The phrase Schools As Core Social Centres was first used by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in its publication Schooling for tomorrow: what schools for the futures?
“The central organising point in our society at the neighbourhood level is the school... because school’ lovation patterns are pervasive and residence-based, and because socialbility is made easier through children’s connections, school could become the platform for a variety of neighbourhood issues."(OECD 2001)
Since that time, the CEOM has worked in partnership with VicHealth to explore how schools could be core centres in their communities, playing a central role in promoting education and health messages more broadly, building social capital and strengthening schools capacity to form effective partnerships for learning to enhance outcomes for young people.
The Schools As Core Social Centres (SACSC) initiative is built on a model that brings clusters of schools across the Archdiocese of Melbourne together to focus on how they can best engage parents and the broader community. It promotes a ‘whole school – whole community’ approach to wellbeing. Principles underpinning the SACSC approach provide schools with a basis from which to enhance relationships with the community, and recognise the roles of parents, volunteers, businesses and other professionals, and the part they are able to play in enhancing learning.
Working in clusters helps schools to broaden their resource base, and enhance their capacity to expand knowledge, and share ideas about effective partnership building strategies. A cluster of schools may for example, fund a professional speaker to focus on a topical issue, and invite not just the families but the broader community. They may focus on a project targeting a specific need, or share information, resources or facilities. Clusters meet regularly and are supported in their work by the CEOM.
The CEOM’s work in developing Parents as Partners has been assisted by funding under the Smarter Schools National Partnerships Initiative.
The Smarter Schools National Partnerships (NP) are a set of agreements between the Commonwealth Government and all States and Territories which aim to improve the quality of Australian schooling and student outcomes.
The partnerships direct investment and resources to where they are most needed, to improve the quality of education and student performance in Victorian’s Catholic, independent and government schools.
The aim of the FSP initiative is for participating schools to implement a strategic approach to family school partnerships whereby the role of families and community in enhancing student learning becomes core to school improvement.
The Family-School Partnership Model entails:
13 Family School Partnership Convenors (FSPCs) have been appointed to work in 13 clusters across the 35 participating CEOM schools. The FSPC’s work with low SES school clusters to:
The following key themes have emerged in the FSP initiative:
Outward facing schools refers to the notion that schools are well placed to open their doors to the community in which they operate to enhance learning for young people, and to strengthen connectedness and belonging. The term recognises the particularly important role of parents in the education of their children, and supports the notion that the broader community further contributes to this.
The CEOM recognises Partnerships as one of the five key areas for action in 2011-2015 Directions for Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Melbourne (CEOM 2011). The objectives set for schools include:
In June 2011, the CEOM hosted Australia’s inaugural ‘Outward Facing Schools’ conference “Look Out 2011”. Experts from England, and the United States outlined current thinking and challenges about this concept. Delegates participated in keynote sessions, workshops, conversations about how schools can re-form the way they work with families and community within the context of twenty-first century learning environments.
The CEOM worked in partnership with VicHealth, Melbourne University, Australian Catholic University and Catholic Care to develop a Charter for promoting outward facing school communities. This Charter was presented at the conference for delegates to discuss and contribute to. The Charter provides the context, concepts and principles of outward facing school communities and is a call to action.
Community Arts is an exciting way to engage families and the school community in the life of the school. Creative Connections tells the story of how three schools used the arts for engagement and social inclusion within contemporary learning environments.The Community Arts initiative is supported by the CEOM Wellbeing and Community Partnerships Unit as a strategy for building collaborative engagement with families, teachers, students and community.
Thank you to the staff, students and families featured in this video:
Maggie Farrar (National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services, UK) presented a series of forums on school-community partnerships for learning, equity and excellence and the role of leadership in educational reform and school improvements. Maggie’s presentations for the three days are:
Cronin, D 2010, My dad’s always asking me, ‘what did I learn today?’ Learning Matters, Catholic Education Office Melbourne.
DEEWR (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations)(2008).Retrieved 20 February 2009 from the family-school partnerships framework.
Families as partners in learning. Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
Harris, A, Andrew-Power, K & Goodall, J 2009, Do Parents Know They Matter? Raising achievement through parental engagement, Continuum International Publishing Group, New York.
Hattie, J (2009) Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge, New York.
Partners 4 Learning: A framework to support partnership in Catholic school communities. Council of Catholic School Parents.
Pushor, D 2007, Parent Engagement: Creating a Shared World, Ontario Education Research Symposium, Toronto, Ontario
Designed to support schools in their family and community engagement efforts, the posters can be printed and used to guide school involvement and planning processes, as well as a stimulus in staff professional learning.
These posters are reproduced from the CEOM Family School Partnerships e-newsletter distributed each term. While they were developed for targeted school communities involved in the Smarter Schools National Partnerships, Family School Partnerships initiative, they are relevant resources for all school communities.
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