23 SES 05 A JS, Democracy and Education in Performative Regimes
Paper Session Joint Session NW 23 with NW 13
Over the last few years there has been an extraordinary expansion in England in the number of schools which have decided to become affiliated to the co-operative movement and become members of the Schools Co-operative Society. These have included both primary and secondary schools and some early years institutions and ‘special’ schools. Keeping pace with this growth is difficult, so too is analysing its significance. For example, the first Co-operative Trust school was established in 2008 and yet by September 2013 there were 629 schools associated with the Schools Co-operative Society, in May 2014 there were 755 and in October 2014 there were 813. Of the 813 Co-operative schools in October 2014, 49 of these are academies (in September 2011 there were just eight). Predominantly these movements have occurred during the post-2010 formation of the Conservative led political coalition which has explicitly been pursuing a policy of restructuring the landscape of English educational provision. This policy in itself must be located within the overall neo-liberal ‘reform’ of state provision which both predates the 2010 Election and whose boundaries are by no means defined by the national boundaries of England/UK. Hence it will be necessary to attempt to provide a socio-political contextualisation for this moment of ‘co-operation’ including the current bewildering configuration of school types in England.
Although there has been some discussion about this flow of affiliations there has been little in the way of detailed analysis. One purpose of this paper will be to chart the demography and distribution of Co-operative schools. Based on existing data it will identify their geographical distribution, the particular loadings in terms of primary and secondary institutions, the school populations they serve, and whether any correlation exists between the political complexions of the local areas within which these schools are located and their decision to follow the co-operative route.
The paper will also explore the motivations and expectations which have underpinned this impulse to affiliate with the Schools Co-operative Society rather than with other forms of trusts and academies. Woodin (2012) has suggested that these motivations range ‘from a core group which has used co-operation to improve education and participation, to one that is more loosely associated with the concept, perhaps seeing co-operation as means to defend existing ways of working.’ Our initial interviews and involvement with Co-operative schools have underlined that schools have embarked on this movement to co-operative status with a range of diverse motivations, ranging from the pragmatic to the inspirational. It has also become clear that not all populations have identical and/or coherent images of what co-operative schooling might mean. This has become particularly evident in relation to the values which are assumed to underpin Co-operative schools and the translation of these into educational practice. These are issues we wish to explore more fully in this paper.
Given the inevitable change in legal status which accompanies Academy/Trust status for schools we are interested in what a co-operative identity has to offer to schools? What kind of protection and solidarity is offered by such a change in governance and does this constitute a positive turn for socially just schooling in an otherwise regressive moment in educational policy?
Granted the strong and overt international emphasis which the Co-operative College and the International Co-operative Alliance espouse, ECER provides a particularly apposite forum within which to consider such issues. The paper will provide a general background to the global educational perspective and provision which the Co-operative College brings to its work and will welcome contributions of ECER participants to that perspective and the progressive role it might play in an era of global transformation.
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