EDUCATION Secretary Charles Clarke has hinted that the Co-operative Movement may have a role to play in the reform of the country's education system.
Mr Clarke praised the co-operative think tank Mutuo and the Co-operative College for its Co-operation and Learning document, which was launched last week and said it contained "very good ideas" to take the education system forward.
The idea of schools working within a framework of mutual support is the message from the document with actual models currently in development.
At a House of Commons reception Mr Clarke said: "The education sector is now trying to shift from competition to collaboration. It must be right that collaboration is the way the way forward now. This can even be extended to theatres, museums and after-school clubs.
"This pamphlet shows the way forward and I will take these ideas to my department to see how we can use them in a very concrete way."
Some suggestions include schools forming a co-operative trading group to consolidate buying power; and co-operative schools where parents, teachers and other key figures are stakeholders and manage the school.
Said Mr Clarke: "As public services move away from being run purely by Whitehall, it is important to embrace forms of public service delivery which involve those with a direct involvement in delivering the service.
"Co-operative and mutual models are important because they bring together a range of stakeholders who collaborate to deliver services and drive up standards."
He added: "The development of the debate on specialist schools is a clear opportunity for the co-operative and mutual sectors to plug into the government agenda. I know that discussions have taken place about co-operative input to specialist schools ? I welcome that input, and I look forward to the development of those ideas."
Mervyn Wilson, Principal of the Co-op College, told guests: "Think of the impact this could make if schools are working as co-operatives. Teachers, parents and communities will come together to run a community school as a co-operative.
"There will be more and more higher quality services through the co-operative, especially if they embrace values of the Movement and share benefits."
The document was written by Mr Wilson and Mick Taylor, a co-operative consultant. It was commissioned by social enterprise CfTB Research and Development Board and sponsored by Mutuo.
For a copy of the publication e-mail: [email protected].