AMBITIOUS proposals affecting the education of more than 2,500 pupils came to light this week as nine west Cornwall schools went into consultation to form what would be Britain’s second largest co-operative trust.
Cape Cornwall, Humphry Davy, Gulval, Pendeen, St Just, Marazion, St Levan, Alverton and Mousehole are hoping to join the Penwith Education Trust (PET), which was originally formed in April this year with just four schools: Pensans, Newlyn, Heamoor and Nancealverne.
The move would see the schools sharing resources, from the procurement of services to administrative staff or teachers.
The 13 schools would continue to have links with the local authority but would gain control of land rights under the Co-operative banner.
Pupils, staff and parents could also become trust members to have their say on how the school is run.
Cape Cornwall head teacher Julie Nash said the consultation process would continue until October 31, during which time there was scope for more schools to join the trust.
“We’re very excited,” she said. “Young people’s learning has always benefited the most with a ‘by schools, for schools’ approach, sharing good practice and resources to genuinely work collaboratively. We know by strengthening the current relationships we can formalise the resources we share and make efficiencies where we can focus these savings on the young people in our schools: their learning and outcomes.”
Ian Fellows, head teacher at Gulval School, said: “The whole school is excited by the proposition of joining the co-operative.
“Pupils will gain better understanding of community cohesion and the values of the Co-operative movement are held in the highest regard both locally and internationally.”
Maureen Nicholls, from Pendeen School, said: “We’re constantly seeking ways to further develop and improve our provision. By working collaboratively we can share best practice and innovate.”
Nationally, more than 100 schools have now become members of co-operative trusts.
If it reaches its potential, the PET would be one of the largest such trusts in the country, slightly smaller than the Helston and Lizard Peninsula Education Trust.
Breage Church of England Primary School is a partner in the 16-strong co-operative, which formed earlier this year amid fears that smaller schools could disappear under new government funding plans.
Head teacher Andrew Orme said joining the trust had provided his school with greater protection.
“We’ve been looking into sharing all sorts of services,” he said. “I think for a small school it offers that little bit of protection.”
If accepted, the governing bodies of the nine joining schools would change status from a community school to a foundation school and gain charitable status by joining the already formed PET.
Martin Higgs, head teacher of Pensans School, which is in the existing PET, said that each school retained its autonomy.
“It’s important to note that we aren’t forming a super- school,” he said. “It’s about making sure our schools are stronger by working collectively. It’s more about a shared vision.”
Sean Rogers from the Co-operative College, the Co-operative’s educational trust arm, said Cornwall was leading the way in forming co-operatives.
“I think it’s about the Cornish people understanding the ideals of mutualism and working together for a common benefit,” he said. “I think there’s a strong tradition of co-operation going right back to farming and fishing.”
Neil Burden, Cornwall Council’s portfolio-holder for children’s services, said the county now had 80 schools forming trusts.
A series of meetings will take place for parents, staff, learners and the public during the consultation period.
Cornishman comment: Page 24.
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