A cooperative journey 2010-20

My personal cooperative journey has been a ten-year road trip towards the realisation of a shared vision. The first milestone on my journey was as a delegate to the Schools Cooperative Society Conference, back in 2010.

My own school, Foundry Lane Primary School (in Southampton) was aiming to be one of the new schools helping to achieve the goal of 130 coop schools by the end of the year.

We were genuinely enthused by SCS’s vision to provide support for Coop Schools realising the cooperative values, providing mutual support, and negotiating for favourable services and resources.

For a plethora of reasons this vision was not fully realised until 2019.

In 2011. a group of cooperative schools in the London and South East Region (LASER for short) had pioneered the idea of a regional network. Working together with colleagues in other parts of the country, bit by bit this grew into a template for national networking under the banner of Cooperative Schools Network (CSNet).

The vision and the goals for the group were focused on the simple triple mantra of providing Professional Support, Professional Services and Professional Voice.

Gradually, the coop family of schools grew, partly with my professional support as a regional adviser supporting the development of foundation trusts. As part of a small team led by Jon O’Connor, the mantra was put slowly into practice.

In 2019 SCS recognised the value of the CSNet blueprint, rolling it out nationally as a sustainable support network for the country, divided into four new regions.

From the initial glimmer of hope of 2010,  the realisation has come ten years later in 2020. Despite the challenging times, Coop Schools now have a bright future with the CSNet model.

Andy Withers

Former Head Teacher & CSNET regional adviser

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