Communicating communities: Sustaining effective schooling

Year: 2008

Author: Peeler, Eleanor

Type of paper: Refereed paper

In the early years of the twenty-first century we are informed about technological and scientific innovation, global, political actions, economic change, reform and transformation. Often the rapidity of change can be unnerving as it impacts on families, schools, the workplace and the broader community. In Victoria in the 1970s, changing educational policies and public attitudes forged closer relationships between schools and the community. The seeds of autonomy sown at the time empowered the decision-making capacities of schools as they developed partnerships with the broader population. Relationships within and between the groups embraced in the communities, namely teachers and students, parents and teachers, school councils and education departments, were fundamental to effective functioning. An evolution occurred to develop relationships between the school and community to help them work with a common cause to keep pace with social and technological transformation while optimizing students' learning potential.

This paper takes an historic view of the process of change when an educational leader imagined alternatives and introduced policies that changed the way schools and communities would interact. More specifically it looks at the policies of Lawrie Shears, who imagined and implemented a change that continues to influence education in Victoria. Of particular note is his vision for the school and community partnerships whereby community members would have voice in school organization. To understand what was involved it includes a discussion on leadership, how a leader imagines change and enticed others on board. With this understanding, the paper looks at concepts of community and how relationships within communities interact, a fundamental element of successful community operation, which lay at the crux of the policy change. The steps towards implementing the new model are discussed in relation to developing school community partnerships and to consider its impact from the point of view of others.

Data from a biographical study of Lawrence (Lawrie) Shears who administered education in Victoria for fifteen years informs this paper. His personal records as well as interviews with him and others involved in education at the time enlighten discussion of he process of change and how it unfolded. Forty years since sewing the seeds to develop school/community links one must ask their relevance to society today as it gears up for a future vastly different from the past. In a climate of uncertainty today, how essential are they and how should they function to ensure educating for a sustainable future?