Dimension: building communities

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


  • Effective schools establish links and build relationships with a broad range of people and organisations to expand opportunities and improve outcomes for their students. They recognise that developing relationships with the local community, business, government, and community organisations as well as other education providers, strengthens the capacity of schools and families to support their students' learning and development outcomes. Such relationships also support the potential to enhance social inclusion and build social capital for a school and its community. These relationships provide access to expertise, facilities, resources, support and services, opening up additional opportunities for students to reach their full potential and achieve outcomes.
  • Schools that partner with families and community-based organisations create a network of support for student wellbeing and engagement. Such networks can mitigate against barriers to student learning such as ill health, bullying and isolation.
  • Genuine school/family partnerships are based on trust and mutual respect and support the school's vision and values. They have the greatest impact when they are focused on student learning and wellbeing and underpinned by student agency.

Essential Elements

A number of elements are essential to enable effective work within the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes. Eight Essential Elements form the foundation upon which improvement is built. The Essential Element for Building communities is:

Essential Element 5: Whole-school approach to health, wellbeing, inclusion and engagement.

The Essential Elements are evident at the Evolving stage of each Continuum (below) and are further articulated in the Embedding and Excelling stages in some dimensions.


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 develops parent, carer and family engagement


The school identifies parents/carers as important partners in raising student achievement. It encourages family engagement through provision of information on school activities, policies and programs and how to support their child’s learning at home. Teachers update parents/carers on the status and progress of their child’s learning and has protocols in place to respond to issues and concerns.


The school provides opportunities for parent/carer participation in the operations of the school. It engages parents/carers in their child’s learning and in the priorities of the school. Inclusive school policies, programs and practices are developed to build mutual trust and respect between school and families. The school regularly collects feedback from students, parents and staff to evaluate program effectiveness.


The school works with parents/carers to highlight the importance of high expectations and challenging goals for students. Schools and parents/carers work together to give consistent support and reinforcement of expectations about learning and behaviour and celebrate student achievements. Inclusive school policies, programs and practices are monitored and evaluated for their effectiveness. Parents/carers have avenues to work with the school to overcome barriers to family engagement in supporting their child’s learning.


The school has developed sustainable and effective partnerships between teachers, parents and families resulting in high levels of family involvement in school activities. Parents/carers are active contributors to school decision-making processes and have a voice in relevant school decisions. Parent/carer and family diversity is catered for by embedded school practices. These parents/carers and families engage with the school to understand the learning progress of their children and how to effectively support learning. Barriers to engagement are identified and addressed.

Component: The school builds community partnerships


The school ensures students’ learning is enhanced through learning experiences beyond the school. The school identifies potential community partners based on their capacity to contribute to improved student learning, health and wellbeing and creating strategies for student support. The school encourages community participation in school activities and provides access to school resources to strengthen school and community partnerships and connections.


The school explores community partnerships to access targeted learning activities, resources or services not readily available within the school to increase learning opportunities for students and parents. The school collaboration with community partners is planned with clear goals, roles and responsibilities, focused on student learning and wellbeing. The school and community partners develop effective communication methods to share information and resources to facilitate implementation of their joint projects.


The school formalises partnerships to address identified student learning and wellbeing needs and enrich learning experiences and opportunities. The school harnesses the capacity of its partners to collectively meet the diversity of its student needs by accessing such things as expertise, professional development and delivery of activities and services.  Partnerships are monitored and reviewed to measure their effectiveness. The school and its partners co-design learning experiences that have mutual benefit.


The school as a whole is community-focused and outreach-oriented. It functions as a community hub, facilitating collaboration with a diversity of partners to provide services and activities before, during and after school hours. Co-located services share information and work together to provide integrated service delivery, enabling them to address complex social barriers to participation in learning by students and parents/carers. Community partnerships deepen and enrich teacher and student learning and innovation. Partnerships are regularly evaluated and updated to ensure they are meeting the needs and objectives of the school community.

Component: The school has partnerships to support student health, wellbeing and achievement


The school takes opportunities to engage with community organisations that offer support to individual students in their learning, health and wellbeing. Schools work with specialist services involved with individual children who have significant health or learning issues.


The school has well-established links with community services for promoting positive health in all students and for supporting specific health needs of individual students including those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged. The school works with community partners to offer resources and activities that support student learning, health and wellbeing needs, including specialised health services. It also uses partnerships to help overcome barriers to student participation in learning programs.


A shared commitment and collaborative actions by the school, families and broader community, assists community organisations and agencies to provide services and maximise benefits for students aligned to the school’s policies. The school ensures early intervention for students who have additional needs or are at risk of disengagement. It collaborates with community agencies to support specific learning, health and wellbeing needs of these students.


Partnerships with parents, families and community organisations, health professionals and agencies support a holistic approach in targeting services to meet the health, wellbeing and learning needs of students and their families. The school has an integrated approach to learning, health and wellbeing focused on providing group-based and individual student support, workforce capacity building, parent/carer information sessions and provision of specialised services.

Printable resource

Continuum as an A3 print out (pdf - 221.04kb)

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 dimension: Building communities see: Evidence - Building communities


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