WHAT ARE CO-OPERATIVE SCHOOLS?
There are currently two formal ways that schools can embed a co-operative ethos into their schools: by setting up a co-operative foundation trust or through the creation of co-operative Multi Academy Trusts.
WHAT ARE CO-OPERATIVE TRUST SCHOOLS?
Trust schools are maintained schools supported by a charitable foundation (popularly known as a trust) which appoints some of the governors. The trust involves one or more partners and can help schools build long term, sustainable relationships with partners and, using their experience and expertise, strengthen leadership and governance to help raise standards.
The Government has indicated that there are no plans to close off the option for community and foundation schools to convert to trust schools, where they would remain within the LA maintained sector.
HOW IS A CO-OPERATIVE TRUST SCHOOL DIFFERENT?
The co-operative trust model embeds co-operative values and principles into schools. These include open membership, equal democratic participation (one member, one vote) and a clear line of accountability from those who manage the schools to those that use the school and its extended services. Importantly this offers schools the opportunity to involve the wider community in the running of the school, including local people, businesses, voluntary groups, charities, parents, pupils and staff through membership of a ‘Council’ or ‘Forum’. The ‘Council’ appoints trustees to the trust which, in turn, appoints governors to the governing body of the school. The Council plays a pivotal role in delivering the trust’s objectives in accordance with the core co-operative values.
ONCE A TRUST IS SET UP, WHO IS FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE?
The trust is managed by the Board of Trustees, which is financially responsible for the trust. The school remains funded in the same way as previously and the finances are managed by the Governing Body.
A trust school is a Local Authority maintained school and will continue to be financed in the same way as other maintained schools.
WHO ARE THE MEMBERS?
There are different categories of membership; parent, staff (anyone who works for the school, from caretakers to teachers), learners and community members (aimed at small community groups who don’t carry enough weight to be a full blown partner in the Trust but still have an interest in the school). Some schools also have the option for individuals from the local community, and former students, to become members.
The members of a co-operative trust elect a stakeholder forum. Members of the forum have a direct say in the trust, electing a number of Trustees (usually a minority).
Governance mechanisms ensure key stakeholders – parents/carers, staff, learners and the local community – have a voice through membership.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY A ‘CO-OPERATIVE ETHOS’ IN SCHOOLS?
We work with co-operative schools to look at how the globally shared co-operative values and ethos can have a real impact on the running of the school, its curriculum, teaching and learning practices, staff development and engagement with its local community.
HOW CAN CO-OPERATIVE VALUES HELP SCHOOLS IMPROVE STANDARDS?
Co-operative values can help schools raise standards in a variety of ways including through developing partnerships, helping to engage the local community in the strategic direction of schools and strengthening the curriculum. They can also help students gain a better understanding of their role as learners and citizens and how they can help build a fairer society.
WHAT IS A TRUST PARTNER?
The charitable Trust is formed with a number of partners, who become part of the trust. These often include a local college, HE establishment or university, a prominent local business, national organisations, the NHS at a local level, sporting organisations, voluntary or community organisations and other organisations with a general concern about the education and welfare of young people. Most include a partner from the wider co-operative movement. Sustainable relationships with external partners can bring renewed drive and expertise to the school and help improve standards. Some representatives from the partners sit on the trust board.
WILL THE TRUST PARTNERS MAKE A PROFIT OUT OF THE SCHOOL?
No. The school budget will continue to go directly to the governing body, not to the trust. Trusts must be constituted as not-for-profit charities – any income must be used to support their charitable aims, which must focus on the advancement of education and community cohesion.
DO PARENTS HAVE A SAY ABOUT TRUST SCHOOLS?
Yes. Parents will be consulted about the proposed trust and will be able to express their views.
WILL THE GOVERNING BODY AND HEADTEACHER HAVE LESS CONTROL IN RUNNING THE SCHOOL?
There will be no reduction in the role and responsibilities of the governing body of trust schools. The governing body of a trust school (which retains parents, staff, community and local authority governors) remains responsible for all major decisions about the school and its future as well as all aspects of the conduct of the school (including the school’s budget and staff) and so responsibilities and accountabilities remain clear. The trust holds the land and capital assets on trust for the Governing Body of the school.
Head teachers will retain their responsibility for the day-to-day running of their schools.
LAND AND ASSETS
CAN THE SCHOOL’S LAND AND ASSETS BE SOLD IF THE SCHOOL BECOMES A TRUST?
The land and assets are held in trust and cannot be sold without permission of the local authority and/or the Secretary of State. If the land and assets are sold the proceeds can only be used for the purposes of the trust – ie to promote education and for no other purpose.
FORMALISING EXISTING PARTNERSHIPS-WHAT IS A CLUSTER?
Many schools work closely together already, but without a formal structure. A trust is a way of formalising the relationship. Working together has the potential to be very powerful and trusts often bring together one or more high schools with their partner primaries. One benefit is that resources can be used a lot more efficiently – a partnership of schools has increased purchasing power, for example.
SCHOOLS CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY
WHAT IS THE SCHOOLS CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY?
The Schools Co-operative Society is an independent body that is a secondary co-operative run and owned by the co-operative schools. The Schools Co-operative Society has practical and administrative benefits, such as procurement of services and school improvement support but it also acts as a voice for the group of schools. To find out more about the Schools Co-operative Society visit their website www.co-operativeschools.coop
ACADEMIES AND FREE SCHOOLS
HOW DOES THE CO-OPERATIVE MODEL WORK IN ACADEMIES AND FREE SCHOOLS?
The co-operative model for academies has a clear co-operative governance methodology that gives key stakeholders a central voice and role in ownership of the school.
The Articles which set out the governance arrangements for the Academy embed an ethos of co-operation linked to the ICA Statement on the Co-operative Identity. They commitment the Academy to putting co-operation into practice through the curriculum and pedagogy of the school.
WHO CAN BECOME A CO-OPERATIVE ACADEMY?
The DfE is encouraging all schools to consider forming or joining Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). Groups of schools which include a high proportion of good or outstanding schools, especially those which already work together through a co-operative Trust, can consider forming a MAT using the co-operative Articles of Association.
All groups of schools wishing to form a MAT require the approval of the Regional Schools Commissioner and the Co-operative College is happy to advise on the best course of action for schools interested in exploring this as a future option.
Some Academy sponsor organisations already oversee several academies in a geographical group, or in chains across the country. Chains are seen as a means for schools to improve more rapidly – by providing a common approach to professional development, sharing good practice, and providing shared ‘back-office’ support.
The Schools Co-operative Society is a government approved academy sponsor, and is currently sponsoring two schools.
Free schools can be set up under the Academies Act 2010 in both primary and secondary phases. These are Academy schools that are entirely new institutions established in response to parental demand or where there is a need for additional school places and a wide range of proposers can set them up. To all intents and purposes Free Schools are simply a different type of Academy, as their legal structures are the same.
Like all academies they will have:
- The ability to set their own pay and conditions for staff.
- Greater control of their budget paid as direct grant.
- No requirement to follow the National Curriculum.
- The ability to change the length of terms and school days.
WHO CAN SET UP FREE SCHOOLS?
There must be evidence of parental demand such as a petition or declaration from interested parents. Proposers might include: charities, existing Multi Academy Trusts or Academy chains, universities, independent schools, community and faith groups, teachers, parents, businesses. They might also include parents and community groups affected by school closures or other organisational changes, looking for alternatives to improve provision.
A group of willing but insufficiently experienced parents lacking the expertise to develop proposals and take them forward could commission the running of their proposed Free School through an external service provider. This could include an existing Academy sponsor or a commercial education sector operator.
Some established co-operative Trust schools or Academies might also wish to set up satellite provision to meet particular pedagogical needs – e.g. to develop specific provision for excluded groups such as provision for NEETs (not in employment education or training) and PRUs – pupil referral units – generally for pupils excluded from main stream schools.