EDUCATION Secretary Charles Clarke has welcomed a new partnership between the Co-operative Group and the Specialist Schools Trust, set up to create a network of specialist schools sharing co-operative values.
The Co-operative Group has announced that it is donating £ 350,000 in sponsorship to aspiring specialist schools.
Each participating school will also receive assistance from a bid co-ordinator to help with their application for specialist status and also an extra £ 10,000 per school, each year for two years, on top of the initial sponsorship.
The Secretary of State said: "This year 's GCSE results testify to the fact that specialist status can provide a stimulus to school improvement. I am delighted that the sponsorship announcement will mean that even more schools can become involved in this programme for success.
"Funding for the development of the 14-19 vocational curriculum has the potential to improve the educational opportunities for all children. I welcome the Co-operative Group's commitment to developing new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning."
Co-operative Group Chairman Keith Darwin said: "By supporting schools that are specialising in business and enterprise we will be able to introduce the co-operative way of doing business to the entrepreneurs and managers of the future.
"Co-ops are in business not simply to make a profit but to do something worthwhile with the profits they make and we believe young people will benefit from understanding the advantages of doing business in a democratic, honest and responsible way."
The new partnership arrangement was also welcomed by Elizabeth Reid, Chief Executive of the Specialist Schools Trust.
Said Ms Reid: "This generous decision by the Co-operative Group will make it possible for us to assist more schools in their bid to achieve specialist status.
"It is a groundbreaking partnership, which marks the first time a major mutual society has supported the specialist schools programme on such a scale."
Lists of affiliated schools by Government Office region can be accessed from the Specialist Schools Trust website at www.specialistschoolstrust.org.uk