PPIW worked with Professor Alan Dyson and Dr Kirstin Kerr (University of Manchester) to analyse the international evidence about the potential for using school facilities outside school hours and term times, and with Ian Bottrill (Learning for Leadership Cymru) and Pam Boyd (ShawBoyd Associates) to review existing good practice in Wales.
The report shows there is good international evidence that using school facilities to provide community based services can have positive impacts on a range of outcomes for children, families and communities. Bringing services together in a single site can generate a cumulative ‘community school effect’, help address child poverty, and solve some of the challenges posed by declining budgets for community services.
However, it is important to recognise that community schools can come in many different forms. To be effective, it is essential that policy makers and school leaders clarify the purposes they expect community schools to serve. Using school assets in this way also requires high level support from government, school leaders and governing bodies. Attention should be paid to the selection and professional development of staff to work in these schools, particularly at leadership level.
Wales already has examples of good practice but it is important to recognise the limited capacity of most schools to work in community contexts, and to put in place structures and incentives to link them to the world beyond their gates.
The report recommends that a Task Group should be formed to:
- provide high level leadership and a national direction based on a clearly articulated purpose for increasing the use of school facilities;
- develop practical recommendations for relevant stakeholders based on the evidence reviewed; and
- develop guidance addressing the practical issues highlighted in the report.
This work was undertaken for the Minister for Education and Skills.