You're hired - in an ethical way

16th June 2006 at 01:00
Scottish pupils are being encouraged to make profits without exploitation, with the launch last week of a trust to promote a more co-operative approach to enterprise.

The Co-operative Education Trust Scotland, funded by the Scottish Co-operative movement and the Scottish Executive, has been set up to counterbalance the idea of private enterprise and profits without responsibility.

A one-door approach by all co-operative businesses, which is being backed by the First Minister, it is a first for Scotland, and the co-operative movements in England and Wales are keeping an eye on how it develops.

"The Co-operative Education Trust will bring real benefit to young people across the country, and is an important new partner in our enterprise in education strategy," said Jack McConnell.

"Young Scots will now have the opportunity to learn about the value of the co-operative movement and will be encouraged to work together in a democratic and co-operative way to achieve results for themselves and their communities."

Pupils from Stonelaw High in Rutherglen were at the launch to highlight the co-operative and democratic approach they have adopted towards enterprise.

They have raised pound;28,000 in two-and-a-half years for a charity in South Africa that works with Aids orphans.

Speaking at the launch, Isabel Gilchrist, their religious and moral education teacher, said: "How do young people internalise citizenship values of justice, democracy and social engagement? I'm convinced they must live them, not just learn about them.

"So three years ago, I piloted a democratic approach to learning where pupils were given a genuine say in how and what they learned in religious and moral education. Of all the positive results, the clearest attitude change was in pupils' enthusiasm to buy fairly traded goods."

Since then the school has run staff coffee mornings, a fair trade tuck shop, Christmas present events, parents' evening stalls and - four times a year - a stall in the local shopping mall.

"We love to make sales and we love to make profit - but it's a healthy enterprise, because we know it is profit without victims and without exploitation," said Stewart Aitken, aged 13.

CETS has been set up initially for three years and will begin with four local authorities: Stirling, East Ayrshire, Scottish Borders and Edinburgh.

Resources and continuing professional development for teachers will be made available to encourage a more co-operative approach.

Four resource packs have already been developed by co-operative businesses under the headings Co-operate to succeed: Health for wealth, Make your school fair trade friendly, Not just for profit and Young co-operatives.

"The early response from teachers, schools and pupils has been overwhelming," said Tom Kennedy, CETS project manager, who has spent the past 20 years setting up workers' co-operatives.

"There is clearly a real need to provide a balanced alternative to the image of the individual entrepreneur and private enterprise as the only model.

"It is more than finding the next Alan Sugar. Enterprise education in Scottish schools also encompasses issues like active citizenship and social responsibility, so the co-operative model of ethical trading is a perfect vehicle for building this into the schools curriculum," he said.

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