“Schools do not operate in a vacuum. Successful schools depend on the resources and support of their communities and schools at the centre of their communities are often the most successful schools. In turn, schools are vital to the social health of their local communities.”
With the changing structural landscape of local government through various transformation strategies, schools have often become the last residual embedded public service sharing both physical and emotional focus within many of our communities.
In this role, schools have historically, often looked to communities for what they provided; children, support and feed-back. Increasingly however, many schools are taking on the reciprocal role with the school looking out into the community with an offer well beyond the classroom. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular, has highlighted for many the key role that schools can play in supporting their local communities as the “ask” for childcare, food provision, education, wellbeing and social cohesion has often been centred around schools during this time of acute need.
This has arguably created the fertile conditions for considering a new approach to schools and their wider social function within their respective communities. This is not to lose sight of the formal measures of attainment but rather to increase the opportunities for children and families, to learn and recognise learning beyond the classroom, to future proof education and to build real resilience into systems and communities through engagement and empowerment which is sustainable.
This is a shift in the function and definition of education and requires further exploration if centring schools within the lives of families and communities is not to fall into the trap of tokenism and consequently, losing the opportunities for genuinely improving the life chances for children and young people. It would surely be a positive legacy of the global crisis of Covid-19 if it prompts those engaged in schooling to re- envisage education to meet these needs with renewal not recovery as the key focus.
This theme aims to provide an opportunity to consider this shift through the following key themes:
- Schools at the centre of their communities
- Developing community resilience
To help us in shaping and organising our materials, we have invited Jenny McGarry and Denise MacColl, both headteachers of primary schools which sit squarely at the centre of their respective communities, to support us in curating the think pieces, videos and articles to help in this discussion.
We hope you find their stories of change helpful in prompting reflection, focussing discussion and providing a framework for reviewing policy and practice.
Anton Florek (Series Editor)
SCHOOLS AT THE CENTRE OF THEIR COMMUNITIES
DEVELOPING COMMUNITY RESILIENCE
“What has been fundamental to meeting the needs of any community, particularly at this most difficult time, has been to know the community. This in-depth assessment requires understanding of the subtleties of communities, the shifts of power and need, and can only happen over time through prolonged authentic engagement. This is a key feature of leadership when managing schooling provision that sits at the heart of their communities.”
D. McColl, Headteacher, Logan Primary School, East Ayrshire. (2020)