The Co-operative College has launched its Co-operative Challenge – a programme to help co-operative schools improve, develop and innovate for the benefit of all their pupils.
Trisha Jaffe, a former headteacher of a co-operative academy in London, is part of the team creating and developing the school improvement package. She became involved as she was already a board member of the Schools Co-operative Society and the Co-operative College.
From her work on developing the Co-op College, “what became clear is that co-op schools up and down the country wanted a school improvement approach that could support them in the next phase of their development.”
Typically, schools buy in consultants to help them create these programmes.
“What we were aware of,” says Ms Jaffe, “is that the vast majority of school improvement programmes do not include anything to do with co-operatives. They don’t recognise that as significant and most co-operative schools would see the co-op values and being co-operative as being a significant part of school improvement.”
The programme is based on existing schools programmes, but adapted for the co-operative model. It aims to provide co-op schools with the tools to embed co-op values fully into their ethos. The programme helps to strengthen co-op identity in schools, referencing the experiences of young people, staff, management and parents at co-op schools.
“What we were finding was that some co-op schools were unbelievably good at embedding the co-op values and creating communities where people feel safe and secure, but their outcomes aren’t necessarily where they need to be,” says Ms Jaffe.
“Then there are others where the outcomes are really good but you can’t see much difference in the organisation compared with a non co-operative. [The Co-operative Challenge] is a way of integrating co-op values in classrooms and beyond – alongside the raising of achievement for young people.”
The two programmes (primary and secondary) both have the same starting point: an external assessment of the school’s performance.
The programme for primary schools takes place over three years, focused on improving the quality of teaching and setting up collaborative and co-operative approaches to identify the individual needs of each pupil.
The programme for secondary schools is focused more on a couple of specific areas for improvement, rather than a whole institutional change.
Ms Jaffe explains: “What both programmes do is start off looking at the ethos of the organisations and their values, and to what extent those values are shared by everyone within the organisation.
“It has to be a starting point: Know what you believe in – which for us is the co-operative movement […] Then it’s to what extent does the organisation actually operate in that fashion. What impact does that have on young people and their outcomes? And is that improving?”
What we want is for our co-op schools to be leaders in the education sector
The programmes will be delivered by experienced educators, including former headteachers, and managed by a co-ordinator based at the Co-operative College.
Schools can register their interest now, and the programmes will be rolled out in the autumn. After registering, a co-ordinator will work with the schools to clarify the process and begin the next step.
“I just think it’s absolutely vital,” says Miss Jaffe. “What we want is for our co-op schools to be leaders in the education sector. At the moment our schools are very much in line with schools nationally in terms of OFSTED profiles and their outcomes. We want them to be better than that.”
- To register interest in the programme, visit co-op.ac.uk/co-operativechallenge