Co-operative Education and the State, c.1895-1935 (FORUM 2)
Author: KEITH VERNON
The co-operative movement is currently exploring ways of engaging with changes in government education policy to develop schools with a distinctive co-operative ethos. While drawing on the opportunities in changing policy, these initiatives can also be seen as offering alternatives to the prevailing tenor of government thinking. This is not the first time that the co-operative movement has negotiated sometimes difficult relationships with state educational policy. From the late nineteenth century, the co-operative movement was a significant provider of education that utilised, tested and challenged the principles and practices of state provision. This article considers two episodes in this relationship. The first revolves around the expansion of state elementary schooling at the end of the nineteenth century, which allowed the co-operative movement to develop other kinds of education. Co-operators, however, were very critical of the 1902 Education Act, which was seen as undermining an important tradition of accessible higher-level education for working people. In the second case, the 1918 Education Act potentially offered a new forum for co-operative education, which required co-operators to re-assess their relationships with state-provided education.