Page last updated at 12:20 GMT, Thursday, 11 September 2008 13:20 UK

More school co-operatives urged

Ed Balls
The minister says the co-operative model can increase parent power

Parents, teachers and community groups in England are being urged to take over the running of their local schools.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls wants to see 100 schools taken over by co-operative trusts, primarily formed of parents, teachers and other staff.

These trusts would have a say over how money is invested, which governors are appointed and how the schools are run.

Mr Balls said this was about putting power in the hands of those directly engaged with local schools.

'Power to people'

"As the first co-operative trust is now successfully up and running, I want to see this model rolled out across the country, cultivating co-operative schools and the democratic, innovative opportunity they represent.

"This is about enabling any schools, or new Trust partners, interested in this unique model of governance, to try this out," he told the Co-operative Party conference in London.

Under a workers' co-operative, the assets of a business or service are usually owned, managed and governed by the workers, who are members of the co-operative.

In this co-operative trust school model, their power is far more limited.

The trust has a say over how the school is run in terms of behaviour and uniform policies, for example.

It also influences which governors were appointed. But the school itself remains under local authority control and ownership.

In March, Reddish Vale technology college, near Stockport, became the first co-operative trust school.

Five other secondary schools have announced they intend to become co-operative trusts.

New funds

Andrew Marvell College is due to open in Hull later this year.

But Mr Balls wants to see 100 schools re-opening as co-operative trusts within the next two years.

Schools that join the trust schools programme already get 10,000 from the government to support set-up costs.

Under a new 500,000 package, those that adopt co-operative governance models will be able to recoup a further 5,000 to help make the transition.

Schools Minister Andrew Adonis said it showed the government's continued support of the co-operative model which empowers local communities to have direct control over education in their area.

"Trust schools in Stockport and Hull are moving forward and the Co-Operative Academy in Manchester will work with the community and other local academies to transform educational standards in the area.

"I urge other schools to look to this style of governance to put power in the hands of the people they serve."

The Co-operative Party said it believed the co-operative governance model could give parents the power to choose how their school is run and that the model could be used in other areas of the public services.

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