Introduction to the standards
Each Community School develops in its own way because schools are organic structures, shaped by the enthusiasm of their staff, the vision of its leadership and the needs of the local community. Even so, we believe that all Community Schools share common key characteristics. These standards are a list of these together with indicators for each standard. This will help provide you with a checklist of best practice and a focus for improvement.
When you have discussed each indicator then you can award yourself a score from 1- 4. The score of 1 represents no development as yet, a score of 2 means that you are in the early stages of development, award yourself a score of 3 if you are showing a strong performance and 4 if you believe that your work is outstanding.
A Community School is a highly complex organisation supporting the learning of pupils through comprehensive, targeted provision working in partnership with parents and other agencies. This requires leadership rather than simply management. This requires a sophisticated set of people skills, attitudes and approaches. Most importantly, it involves knowing how to devolve and share leadership so that the Community School can become a vibrant regenerative force for the community it serves.
A good Community School builds solid partnerships with other professionals and organizations from the wider community including businesses. Partnerships allow the different agencies working with pupils, their families and the wider community to work together in harmony so that individuals experience seamless services and each member can support the other. It involves being clear about who is responsible for what, attracting and sharing resources and a good flow of information. This helps schools ensure that their pupils have the best conditions in which to thrive. Some partnerships might be focused on enriching the curriculum, through after school clubs for example. Others might provide services to parents such as support for those experiencing domestic abuse or needing debt advice.
A good Community School creates conditions and opportunities for all learners irrespective of their gender, religion, ethnicity, social class, family income level, physical ability or sexual orientation. Community Schools challenge stereotypical views about people so that all sections of the community have access to learning and other support services. In this way, the school contributes to community cohesion, helping conflicting sections learn more about each other and to co-exist harmoniously. Irrespective of personal views on such issues, the professional will ensure that all have access to learning. To do otherwise, restricts the ability of a community, a group or individuals to realize their full potential. It is essential to the creation of a good learning environment in the classroom so that all pupils feel safe and respected.
A Community School is a central resource in its community and offers a range of services. These are determined according to need but usually include support for families, learning opportunities for adults and community organizations, health and social services. Schools which provide, or perhaps host, services delivered by other agencies can support families so that pupils can have all round support. The school itself might not provide all the services, but will encourage other agencies to provide services either at the school site or located in the community. It will actively support and promote the services. Staff will have consulted families and used socio economic data to help prioritise services offered.
Pupils are encouraged to participate in the life of their community. This helps them to apply learning in the classroom into real life situations. It also develops their sense of citizenship and builds their skills, self-esteem and confidence; often pupils who struggle to attain high academic Standards can shine as volunteers. Enjoying relationships with adults other than parents and teachers is an important element of their development. A good Community School also encourages parents and community members to volunteer and ensures that they have support and training.
Learning throughout life is essential for people to cope with a rapidly changing world. It is important for pupils to see that learning is a lifelong activity and that schools are only one setting where learning can take place. It is important that adults are role models for pupils so that they can see that learning is for work and for pleasure. However, the learning should have meaning by incorporating inclusive, democratic values and human rights, and encouraging sustainability and respecting diversity. Both adults and pupils should have the opportunity to create their own work together making a contribution to the solution of local issues.
All Community Schools are involved in local community development according to local policies in a proper way. It means that schools should initiate and lead or participate in taking joint action and generate solutions to common problems. Learning in Community Schools is strongly connected with the local community and supports sustainable local development.
Schools help community groups to build their strengths, to take action, engage with their communities and to deliver services to local people. For example the school may help them learn how to arrange meetings, how to conduct surveys, help them analyze results etc. In some countries this work is carried out by specialist community development workers and the school itself does not need to conduct this work. However, the school should be linked to the community development workers so that they can share common approaches and help each other achieve goals. Each Community School should offer learning opportunities which are connected to the local community.
Pupils learn best when their parents support their learning. To do this parents need to understand their pupils’ developmental needs and also how best to create a learning environment at home. When the school engages parents then they are likely to understand what the school is trying to achieve and to support its policies. They are also able to make practical suggestions to schools. There should be an active dialogue between parents and teachers and scope for parents to take the lead in some activities.
A Community School is open and receptive to change. Democratic principles are applied to all spheres of school life. School staff listens to pupils, parents, partners and the community, adapting practices as appropriate. The culture of the school encourages creativity, initiative and participation and this climate extends to the management of the learning environment in lessons. In this way the community and parents have confidence in the school and pupils acquire and use transferable skills.
A Community School creates opportunities for using both formal and informal learning methods it offers an approach to the curriculum that encourages learning to be active, integrative, meaningful and reflective. Parents, the wider community, business and of course, pupils should be able to see the relevance of what they are learning in school and as far as national policy allows, should be able to work with the school for opportunities to ensure that this is the case.
Before using the standards it is important that key people have been trained. The project partnership has written and delivered a highly acclaimed training program.
Delivery of training is part of the package when you access the International Standards for Community Schools. It covers the following issues:
Understanding the standards
The process of implementation
Skills needed to use the standards
Planning their implementation