Local communities include a wide range of actors, such as families, town halls, libraries, museums, social services and training centres. School leaders play an important role in building connections with local community actors and mobilising community resources to enrich the school curriculum and promote well-being among both learners and school staff. Such partnerships enable the exchange of good practices and innovative ideas that can be implemented to the benefit of the entire educational community.
Below, you will find a selection of projects engaging schools and local community actors to promote innovative practices.
School-community partnerships across Europe
Leader to leader
Leaders in education, business and other sectors can learn a lot from each other. In this context, the cross-mentoring programme, established in the Netherlands, uses a cross-sectoral approach to improve leadership skills across different sectors. By bringing together school principals with leaders from other sectors, the programme helps both parties understand how they can support each other’s organisations. Through collaboration and reciprocity, they can address existing issues, find new ways of working and become better leaders. The programme has resulted in many surprising and insightful partnerships. A collaboration between a school principal and a banking expert, for example, helped to solve financial issues at the school.
Research suggests that the involvement of the wider educational community (students, families, local communities, etc.) in school activities can help improve the academic performance of students. Across Spain, many schools have benefited from working with local communities to improve student learning experiences through eTwinning projects. School leaders encourage the active participation of local community actors in decision-making processes and the organisation of school activities. These school-community partnerships have been especially beneficial in rural areas where schools have few economic resources and students have few opportunities. By taking advantage of resources within the community, schools in rural areas can establish a culture of cooperation and collaboration with local community actors and give students a sense of belonging.
The Portuguese Ministry of Education also promotes collaboration between schools and communities. Such partnerships have allowed students to explore local gastronomy through community engagement and turn museums into places of learning. In this example, teachers worked with local museums to design pre-defined guided tours in line with intended learning outcomes. Another project focused on urban renewal, with learners being invited to propose ways of rehabilitating local neighbourhoods and present their ideas to the local government. More examples of school-community partnerships in Portugal can be found on the website of the Portuguese Ministry of Education.
The 21/23 Escola + Plan is another initiative run by the Portuguese Ministry of Education, which aims to address learning recovery post COVID-19. The plan presents a set of measures to strengthen the autonomy of schools and provide them with the pedagogical means to implement a more flexible curriculum. The plan’s objectives include recovering skills lost as a result of distance learning and the involvement of the whole educational community. A range of resources, including activities to promote cooperation between schools and families, are available on the project website.
The PHERECLOS open schooling project, funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, seeks to establish ‘educational clusters’ by bringing together schools and relevant actors in the educational ‘ecosystem’ across Europe. These include educational institutions, organisations, businesses, charities, museums and other knowledge providers. The project views these educational clusters as incubators for enabling dialogue and collaborative activities between educational institutions and local organisations. It has a specific focus on improving the quality of science education, particularly through engagement in STEAM education. The project has put together several toolkits to facilitate teacher training and project implementation. By fostering collaboration between schools and local communities, these projects can help us rethink learning boundaries and develop new approaches to science education.