The Origin of the Robert Owen Group and the Development of our School Centred Approach to Initial Teacher Education

History: The Robert Owen Group essentially grew out of a Vocational Preparation Consortium of Herefordshire schools and colleges formed in academic year 1981-1982 and this in turn formed...

History: The Robert Owen Group essentially grew out of a Vocational Preparation Consortium of Herefordshire schools and colleges formed in academic year 1981-1982 and this in turn formed one of the fourteen national pilot centres for TVEI (Technical & Vocational Education Initiative) in September 1983 through to July 1988. After a year’s period of TVEI Related In Service Training (TRIST) the Hereford & Worcester TVEI Pilot Project in turn became part of the Hereford & Worcester TVEI Extension Project in 1989 and this ran through to July 1995. In academic year 1991-1992 Hereford and Worcester County Council in partnership with Hereford & Worcester Training & Enterprise Council and the Department of Employment offered the Herefordshire high schools and colleges the opportunity to take up Coopers & Lybrand consultancy on future consortium working. This led to the setting up of the Marches Consortium 1n 1992 as a co-operative organisation of Herefordshire high schools, colleges and statutory bodies within an Industrial & Provident Society structure. Over time other co-operatives were added leading to the creation of the Robert Owen Group as the umbrella organisation for the co-operative family.
What we believe is special about us:  We have had a thirty year history and culture of helping schools and colleges to work together within a co-operative membership structure. As a member based family, member engagement is at the heart of all we do. It was the inspiration and drive of our members that started us on the path of becoming an accredited teacher training provider in December 1997. Our members own us and they engage with us through a number of routes:
ü  Our Annual General Meetings & governance structure
ü  Our Members’ Council
ü  Our Co-operative Learning Hubs
ü  Our quality systems
ü  Our partnership arrangements
ü  Direct communications such as Keynotes
ü  Our conference and seminar programmes
We have established that the Values & Principles of the International Co-operative Alliance go to the very heart of all that we do through our networks of Co-operative Schools. These can be summarised as:
Co-operative Values: Self-help; self-responsibility; democracy; equality; equity & solidarity
Ethical Values: Honesty; openness; social responsibility; caring for others
Co-operative Principles: Voluntary & open membership; democratic member control; member economic participation; autonomy & independence; education, training & information; co-operation amongst co-operatives; concern for community.
Why School Centred Initial Teacher Education: When the SCITT Programme was launched by the TDA in the 1990’s it was only natural that our members would look towards Gloucester City and the innovative Gloucester Initial Teacher Education Partnership (GITEP) which was running in partnership with the then Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education. The Marches Consortium SCITT was launched with its first cohort of twenty five secondary trainees in September 1998 in partnership with the same college of higher education and with close developmental links to GITEP. Over time the West Mercia Consortium was added as an Early Years provider and the Robert Owen Consortium was developed as a provider of Employment Based Routes into ITE. Initially the TDA insisted that all three consortia be kept as separate legal entities but later the TDA requested that they be brought together by September 2010 as one integrated ITE Scheme. This integration process is now complete.  
The hands on, school based and school owned ITE sits comfortably with the Group’s Vision for schools and communities. Co-operative learning and the sharing of experience held together by a common bond of trust and loyalty go to the very core of our ITE provision.
Our core beliefs for ITE summarised:
Ø  Co-operation
Ø  Loyalty
Ø  Altruism
Ø  Reciprocity
Ø  Solidarity
Ø  Trust
If anyone has any memories to contribute to the development of the History of the Robert Owen Group please contact Lesley Keay at [email protected] or by telephone on 01568 615510
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