The Co-operative College is an education charity founded in 1918. Today the College works with co-operatives throughout the world, and its programmes are helping individuals and groups develop the skills and understanding needed to put co-operative values and principles into effective practice. It works with a wide range of universities, government departments and non-governmental organisations, as well as with the rapidly growing network of co-operative schools. It also manages the Co-operative Heritage Trust, custodian of the National Co-operative Archive and the Rochdale Pioneers Museum.
Commitment to education was one of the founding principles of the Rochdale Pioneers and is reflected in the College mission:
“Putting education at the heart of co-operation and co-operation at the heart of education”
It is also reflected in its growing work with schools and young people that follow the traditions of Robert Owen and his idea, radical at the time, that young people should be at school learning to be good citizens rather than providing cheap labour in the mills and factories.
Following the adoption of the 2006 Education & Inspections Act the College helped the development of a co-operative model for trust schools. The essential characteristics are an ethos based on the globally shared co-operative values and mechanisms to engage key stakeholder groups – parents/carers, staff, learners and the local community through membership and a Members Forum. Today there are over 600 schools using the co-operative trust model, together with over 30 converter academies, and a national network, the Schools Co-operative Society.
All this activity is underpinned by the globally shared co-operative values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity together with the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. These values, together with a set of seven principles follow the practices of the Rochdale Pioneers – generally regarded as the founders of the co-operative movement.
Today, with the education system subject to profound structural change, more and more schools are seeing working through collaboration and co-operation, and the involvement of local communities rather than competition as the means of securing sustainable improvement. The Co-operative College will continue to support schools and others within the education system that see the mutual advantages of co-operation.
At the heart of the co-operative values lies a commitment to social justice and a fairer society. The work of the Index for Inclusion provides mechanisms that help schools monitor and work towards genuine inclusiveness and put those values into everyday practice.