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.