Co-operative schools are a very recent phenomenon in the UK, the first having been founded in 2008. They are made possible by the government’s policy of permitting schools to opt out of direct control by their local education authority control with ‘trust’ or ‘academy’ status. Their model of involving the three stakeholder groups – staff, parents and the community – has proved very popular, and their number has now reached around 700. They are promoted and advised by the Co-operative Schools Society, established in 2011.
In December 2013 a National Agreement between six TUC-affiliated education unions (ATL, GMB, NASUWT, NUT, UNISON and Unite) and the co-operative movement was signed. These unions have opposed the government’s policy of weakening the local authority role in education and undermining national terms and conditions for school staff. The agreement underlines the shared values of trade unions and co-operatives. Its preamble states: “We believe that equality, solidarity, democracy and social responsibility are the principles that should underpin our education system and that schools should serve the best interests of children and young people, parents and carers, the workforce and the wider community.”
The agreement also highlights that both sides recognise the shared history and values of the trade union and co-operative movements and their joint commitment to empowering workers and communities, enhancing workplace democracy and supporting alternative models of economic development. In addition there is a strong common interest in working together to promote good employment and governance practices in schools and in ensuring that education and schools remain democratically-controlled and accountable for the public good.
Source: Final report of MESMER project: http://www.mesmerproject.eu/products/