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Young Co-operatives Action Kit: getting the Co-operative Crew off the ground

Members of the Co-operative Crew

Since getting together as a Young Co-operative at the end of January, student members of the Co-operative Crew at Golborne High School and Lowton Junior and Infant School have found the Young Co-operatives Action Kit to be a useful resource to help move their enterprise and ideas forward and put the co-operative values and principles into action.

The Co-operative Crew, which grew out of student council members, consists of 26 students from years 7, 8 and 9 at Golborne High School and years 4 and 5 Lowton Junior and Infant School. Students visited Reddish Vale, a co-operative school in Stockport, for inspiration, and also got to know each other and develop their ideas through a residential trip. The Young Co-operative has now collectively decided to create a farm and sell produce to the local community. Enterprise ideas include making an eco-friendly greenhouse out of 2.5 litre water bottles, making raised beds and building chicken coops. Together, students have agreed on a membership system, approved and contributed a membership fee of £1 per person, designed membership cards and created four working parties which will each develop an action plan.

Members of the Co-operative Crew

The two schools involved in the Young Co-operative, which are both in the Wigan area, have partnered with the Co-operative College, Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, Wigan and Leigh College, and the University of Central Lancashire to form the Golborne and Lowton Co-operative Learning Partnership, otherwise known as GoaLCo – a name proposed by student members of the Trust, who are also trying to recruit members to the Trust.

The Young Co-operative usually meets after school and at lunch time. Chairman Jack, who is responsible for managing paperwork and bringing ideas together, says that the Action Kit has been a useful tool to take to meetings. “It explains what co-operatives are all about and how we can learn for them, and it is also useful as a guide about what we need to do as a co-operative,” he explains. He added: “There is a lot in there about how to run the meetings and designate the jobs you need.”

One thing members of the Co-operative Crew learned from the Action Kit is that they needed to democratically elect members into various roles through an anonymous vote. So far, students have taken on the positions of chairman and vice chair, treasurer and vice treasurer, fundraiser and designer – who has been tasked with overseeing the development of a website, logo and leaflets. Ryan, who has been designated the role of treasurer, said: “The job descriptions in the Action Kit are useful; now I know what I need to do to in my role, for example looking after spreadsheets and researching business bank accounts.”

Members of the Co-operative Crew

The Young Co-operative have raised £144 already, including £50 from a bake sale, to finance their activities. Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust have given compost to the project, and the grandfather of one of the primary students has offered to donate hens. Co-operative Crew member Ciara is speaking to the local council about getting caddy bins for the Young Co-operative to use, and there may also be an opportunity to work with Wigan and Leigh College. A student in film and TV production and media technology from UCLan is helping students to make a film to promote the activities of the Young Co-operative. The member in charge of fundraising has been searching the internet for ideas to raise money for the Young Co-operative’s activities, along with activities such as trips. Suggestions, which students will propose to the school council, include allowing painted nails in school for a day and holding an ‘own clothes day’.

Members of the Co-operative Crew

Members of the Co-operative Crew agree that being a part of the Young Co-operative made them feel more mature. Secretary Lucy, who is responsible for minuting and typing up meetings, said: “Being in a co-operative for me means being a part of something. I have realised that you can achieve things when you give your time.” Sophie, who baked many of the cakes for the Young Co-operative’s bake sale, said: “I’m part of something bigger now: I feel like an important part of the school.” These sentiments were echoed by vice chair Jack, who feels that “everyone is as important as each other in this school”, and Lauren, who agreed that “we feel like a family in this school.”

Young Co-operatives co-ordinator Katie Thorpe, a languages teacher at Golborne High School, summed up the group’s progress so far: “To get something out you have to put something in, and the students have realised that every little thing they do helps. They have made all the decisions and all the rules. It is the students who have moved everything forward. Everyone has joined in together and done something really good.”