THE Department for Education and Skills has announced that specialist status has been awarded to five Co-op-sponsored schools around the country.
The schools ? Andrew Marvell School, Hull; Forest Gate Community School, London; Cullompton Community College, Devon; the Sir Thomas Boughey High School, Newcastle Under Lyme and Epinay Special School, Jarrow, Tyne and Wear ? will become part of the the biggest-ever move to teach co-operation and social enterprise in schools as an ethical way of doing business.
The ground-breaking schools are sponsored by the Co-operative Group, together with a £ 289,000 grant from Co-operative Action for the development of curriculum materials.
Business and Enterprise schools teach subjects that provide a grounding in business management ? including the theory and practice of leadership, entrepreneurship, financial and budget management, accountancy, personnel, planning and marketing ? as well as delivering national curriculum requirements.
Now, for the first time, the curricula at these five schools will also formally include lessons on the co-operative business alternative and the difference offered by the co-operative, mutual and social enterprise sector.
And, for practical work, they will develop close links with local co-operative businesses which will not only demonstrate opportunities for business careers but for active citizenship and community involvement.
"It will be a more balanced curriculum," says Stephen Youd-Thomas, the Co-operative Group's head of Co-operative Strategy, "because it will not be centred on the purely competitive nature of commercial retailing."
Mervyn Wilson, Chief Executive and Principal of the Co-operative College, said: "The college is looking forward to working with the schools in developing new innovative curriculum approaches that can be widely shared.
"With the Government committed to expanding the specialist school sector, I hope that other societies will follow the example of the group in becoming sponsors ? so that the five whose success we are celebrating are the pioneers of a growing network ? a network that can inspire young people about the relevance of co-operatives and co-operative values today."
The proposal to build a network of co-operative-sponsored specialist business and enterprise schools came from the think-tank Mutuo and the Co-operative College, following Charles Clarke's involvement in the launch of the paper ?Co-operation and Learning' in the House of Commons.
"The Co-operative sector," says the Education and Skills Secretary, "has an excellent track record of combining enterprise with social responsibility and these are values that we need to emphasise throughout our education system."