Community schools go a long way back. They started in Cambridge villages, were modified in Coventry to suit a city setting, then spread. They soon proved their worth. In fact, they proved so successful that the word used to describe them is now the official term for all schools still with their local authority, i.e. all those schools that are still locally accountable. Many academies have adopted the principles they represented. Some have added a locally representative board to their management, a bit like traditional governors, while others have acknowledged community schools’ value in promoting social cohesion.
There have been many reasons for all this. Primarily, it was realised that many communities, as they evolved, such as villages or developing urban areas, didn’t have access to enough facilities to satisfy their modern populations. It could, then, be useful to offer education to all, including outside of the traditional school hours: education, as they used to say, ‘from cradle to grave’! For those wishing to return to education after leaving early and for those wishing to keep on learning later in life, a community school would fill the gap that existed before them.
Over the years Community schools have reduced rural isolation and urban deprivation and opened up their facilities to the local population. Neighbourhoods which have previously had precious few facilities have been provided with opportunities for sport, drama, meetings and courses.
Recent governments of all kinds have increasingly recognised the value of local awareness and participation. Is this a concentrated effort to get us more interested in politics? Perhaps they think that by getting involved, young people will acquire some extra skills that will increase their chances of getting jobs sooner. Another benefit that is suggested is that older people’s health benefits by their remaining active through learning. Maybe parents who become involved will help their children at their full-time school? Local communities can also be better at deciding many things for themselves, which is always an advantage. All of these things have truth to them and none of these are bad.
All told, then, it can be said that community schools, in many cases, have only been a good thing.
My last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. Prior to that, I worked in schools, colleges, adult education and the Arts, including a period as a local authority inspector. I'm going to make myself busy trying to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested.