A school but not as we know it! Towards schools for networked communities

Year: 2016

Author: Cleveland, Benjamin

Type of paper: Refereed paper

School facilities are some of the most underutilised public assets in Australia. However, the opportunity to better utilise and enhance these facilities though offering a range of services to growing communities is increasingly being recognised. Across the country, state governments are endorsing the development of schools as community hubs, based on indications from overseas of better education, health and well-being outcomes for students, as well as benefits to their families and the public. Yet, knowledge is lacking about how best to design and deliver such facilities and infrastructure.The notion of the school as community hub is gathering momentum, yet fulfilling these emerging aspirations remains a difficult task due to embedded state government policies and practices that tend to dislocate and dissociate the processes of procuring, designing, governing and using/managing school infrastructure. Across Australia there is confusion about how best to develop policy and practice. Issues include: What services should be delivered from school sites? What facilities should be made available for such service delivery? What government funding should be directed to such facilities, and from which departments? If the concept of the school as community hub is to be realised, the policy environment through which such provision must be achieved needs to be scrutinised and updated. The provision of school facilities for the purpose of enhancing the social capital, education, health and well-being of Australian communities requires improved co-ordination between multiple levels of government, as well as non-government agencies, schools and community groups. A means of productively navigating and negotiating these multifaceted relationships is needed – a coherent framework that links research, policy and practice associated with the planning and management of school infrastructure and service delivery. This paper will explore how to approach the development of such a framework.Once developed, the framework is envisaged to help state governments, local councils, schools and community stakeholders overcome the current 'obstacle course' that is limiting attempts to maximise school facilities for broader community benefit.