Creating a level playing field for co-operative education

The Co-operative Party's work on the Deregulation bill is crucial in ensuring that this growing area of the movement has the chance to flourish

Mervyn Wilson


The Co-operative Party is currently pursuing clauses to the Deregulation Bill to support the continued development of co-operative schools by addressing issues that have arisen following the implementation of the 2006 Education and Inspections Act.

The first clause would enable schools to register under the provisions of the recent Co-operatives and Community Benefit Societies Act, rather than having to register under the Companies Acts as a company limited by guarantee. Industrial and Provident Society legislation, now consolidated in the 2014 Act, was specifically designed to provide a legal form for Co-operatives in other forms of membership based associations in the 19th century.

The global debates that followed the adoption of the Statement on the Co-operative Identity by the International Co-operative Alliance in 1995 – which was subsequently recognised by the United Nations and underpins  ILO recommendation 193 on the Promotion of Co-operatives, called for a level playing field to be established by Government in support the promotion of Co-operatives.

With all parties in Parliament committed  the development of new co-operatives – particularly in public sector reform, there is no justification from preventing them from using the legal firm designed for them.

The second clause being proposed would enable nursery schools to become part of co-operative trust. The 2006 act specifically excluded nursery schools. Most of the co-operative trusts that have developed since are based in geographically clusters of schools with an all through vision of education. Parents, carers and other stakeholders can be engaged through the trust as their children progress through the education system.

Enabling nursery schools to become full members of trusts will strengthen this, as at present they are not permitted to become part of trusts. Elsewhere we expect groups of nursery schools to come together in single trust – enabling them to secure cost savings and other economic benefits by working together as they address growing financial challenges.

We know there is a demand – many nursery schools have expressed a desire to become either a part of existing trusts or to form cluster trusts. Co-operative Schools are probably the greatest success arising from the 2006 Education and Inspections Act. The amendments would enable maintain that remarkable growth by providing moving towards that level playing field.