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  education system, for both young people and adults, with presenter Elizabeth Alker talking to our very own Principal and Chief Executive Cilla Ross, as well as poet and 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.

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

Cilla talks about the gap in opportunities and barriers to learning in later life.  In response to those issues, she gives an update on how the Co-operative College is 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.

It's this difference to mainstream education that David also focuses on, drawing on his experience as someone who goes into prisons and schools and witnesses some of the problems with the current education system first hand:

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 fulfil 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.

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Some of the challenges identified in the episode are reflected upon when producer Geoff Bird visited 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.

Jonny also talks about the importance of personalised learning and tailoring what's being taught as much as possible to give students the best opportunity to flourish.

We personalise 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 also feature on the episode and had inspiring words to say 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.

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