A GROUP of small Cornish primary schools have joined together to launch a new team approach to ensuring their survival and success.

Delaware, Gunnislake, Upton Cross, Pensilva and Coads Green primary schools have launched the Caradon Co-operative Education Trust, a new body formed under the auspices of the co-operative movement which will enable the five schools to share resources, efficiencies and good ideas.

The move is a response to changes in national education funding which many, including Cornwall Council, see as a threat to schools with fewer than 120 pupils.

Debbie Stoneman, clerk to the steering committee that helped set up the trust, said: 'Partly because of the new schools funding formula outlined in the 2010 White Paper on Education, which, with its uniform per-pupil proposal removes the protection small rural schools had previously, it now seems certain that small schools like ours will have only 60% of their 2010 budget come 2017.

'We've had to act to ensure that our schools remain at the heart of their communities but establishing the Caradon Co-operative Education trust is about more than survival – by linking together we can improve the learning we offer our children, and that's the key thing.'

Policies range from affording opportunities for visits which separately the schools may never organise, to driving down costs of new computer equipment by buying in bulk, and from saving money on paper to easing pupils' transition to secondary learning because they already know so many of their classmates and are used to a bigger learning environment.

'Given that all our members already aspire to and achieve the very highest standards, that's a very exciting proposition.' said Mrs Stoneman.

The new co-operative trust has a governing body made up of representatives from all schools and is accountable to staff, parents and pupils.

It has input from partners who are invited to join the trust in an advisory capacity, and the Caradon group is already talking to a wide range of organisations from sports groups to secondary schools, from local businesses to the emergency services.

Mrs Stoneman added: 'The over-riding and burning ambition is to involve an entire community, as many of our local primary schools as possible, in delivering the very best deal we can come up with together for our children.'