Communities are central to modern life, and schools are central to communities. Theirs is a symbiotic bond. The recent Times Education Commission report has much to say about how schools and communities can and should work more closely. Community is at the heart of the Life-Based Learning vision for education. LBL would massively raise the profile of community education by treating it as one of nine life-centred themes that refocus learning. Reimagining education to give it a life-based focus would include enhancing community involvement in delivering the curriculum, reinforcing that two-way bond between school and community and helping to enrich children’s learning.
In our blog Involving the community can enhance and enrich children’s learning we wrote:
Schools are the beating hearts of communities. They play a crucial role in repairing the damage caused by community fragmentation. They bring people together, often acting as a vital support for people in need, as shown not least during the Covid pandemic when schools have been a lifeline for struggling families. The relationship between school and community is a symbiotic one: many parents are actively involved in the life of the school, everything from helping out with reading to raising much-needed funds for building repairs and the like.from our blog Involving the community can enhance and enrich children’s learning
The recent Times Education Commission report cites the example of a primary school that has built community activism into its curriculum after the school “started negotiating with the council to get better homes for its pupils and advising families on immigration applications.” It’s a fantastic opportunity for citizenship education but – at the same time and more depressingly – it is yet more evidence of schools having to deal with the consequences of public services starved of resources and stretched ever more thinly.
The report talks about schools as social hubs and makes the point that, as other services are pared back, school facilities become an ever more valuable community resource.
The report also talks about how some schools are breaking down the barriers between education and other public services. The Pathfinder projects are examples of this, initiatives that involve the police working directly with schools to help tackle the growth of knife crime.
It mentions the importance of encouraging pupils’ engagement with their local communities through volunteering, field trips and high-quality interactions with employers. One of the commission’s proposals is a National Citizen Service programme for all pupils at 14 to foster community cohesion. This would involve a two-week residential course, an outdoor pursuits adventure, a team project and volunteering.
We can all agree about the importance of a sense of community and belonging and the many benefits it brings with it. But we need to nurture that sense of community; we cannot just assume that it will always be there. That’s why Life-Based Learning (LBL) would massively raise the profile of community education by treating it as one of nine life-centred themes through which all subject learning can be delivered, at least for younger children – teaching children and young people about community, teaching them with the support of the local community, and teaching them to become active participants in community life.
In other words, it means doing much more than just learning about communities and promoting community values. We can strengthen the link between schools and communities, learning about the value of community by being much more ambitious in how we involve the community in the education of children.
Image at the head of this article by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay.