Opinion Former Article

NASUWT and Schools Co-operative Society enter landmark agreement

The NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union, and the Schools Co-operative Society, have today entered into a landmark agreement to help ensure that state schools remain not-for-profit and democratically-accountable to the public and parents.

The agreement highlights co-operative trusts as a democratic alternative for schools to the academy chains and the privatisation and marketisation agenda.

Dave Boston, Chief Executive of the Schools Co-operative Society said:

“Co-operatives and trade unions come from the same background, traditions, shared beliefs and values.

“Our two organisations will work together to ensure that schools serve the best interests of children and young people, parents and carers, the workforce and the wider community.

“Co-operative schools are growing rapidly as more and more schools see co-operation rather than competition as the best way of achieving sustainable schools improvement.”

NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates said:

“This positive agreement represents an alternative to the privatisation agenda that sets school against school and puts parents and pupils at the mercy of the free market.

“It will give schools a safe place from predatory, profit-making private providers.

“This agreement underlines the values and ethos of state education, fairness, social justice, equality and provision for all children which is free at the point of use.

“Collaboration and co-operation is in the best interests of all children and young people.”

Mervyn Wilson, Principal of the Co-operative College, which has led the development of co-operative schools, said:

“This agreement reflects the traditions of the Co-operative Movement over the last 200 years as embodied by Robert Owen and the Owenites who set up the first Co-operative schools.

“It is a landmark agreement and can only help build on successes to date in building a democratic and accountable alternative to the rapid growth of the sponsor academy chains.”

ENDS
Notes to Editors:

The Schools Co-operative Society and the NASUWT have been working to develop today’s agreement over the course of the last year.

This is the first agreement of its kind with a teaching union. Only one other union has entered into a similar formal agreement with the Schools Co-operative Society and that is Unison.

Chris Keates and Dave Boston will be available for interviews on Wednesday.

About the Schools Co-operative Society

The Schools Co-operative Society is the national co-ordinating body for Co-operative Schools and other educational co-operatives. They can be contacted via email on enquiries@co-operativeschools.coop or via their website www.co-operativeschools.coop

Co-operative schools have grown rapidly since Reddish Vale Technology College became the first co-operative trust with the Vale Co-operative Trust established in 2008.

By the start of the new academic year in September there will be over 350 co-operative schools with many more starting the consultation process. Co-operative schools are driven but faith neutral which is another reason why many schools see them as particularly appropriate in our diverse society.

For further information about the Co-operative College go to http://www.co-op.ac.uk/

Case Study - Cornwall

The NASUWT in-house magazine, Teaching Today, recently looked at Cornwall, where a group of schools rejected the academies programme and began to seek an alternative that would protect school staff and the values and ethos of state education.
Three heads spoke about how being part of a Co-operative Trust offered a way to remain in partnership with the local authority while gaining the benefits and flexibility of shared budgets and staffing with neighbouring schools.
The following headteachers featured in the article.

Jon Lawrence, headteacher at Sir James Smiths School, Camelford, was the first headteacher in Cornwall to look at the Co-operative model. He worked in collaboration with the NASUWT to draw up plans for the Trust, which ensured that national pay and conditions entitlements were retained and trade unions were recognised for bargaining and negotiation.
He said: “Making all schools academies doesn’t create diversity and promote choice – it is fundamentally anti-local and undemocratic, placing the control of education into the hands of fewer and fewer people. The Co-operative Trust model has provided a lifeline, a genuinely sustainable alternative enabling local people to work together to help the drive for improved standards and, for some small rural schools, survival.”

Dr Pat McGovern, headteacher of Helston Community College said: “Education is a public service and a means of offering social justice for all. How dare anybody give our schools away to a small group of unelected self-appointed individuals?
“Schools that become academies become independent, work on the principles of the marketplace and, as a consequence, have the potential to create fragmentation of a national system.
“The Co-operative Trust is firmly founded on principles of co-operation, social justice, solidarity, fairness and partnership. It is about mutualisation, not privatisation, and groups of schools working strategically together towards a shared vision for educational advancement with the involvement of the wider community.”

Mark Clutsom, headteacher of Upton Cross Primary School, a small rural school with less than 70 pupils, which serves a scattered farming area on Bodmin Moor, came to the conclusion that establishing a Trust was the only logical way of offering the wider curriculum experience that only larger primaries could afford.
He said: “The support of the NASUWT is testament to the way that the Co-operative Trusts’ ethos underpins all that is good within our system. A Co-operative Trust doesn’t alter the terms and conditions under which the staff collaborate, rather it strengthens and formalises the good and excellent work that has been happening across Cornwall.”
The full article is available on request from the NASUWT.

Text of agreement here
 

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