A community-focused school is one that builds strong partnerships with families, is responsive to the needs of its community, and collaborates effectively with other services to ensure that all children thrive.
In March this year, the Welsh Language and Education Minister, Jeremy Miles, announced an investment of nearly £25m to deliver community-focused schools, to fund practical ways to improve school facilities to allow for greater community use. . This includes providing equipment storage for community groups conducting extracurricular activities and improving external lighting in sports areas. This funding will be allocated to Welsh local authorities according to a formula based on the number of pupils and schools.
One school already helping its local community is Blaenymaes Primary School in Swansea. The school established a parent council to get a parent perspective on their needs in terms of parent collaboration and support.
The school also continued to build links with the POBL housing association, leading to family engagement activities with community groups, such as Room to Grow and Swansea Community Farm.
Room to Grow aims to improve families’ skills in growing their own produce at home to support the rising cost of feeding a family. Blaenymaes students and their families participate in sessions on the school grounds. These sessions included the construction of pots and the provision of material to grow products at home.
Hosted at the school by Helen Spencer, Family Inclusion Officer, “Come Cook with Me” sessions offer families the opportunity to learn how to cook tasty and healthy recipes on a tight budget. All recipes and ingredients are provided to families so they can replicate them at home. In addition, the group was provided with kitchen equipment that they may not have at home, such as digital scales and measuring spoons.
Emma Amirat, Acting Deputy Headmistress at Blaenymaes Primary School, said:
Through engagement with our Parent Council, it became clear that parents enjoyed the support provided to help them with their child’s learning, however they also had challenges that concerned them outside of the school day. We made the decision that to improve our ability to support families holistically, we needed to further develop ties to community groups.
This approach has meant that we are able to invite groups, such as Room to Grow and Swansea Community Farm, to our school to provide families with useful opportunities.
Listening to our Parent Council is a key factor in what we offer families. We are developing plans to offer solutions to flat costs, energy poverty and the provision of family exchange stores.
Welsh Language and Education Minister Jeremy Miles said:
Community-focused schools connect families, schools, and communities. This helps provide a joint approach to learning, while ensuring there are no financial or social barriers to a child’s education.
As a government, we are clear that addressing the impact of poverty on achievement is at the heart of our national mission for education. I have seen first hand the fantastic initiatives that schools across the country are doing to help both the school community and the local area. Our new Community Focused Schools guide sets out tips and information to help schools turn their vision into a reality.