Some community groups can provide schools with the means to enhance and extend learning. For example communities can provide: expertise in working with groups of children and young people that are vulnerable to social exclusion – including disabled children and children with autism; minority ethnic children; children have a first language other than English; children with dyslexia or speech problems or who find English or Maths particularly difficult to learn. Communities could also help schools extend what children and young people are able to learn through, for example: enabling breakfast and after school clubs; tutoring gifted and talented children is specialist areas; and providing work experience for young people. In particular, we think school-community links can make education more inclusive. That is, extend the range and ability of school education to benefit all children and young people regardless of their needs and abilities. There are, in addition, wider potential benefits for schools ranging from reduced vandalism and anti-social behaviour to access to community facilities and the poetential of raising funding through community partnerships.
What’s stopping us?
We think lack of time and awareness and some worries about risk are what stop schools making better links with their communities. We think that community groups sometimes don’t make links with schools because of past experience and because they feel their motives in doing so are likely to be questioned.
What might help us?
Some of the information and resource sharing that we have mentioned elsewhere in this draft charter could help. What might also enable the benefits of school-community links in this area is guidance from government making it clear that there is an expectation that communities could, and should, be seen as involved in education. We have called this document a ‘draft charter’ partly because we need your insight and experience to help us make it complete; but also because we think that the final document might take the form of a charter – a setting out of responsibilities that schools, communities, councils and central government and others could sign up to confirm that expectation and a willingness to realise the potential of links between communities and schools.