Co-operative Education and Schools: an old idea for new times?

Keri Facer, Julie Thorpe, Linda Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
373 Downloads (Pure)


There is a growing Co-operative Education sector in England with in the region of 300 schools now describing themselves as Co-operative Schools. The growth of this sector is subject to significant debate – is it a countervailing movement for local democracy or is it simply another chain of schools that will hasten the marketisation of education? This article draws on the relatively limited extant literature on the history of co-operative education since the 1850s to understand the key traditions of ‘Co-operative Education’. Then, drawing upon an analysis of Co-operative Schools’ websites and meetings, upon interviews with Co-operative College officers, and upon visits and interviews with teachers in two Co-operative Schools, it explores how these traditions are being taken up or resisted in Co-operative Schools in England. The article argues that there is a risk that the autonomy that is at the heart of the Co-operative movement may lay the growing Co-operative Schools sector open to co-option within existing neo-liberal education agendas. The article argues that an important bulwark against this would be for the Co-operative movement to focus its energies in particular on the development of a movement of Co-operative educators, the teachers, parents, students and governors who, through what Woodin calls a ‘learnt associational identity’, can resist the reduction of education to a marketised private good. This analysis has implications not only within the context of England, but more widely in the international struggle to develop new models of democratic accountability for education in an increasingly marketised environment, and for the potential role of the international co-operative movement within that global struggle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-341
Number of pages14
JournalPower and Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


  • Co-operative
  • Education
  • History
  • Policy


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