Dimension: building communities

This dimension is part of the Community Engagement in Learning priority and is identified as​ a high-impact Improvement Initiative.

Overview

Schools serve the community through engaging and working inclusively with a broad range of people and organisations. Schools can strengthen community cohesion, helping to improve student learning within and beyond school. Strong communities act as a support network for student health, wellbeing and engagement. They support students' learning and development and enhance social inclusion.

Through strong community partnerships, students can engage in the world of work, building different pathways and social networks. These help to create smooth transitions into further education, training and employment. Strong community partnerships are crucial for building trust and enabling cultural connectivity. Working with the community also gives schools access to local expertise, facilities, resources and services, which can help students overcome barriers and reach their full potential.

Improvement measures

Results from system surveys, available in Panorama, can be used to measure progress, and as success indicators. Suggested surveys include

 • School Staff Survey – the 'parent and community involvement' and 'parent and community involvement, engagement and outreach' factors

 • Parent Opinion Survey – the 'parent participation and involvement' and 'school communication' factors.

Supporting resources

The VTLM Practice Principles

Information for parents

Continuum

The Continuum for Building communities describes a range of proficiency levels (Emerging, Evolving, Embedding and Excelling) that assists principals and teachers to identify areas of practice that require attention in order to deliver improved student outcomes.

Component: The school advances community engagement

Emerging

Leaders recognise that broader community engagement is key to building and strengthening the community and enhancing student outcomes. Leaders encourage community participation in school activities and provide access to school resources and facilities to strengthen school and community connections. Leaders ensure inclusive school policies, programs and practices are developed to build mutual trust and respect between the school and the community.

Evolving

Leaders create opportunities for community groups and volunteers to participate in the operations of the school, and encourage the use of school resources and facilities by the community. Leaders develop partnerships with key tertiary, community and employment organisations to build aspirations and opportunities for students. Leaders identify data and tools which can assist evaluation of the level of community engagement over time.

Embedding

Leaders actively collaborate with community groups and members to provide joint services, programs and activities for parents/carers/kin, and the wider community, such as adult education programs. Leaders ensure that inclusive school policies, programs and practices are monitored and evaluated for their effectiveness. Leaders establish a monitoring system that offers insights into the level of community engagement and helps to identify the most effective strategies for engagement.

Excelling

Leaders, teachers and students create a community-focused and outward-looking environment, with the school functioning as a community hub. Leaders encourage collaboration with diverse community groups, and the school provides services and activities before, during and after school hours. Leaders, teachers and students have developed sustainable and effective ways to engage with the broader community, which is regularly involved in school activities. Community members and groups are active contributors to school decision-making and have a voice in relevant school decisions. Leaders ensure that inclusive school policies, programs and practices are monitored and evaluated for their effectiveness.

Case studies

To see examples of how schools in Victoria are implementing the FISO dimension: Building communities see: Building communities case studies.

Evidence Hub

To view the Evidence Base for the FISO community engagement in learning priority area see: Evidence- Community engagement in learning evidence base.

FAQs

Why should my school consider this improvement initiative?

Parent and community involvement in a school is one of the factors most closely associated with the school's student outcomes. Effective schools work hard at involving parents/carers and families in their child's learning. Impact is higher when there is a consistent, positive relationship between the school and parents/carers supporting shared learning expectations.

Partnerships with parents/carers that are focused on the social behaviours of students can also support student wellbeing. Schools that partner with families and community-based organisations including other education providers such as tertiary institutions and training institutes can create a network of support for student learning, wellbeing and engagement.

How will my school know if we should focus on this improvement initiative?

Consider the following:

  • To what extent do school leaders and teachers engage parents/carers regarding their child's learning and development with effective communication systems in place?
  • Do some students engage in risk-taking behaviours that require the assistance of community-based agencies?
  • To what extent do students, parents/carers and the school community have formal ways to provide input regarding the optimal functioning of the school?
  • What perception does the community have of the school as the first choice for their children?
  • To what extent does the school have positive partnerships with local businesses or community organisations?
What can my school focus on?
  • Establishing partnerships
  • Supporting student health and well-being outcomes
  • Supporting student confidence in learning and achievement
  • Teacher-parent partnerships.
Where to next?

If you choose to focus on this initiative, the tasks below may assist you to develop actions that your school implements:

  • adopt a whole-of-school approach to engaging with families
  • reach out to parents/carers to understand their individual contexts
  • provide families with regular updates on their child's progress and what the family can do at home. Make additional efforts to engage with less confident and hard-to-reach parents/carers
  • welcome parents/carers and community organisations to the school, encouraging their active participation in a wide range of school related activities, and ensure they are involved in shaping the school's vision, values, purpose, strategic directions and practices to achieve education priorities
  • provide explicit, specific and timely feedback to students and parents/carers on how to improve learning
  • involve students and parents/carers in planning to support students as they progress through the stages of education
  • create a network of support for student wellbeing and student learning
  • embed practices for parents/carers to be engaged and understand the learning progress of their children and how to effectively support them to learn, with a focus on less confident and hard-to-reach parents/carers
  • provide regular updates to parents/carers on the progress of their children through detailed information about individual student learning achievement and areas for focus and growth
  • develop productive relationships with community agencies as well as community members (including businesses) to make strategic use of existing resources and capabilities
  • strengthen the school's capacity to improve social capital within the broader community by partnering with the community sector (e.g. through the GPs in Schools initiative), school, TAFE and university partnerships
  • provide opportunities to broaden students' experiences with other communities and cultures to help develop a sense of global citizenship
  • ensure there is a shared vision and values that reflect the aspirations and expectations of the whole community
  • develop a communications plan to identify how the school community is consulted and ensures the school community is informed about the implementation of the school improvement strategy and progress towards the achievement of strengthened partnerships
  • develop deeper understandings of students' backgrounds and family situations to more effectively cater for individual learning needs and tailor communication with their families
  • work with community partners to support families to access training (e.g. computer literacy or English as an Additional Language programs) and access other support services, according to the characteristics and needs of the school community
  • provide opportunities for community groups to access/use school resources, e.g. gym, basketball courts, flexible learning centres.

More information

For more information, see: Community Engagement in Learning Learning priority