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Education for all? A new school of thought | More Than a Shop podcast

New podcast series, More Than a Shop, debuts with an episode looking at the challenges facing the UK’s education system. 

Education for all? A new school of thought explores where the barriers exist in the current day education system, for both young people and adults, with presenter Elizabeth Alker talking to guests Cilla Ross, Principal and CEO of The Co-operative College, and poet/performer David Scott AKA ARGH KiD. The episode also features an interview with Leeds Co-op Academy Principal Jonny Mitchell – of Educating Yorkshire fame – and students. 

Listen via morethanashop.coop or wherever you get your podcasts. Alternatively, you can also read a transcript of the episode.

The studio chat sees Cilla Ross and David Scott discuss a range of topics based on their experiences – professional and personal – as well as some solutions to these problems.

Performer David Scott AKA ARGH KiD runs workshops in schools to create a sense of what is possible to young people when you pick up a pen.

“I see kids in mainstream education and you can see the path that they're going to take because they're not into academic subjects. Kids tend to misbehave due to a lack of interest or lack of confidence and then, because they don't fulfill the quota in terms of GCSE results or whatever, they tend to be pushed aside.” 

“Some are put into Pupil Referral Units (PRUs), which are nothing but a glorified prison system for kids. I don’t think we’re catering to try and offer alternative ways to teach them.”

“There’s just so many lost voices and lost lives in many ways. The kids are young and missing out on certain opportunities in life so their life is going to be limited. We're capping abilities now.” 

“We need to offer alternatives, an alternative curriculum for these children to cope with before they end up on the ladder towards PRUs or even prison.”

Cilla Ross from The Co-operative College talks about the gap in opportunities for learning later on in life, something, she admits, always drops down the list of priorities:

“Not having the money to participate is a big barrier and the lack of confidence people feel about whether adult education is right for them. But one of the big challenges for adult education is time.”

“We live in a society with precarious work, where people are in work poverty – they’re lucky if they've got work. People can't just clear that time against their other obligations and responsibilities.”

The Co-operative College is currently working on a way for adults to access more collaborative, co-operative part-time learning via a Co-operative University model, which they are looking to launch by the end of 2020:

“It's got three main differences. It hasn't got bricks and mortar, so it's very flexible in the way it works. It's totally happy with people making so-called mistakes in their learning, because that's how you learn. It's part of a federation, where a number of higher education co-ops exist right across the country offering different things. Whether that be degrees or other courses offering co-designed, co-created, co-operative learning.”

Some of the challenges identified in the episode are reflected upon when producer Geoff Bird visits Leeds Co-op Academy, speaking to Principal Jonny Mitchell, of Educating Yorkshire fame:

“A Co-op Academy means different things to different people. Not everybody has their say all the time, but in the period up to making those decisions – the children and staff here perhaps have more of a stake in those conversations moving towards the decision.”

“The kids that we get through the door are wonderful because they are so very diverse. Many of them for example, don't speak English when they arrive or they've got limited literacy.”

“We personalize as much as we can, you know, but what we won’t do is lower the bar of expectation to such an extent that we're not giving them the opportunity to flourish, because they're in competition with everybody else, aren't they?”

Students from Leeds Co-op Academy had inspiring words about their experiences at school:

“A co-operative means together and this school is very together, we work hard together. And with that, because it's a diverse school, everyone comes together to treat everybody correctly.”

“We have a lot of freedom because there's a variety of subjects we can choose from, which allows us to express ourselves. Other schools don't take art as seriously as science, maths and english. I feel like the teachers try to help us to do whatever we want to do.”

More Than a Shop is presented by BBC broadcaster and journalist, Elizabeth Alker. The series welcomes guests with something new and radical to say about the big issues of our day and doing business the right way.

Each episodes covers a big topic from climate change and food, to mental health and education. The chat is lively, energetic – sometimes controversial, always entertaining. 

Listen and subscribe via morethanashop.coop or wherever you get your podcasts.


More Than a Shop has been created in partnership by Co‑operatives UK, The Co‑op, Co‑op News, The Co‑operative College and The Co‑operative Heritage Trust.

The podcast series has been produced by Geoff Bird on behalf of Sparklab Productions.

Written by Leila O'Sullivan
Updated: 21/04/2020