Local and international perspectives on school-community connections

Year: 2021

Author: Chandler, Philippa

Type of paper: Symposium

Australian school sites are increasingly being recognised as valuable resources that can support the education, health and wellbeing of individuals, families and community groups – especially in rapidly growing areas of Australia’s largest cities and regional centres. This has led to increased interest in the concept of ‘schools as community hubs’, supported by a range of government policies and non-government organisations. However, Australia lags behind other countries when it comes to school-community relationships, and many examples of best-practice are found overseas.Drawing on digital research methods, this paper analyses the findings of three online stakeholder workshops with Australian, North American and European experts in school-community relationships. These virtual events brought numerous countries and sectors into conversation, spanning government representatives, school leaders, hub coordinators, planners, architects, health and human services providers, community groups, and a range of NGOs. The workshops generated approximately 120,000 words of transcripts that were analysed thematically. Emerging from the research are multiple barriers and enablers including: 1) localism and governance structures; 2) varying approaches to ‘community’ and ‘stakeholders’; 3) challenges of safety and security; 4) the role of the community hub coordinator; and 5) the importance of training school staff to work in community-facing environments. These international findings illuminate best practice principles, examples of success and mistakes to avoid for Australia in its quest to better enable schools to play a bigger part in fostering community wellbeing.