Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Social enterprise run schools: Read all about it!

This week was back to school for all families with school age children. Just as the children dread it, parents, particularly working parents, can’t wait. But as sports kit is dug out, (how do they grow so quickly?) thoughts turn back to school, the final push to the end of the school year and naturally perhaps, during an election, to the future of our rather patchy school system.

SEL’s recent education conference asked the question, does social enterprise represent a ‘brighter future for schools’? As an event, I thought it demonstrated loud and clear, it does. I hope that recently voiced doubt within Westminster and Broadcasting House about the demand from communities to run their own schools is now felt to be misplaced. With over 120 people in the room, we heard from speaker after speaker about the sheer scale of enthusiasm and activity, not only within the enterprise movement but from wider communities.

I didn’t want to make this issue personal, but readers of this blog will know how I feel about my disastrous local secondary school and my support for the parent run school movement embodied by Paul Mason, from Parent Promoted Foundation, who contributed to the conference. His enthusiastic position was put before the audience together with ideas about worker co-operative schools and ‘free’ schools. Outlined by Mervyn Wilson, CEO of the Co-operative College we heard about the 50 co-op schools already in the UK, and Rachel Wolf of the New Schools Network, name checked on Newsnight, has received interest from over 400 separate community groups, we were told.

If you want to read more, my comment on the conference is in today’s Guardian Public ( So, the next question is ‘where now?’ What strikes you when you look at the main political manifesto’s, is that enthusiasm for social enterprise in schools is there but detail is not. Whoever wins on May 6 should consider this; a dedicated social enterprise unit within the Department for Children, Schools and Families, supporting innovation and development of social enterprise within schools would be a very good thing. We would also advocate a new social enterprise schools forum, featuring representation from DCSF, local education authorities, teaching bodies (including unions), the TDA, Teach First etc. These two developments would represent a great starting point, and, alongside concerted investment, would give our communities the platform needed to effect real change within our schools system.

At any rate that’s what I think. I’d be interested to hear from others who have views on this very big issue.

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