-operatives and the co-operative movement having a strong association and history with the Labour party, not least through the 32 Labour and Co-operative MPs in this Parliament, of which I am one, it is praiseworthy that the ideas that power them are not owned by a political party. They are represented by a political party, but they are owned by all of us. It is incumbent on us, in each of our political traditions, to uncover those self-sustaining values for the time we are in now.’

The Labour Party frontbench Shadow Minister, Kevin Brennan MP was able to underline the Labour Party’s commitment to this sector, commenting on one of the calls of the ‘Co-operative Schools Bill’ which relates to the need to amend existing legislation to allow Nurseries to enter Co-operative Trusts, he said:

‘ If the Government were able to look at the issues with nursery schools, that could be a powerful force to promote such all-through co-operative development trusts.’

The Co-operative Party and its elected representatives will continue to press for Co-operative solutions within education and will ensure that the current momentum, borne from success, is not lost.