Co-operative multi-school Trust: a model for specialist schools
All ten special educational needs schools in Devon have teamed up to create the first co-operative multi-school Trust, the SENtient Trust, composed entirely of special schools. The Trust model is attractive to specialist schools as it can help strengthen their provision by enabling groups of schools to access specialist resources, provide a student-centred education for all learners and give increased voice to students, both in school and the community.
At a time when the role and function of local authorities is being greatly and rapidly reduced, the Devon schools believe that Trust status will enable them to establish strong, long-term partnerships with key partners who can help increase resources and opportunities for staff and pupils. As well as partnering with the co-operative movement, the SENtient Trust is working with local children’s home Atkinson School, pupil referral units in central, south and north Devon and Devon Hospitals Short-Stay School.
Representatives from the schools say that adopting Trust status formalises existing collaboration and working partnerships between the schools: “Our schools have long worked together and with mainstream partner schools for mutual benefit. Headteachers and teachers from our schools regularly meet together to share ideas and to receive training and, where possible, learners from our schools take part in activities organised by the schools working together. These approaches have helped our schools to improve by sharing best practice. Working together has also helped us to develop a common set of aims and values.”
Furthermore, adopting the co-operative Trust membership structure, where members are drawn from key stakeholders in the school, is enabling the families of students to become directly involved in learners’ education, and is encouraging students to play an active part in the life of their local community.
The Tame Valley Co-operative Learning Trust
Six primary schools in Staffordshire have teamed up with the Tamworth Co-operative Society to form the Tame Valley Co-operative Learning Trust, believing that they can achieve more by working together than as individual schools.
They schools have clearly identified the benefits of the co-operative model: “The values of the co-operative movement resonate with us and reflect our commitment to self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, solidarity, honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. We believe in the co-operative approach to engaging stakeholders and working together for the mutual benefit of our community. The co-operative schools model is also aligned with the Self-Improving Schools System vision of a national and local government.
“We have chosen to become a co-operative Trust because these are the values and principles which we feel should underpin our work – with each other and with our young people.”
Through the Trust, the schools believe they can improve the quality and consistency of teaching and raise aspirations among students, parents and staff, harnessing resources efficiently in the interests of learning and creating the right conditions for enjoyable, effective learning. This includes fostering creativity and innovation in young people through an exciting and challenging curriculum and creating a sense of local pride amongst learners. The schools expect this to have knock-on effects on behaviour and attendance.