There’s nothing like a deadline! Last week has seen a flurry of activity by mobility organisaitons across Europe as the final date for applications to Erasmus+ Key Action 1 loomed up at midday on Wednesday.
Here at the Co-operative College we have some experience in preparing bids to the European Union but this application was a first for us – the first time we’ve applied for funding to be a ‘sending’ organization – which made it both exciting and a little nerve-racking.
Here in the UK we now have a network of ‘co-operative schools’ – state-funded primary and secondary schools which have adopted a governance model which give a voice to all stakeholders: parents, staff, students and the local community. The Co-operative College works closely will these schools to support the development of co-operative values and principles throughout the ethos of the school – in the classroom, playground, and staff room – and to raise the visibility of the co-operative model of enterprise in the curriculum. We help them to develop their membership offer, engage with their local communities, and provide training for teachers.
From this year all 17 year olds in the UK will have to be in education, training or employment – an rise from the previous school leaving age of 16. This is set to rise again next year to 18. This has meant a significant increase in demand for initial vocational education courses. Traditionally these courses have been provided by further education colleges (we don’t have many ‘VET’ schools here) but to meet the need for extra places an increasing number of schools are now providing VET courses.
With this in mind, we approached the schools in the co-operative network to find out which of them have a VET offer and whether they would be interested in giving their students a mobility opportunity as part of these courses. We were delighted to receive interest from a number of schools and this has provided us with a strong base for a KA1 project. The schools which are keen to take part are located in quite challenging and deprived communities where young people have few opportunities and aspirations are low. The chance of a mobility experience will be of huge benefit as these are students.
Ideally, we are hoping that the students from our co-operative schools will be able to undertake their work placements in co-operative business settings within Europe. Our application has focused on a project that provides opportunities for students to develop their skills in working with others and building their ability to put the co-operative values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity, into practice. Of course they will also develop their language skills and intercultural awareness as well, as everyone who benefits from a mobility opportunity does.
So, on Wednesday this week, I clicked the ‘submit’ button on the application form and now await the outcome of our bid. If successful then 40 young people will blaze a trail into Europe over the next year as the first vocational students from UK co-operative schools to benefit from mobility placements. Exciting times!