Policy overview: working paper #1

Sharing Schools : A Policy Overview

Working Paper #1, 20 May 2013
Ian McShane, Natalie Cole, Jerry Watkins, Denise Meredyth

This updated working paper summarises Australian shared school-related policies at the local, state and national level, and provides examples from Canada, New Zealand, UK and USA. The lack of formal measurement of shared resource efficiency, education outcomes and community engagement is the critical point raised by this working paper.

Summary. Provision for local communities to use school facilities and resources outside the hours of formal schooling has been part of Australian, and particularly Victorian, educational policy from the inception of mass public education in the late nineteenth century. Policy rationales, programs and expected outcomes are often tied to near-horizon political and policy concerns, and thus vary significantly over this period. However, in sum, they recognise the significance of schools as spatial, civic and educational resources for students and for local communities.

Policy gaps. Despite substantial recent investment, there has been little analysis of the contribution of new school infrastructure to aligning and achieving school-based and community-based goals. Evaluation of shared school policies and programs is underdeveloped in Australia. Current shared-use policy focuses on physical facilities, with little discussion of whether and how school digital resources might be more widely used. We argue that these are significant policy gaps that require redressing in twenty-first century educational provision, particularly where compulsory years schooling is located within life-long learning.

Early years focus. The paper identifies a significant international trend in policy development and coordination around early childhood education and care. This development has done much to shape the physical configuration of school sites and the service relationships of schools and other government and community sector organisations. This development has also shaped the construction of the ‘community’ with which schools engage, as consisting of students, school staff and parents.

Ongoing debate. The proposition that school facilities should be available for use by the wider community is the subject of ongoing debate. There are few critics of recent developments in multi-purpose or shared community infrastructure. However, the concept of shared schools is both more complex and more contested, raising questions about educational purpose, resource priorities, governance, and impact or outcomes.

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