THE Co-operative Group has announced the eight English schools that will bid to become the country's first co-operative-sponsored specialist schools.
It's part of the biggest-ever move to promote co-operative values and principles as a way of doing business as well as bringing schools and communities closer together to work in partnership.
Encouraged by Education and Skills Secretary Charles Clarke, this is being seen as the beginning of what it is hoped will become a national network of specialist business and enterprise schools focusing on the values of co-operative enterprise.
The groundbreaking schools, which could each stand to attract £ 500,000 funding over the next four years, are: Castle Manor Upper School, Haverhill, Suffolk; Andrew Marvell School, Hull, Humberside; St Benet Biscop Catholic High School, Wansbeck, Northumberland; Forest Gate Community School, London; Fulston Manor School, Sittingbourne, Kent; Cullompton Community College, Cullompton, Devon; Sir Thomas Boughey High School, Newcastle Under Lyme, Staffordshire and Epinay Special School, Jarrow, Tyne and Wear.
If their applications to the DfES for specialist school status are successful each one will receive up to £ 50,000 from a Co-operative Group fund. They will then become eligible for £ 100,000 match-funding by the DfES followed by an additional grant of £ 126 per pupil for the first four years.
Keith Darwin, Chair of the Co-operative Group, said: "By doing this we can for the first time introduce specialist schools to the co-operative way of doing business.
"Co-ops are in business not simply to make money 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 ethical way.
"Today's students are the next generation of entrepreneurs and managers. Introducing them, now, to the benefits of co-operation will help us build strong foundations for the future.
"Support for their education is fundamental to co-operative ideals. Our founders recognised that solutions to social problems were not found in economics alone. Education and development were vital to their early vision."
The eight schools were selected with the assistance of the Specialist Schools Trust and the regional boards of the Co-operative Group. The schools will have to demonstrate opportunities for business careers, active citizenship and community involvement.
The proposal for a network of co-operative-sponsored schools came from the sector's think-tank Mutuo and the Co-operative College, following involvement from Education Secretary Charles Clarke in the launch of the paper Co-operation and Learning? in the House of Commons last year.
Mr Clarke commented: "I applaud the Co-operative Group's commitment to equipping young people with the broad range of entrepreneurial skills that will enable them to play a full and productive role in the economic well being of our country.
"The co-operative sector has an excellent track record of combining enterprise with social responsibility and these are values that we need to emphasise throughout our education system."
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