Schools As Community Hubs

Schools As Community Hubs: Policy Contexts, Educational Rationales, and Design Challenges

2012 Joint AARE APERA International Conference, Sydney, 2-6 December
Ian McShane, Jerry Watkins, Denise Meredyth


There is increasing interest in making more effective use of schools as community hubs,  both in Australia and internationally. Investment in shared facilities aims to engage parents  and local communities in schooling, encourage civic participation, co-ordinate educational  and community services and overcome disadvantages of location or service provision.  Parent and community partnership with schools is an important priority within current  educational policy, at both state and Commonwealth levels. It is a priority that can be  supported from different parts of the political spectrum, fitting liberal conceptions of  parental choice and private investment as well as more communitarian conceptions of local  engagement, civic renewal and participatory design.  This paper provides historical background, policy context and educational rationales for the  rise of the community hub concept. It discusses how schools as community hubs have  provided early childhood services, through both state funding and public-private  partnership. It then focuses on the lack of alignment between the Commonwealth  Government’s top-down scheme of school capital investment, Building the Education  Revolution, and other major public investments into digital infrastructure for schools. This  lack of alignment points to a wider lack of community input into school redevelopment  projects, alongside a fundamental difficulty in identifying the appropriate constituents of a  target community. The paper concludes with four key challenges to the design and  implementation of sustainable schools-based community hubs: governance and  consultation; cross-jurisdictional issues; physical vs. digital infrastructure; and  measurement of effectiveness.

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