People have different views about how the International Co-operative Movement started. Whichever view you take, the establishment of the society by the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844 was a significant moment. Although they established a shop in the town, many would argue that their aim was much greater - they wanted to change the world! Given that co-operatives now have a significant influence on the lives of many people it could be argued that they achieved just what they set out to do!
“Co-operative enterprises provide the organisational means whereby a significant proportion of humanity is able to take into its own hands the task of creating productive employment, overcoming poverty and achieving social integration”
Kofi Anan, speaking as Secretary General, The United Nations
From the very early days, good education was seen as central to the development of the co-operative ideal. In the UK there were a number of early attempts to establish Co-operative Schools but they have only really started to appear in the last few years. In contrast Co-operative Schools have been in existence in other countries for many years. In Spain, for example, the co-operative school sector provides a viable alternative to the state and private sectors
By the mid 1900s very few schools in the UK were directly using Co-operative Values and Principles. In 2004 a pioneering project
by the Co-operative Group and Co-operative College established eight Co-operative Business and Enterprise Specialist Colleges. This network was soon expanded to over a dozen schools.
The network developed curriculum materials and worked together to develop their schools. By 2007 a number of these schools along with the Co-operative College started to look at ways they could develop the Co-operative School ideal into governance.
A significant step forward was made when the Co-operative College devised a Co-operative Model for trusts, leading to the first Co-operative Trust school being opened at Reddish Vale at Stockport in 2008.
The educational co-operative sector has now developed into a significant force with over 200 Co-operative Schools that vary from those that have adopted Co-operative Values and Principles, like the original Co-op B & E schools, to Co-operative Trusts and Co-operative Academies.
A small group of these schools met in 2009 to consider how to co-ordinate this growing new sector. They established what is now the Schools Co-operative Society to co-ordinate this new sector of educational co-operatives.
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