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Young co-operator on the values of Robert Owen in her school

Robert Owen

A student from Lipson Community College, a co-operative school in Plymouth, Devon, has written an insightful essay on how Robert Owen’s progressive educational reforms still shape education today, and demonstrates how the values and ideas of Owen and the co-operative movement are manifested in her school.

Nineteenth mill owner and social reformer Robert Owen’s ideas remain highly relevant. He improved conditions for mill workers, set up schools for child labourers, pioneered workplace democracy, experimented with sustainable living and was instrumental in founding the early trade union and co-operative movements.

His vision was critical in establishing the earliest social enterprises, convincing other business owners of their social responsibilities and setting up the organisations that to this day protect the interests of people and planet in the world of industry and commerce.


The piece of extended writing by Year 11 student Hannah Wills forms part of her evidence to support an oral presentation on how co-operatives can alleviate poverty in the developing world. The also presentation includes education, the value of trade unions, the social premium and community responsibility.

Students at Lipson studied Robert Owen as the ‘Father of Social Enterprise’ to show how his ideas have influenced change for over a century, drawing on Robert Owen’s autobiography as well as resources from the Co-operative College about Robert Owen and co-operative schools.

Hannah argues: “Robert Owen felt, as shown by his principles in his school, that all children are important no matter what class they are.

“Current generations and future generations must work together to keep the memory and work of Robert Owen alive – it is co-operative Trust Schools and co-operative academies that can achieve this.”

Co-operative College Principal Mervyn Wilson said: “Well done to all concerned, and specially Hannah. it is a wonderful piece that is a testimony to the success of getting the co-operative ethos and values understood in the school.”

Read Hannah’s essay here.

Download the Co-operative College’s Robert Owen resource pack for background information, activity ideas and more, here.