Schools_in_the_community (Sam Curran)

Are schools just a place for pupils to learn or are they part of something bigger: the community? Do pupils stay on for clubs or do they get out of the door as soon as possible when the bell rings? Is the school open to the community for use for events and out-of-hours or is it locked away outside school time like some University campuses?

I am personally a huge advocate of schools playing an important role in the community: it makes it easier for the kids to go to school and enjoy it. Hosting events and holiday schemes can really boost the school’s profile and attract future students who get a taste of what the school is like possibly making the transition to secondary school easier. Hosting events and being a community hub makes it a figurehead in the town and improves relations with local residents which reduce the amount of complaints. Being involved in the community so much creates a positive cycle of educational achievement and happiness.

I have seen this first hand with my old secondary school Hummersknott Academy in Darlington. It was so open to the community in so many ways. Firstly in the school sense it was brilliantly serviced in extra-curricular activities particularly sporting. It was wonderfully open to the community and every night there was something going on there including adult education courses, keep fit activities, junior sports coaching (particularly football) and youth groups like drama and stagecoach workshops. The school is even used for sports coaching education courses. At the weekends and holidays, sports coaching and soccer schools are held at the school as are interest and youth groups. The facilities are available to hire all throughout this time for the community. This culture of openness really attracts people from all over the town and has made the school almost legendary.

Being open to the community does not just mean in use of the facilities it also means being open for work experience requests. My school were more than accommodating for me to gain some volunteer experience there as a TA and also help run the soccer school on Saturdays.

As evidence as proof that being such a part of the community can benefit a school examine Hummersknott’s Ofsted reports. In a recent inspection, it achieved good with outstanding elements and will clearly gain a grade 1 in the next one. It has consistently good results (last year it achieved over 75% 5A*-C including English and Maths) and has a large roster of pupils and staff- over 1250 students attend the school. The students come from all corners of the town as well as the surrounding villages and they come from a variety of backgrounds including deprived and comfortable middle class. It is regularly used for community events and is often first on the list for hosting events and community courses. The school’s openness attracts and retains staff: many of my old teachers have been there their entire career for over 30 years. Many of my fellow classmates have gone there for work experience and helping run workshops. It is well regarded as a family school and generations of pupils go there. This was true for me: my dad, mum, sister and aunts/uncles all went to the school.

Although it seems as if this piece is specifically touting my old secondary school, I am using it to illustrate the examples of the advantages being such a part of the community can bring. If other schools adopt this approach both in an extra-curricular and out-of hours manner then the results would be great increasing both morale and academic achievement. Hopefully I have given you some food for thought.


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