School-community partnerships

School-community partnerships


All members of the school community, including parents and families, other education institutions, community organisations and businesses actively participate in and are committed to the common purpose of enhanced student outcomes.

School-community partnerships 

NSW School Examples

  This Powerpoint from Mayfield East Public School in the Newcastle area describes how the application of effective Accelerated Literacy pedagogy, supported by active engagement with parents and the wider school community has resulted in outstanding improvements in student outcomes. 
  A PowerPoint from St Felix Primary School, Bankstown, illustrates how the Leadership Team worked with a Teacher Educator, teams of teachers and with parents to collaboratively plan and implement reforms that encourage data-driven teaching and to promote the school as a community of learners
  A Powerpoint from Namoi Valley Christian School illustrates ways in which the school engaged with parents to boost student performance in numeracy.
  A Powerpoint from Bonnyrigg Public School shows how engaging Aboriginal community members has supported students.
  A Powerpoint from Minimbah Aboriginal School illustrates how the school engages with the community and university to plan a culturally appropriate curriculum and to provide a supportive environment for Aboriginal students.
  This PowerPoint about Peak Hill Central School shows how the school used a whole community approach to improving student outcomes in reading.
  This PowerPoint about Bourke Public School outlines how the school has fostered a strong relationship with the local Aboriginal community to promote student engagement, resulting in significant changes in student NAPLAN scores.
  • School-community partnerships - in detail


    New opportunities through strategic partnerships

    Zbar et al (2010) and Masters (2010) suggest that the development of positive and caring relationships among key stakeholders in the school community can work positively towards the sole purpose of the school - to enhance student learning. These relationships are characterised by a collaborative culture and an agreed deep belief that every student is capable of learning. Effective and strategically developed partnerships can considerably broaden the settings and provision of resources for these varied learning experiences to occur.


    Establishing effective school-community partnerships

    A recent US research report (National Turning Points Center) identifies the key steps for identifying collaborative school cultures, which were also evident in case studies of effective NSW schools (Erebus International 2012 and 2013). To build a collaborative culture, members of the school community:

    • share the belief that working collaboratively is the best way to reach the school’s goals
    • develop organizational structures that allow teachers to form teams and work together
    • agree on norms so teams can work effectively
    • define a vision for the school based on what students should know and be able to do
    • set goals to achieve the vision.


    Working with community partners

    The experience of NSW schools, particularly those within the Low Socio-economic School Communities National Partnership, has shown that active engagement and communication with parents, community members, other schools, businesses and local organisations is essential to improving levels of student engagement and learning outcomes (NSW SSNP 2013). Community partners can assist in setting the conditions for learning needed by all students, but particularly those who are falling behind in literacy and numeracy.

    The most effective partnerships are those which are built around a common understanding of school priorities, where identified partners collaborate in the planning and implementation of activities, where effectiveness of the partnerships is monitored, where all parties have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and where the partnership has become part of the school’s “business as usual”.

    Examples of effectively engaging with the community include:

    • information sessions about school priorities and needs
    • initiatives to engage particular groups in the community such as playgroups, parent education around how best to support their students, collaboration with other schools in a “community of schools” to share skills, resources and understandings related to students and the curriculum
    • using technology such as Moodle to communicate to the school and the community about learning requirements
    • the active inclusion of Aboriginal Elders and community members in decision-making opportunities within the school
    • programs to support children and families in the transition to school
    • links with health and well-being initiatives in the community, such as speech pathology, counseling and allied health practitioners
    • homework centres which may draw on the expertise and availability of community members
    • partnering with universities to share professional expertise.


    Partnerships can support the sustainability of effective initiatives

    The Turning Points research report (National Turning Points Center) designed to “turn middle schools around”, the notion of collaborative school culture was identified as the key strategy for initiating sustainable change within schools. The report describes the concept in the following way:

    • In a collaborative culture, members of the school community work together effectively and are guided by a common purpose. All members of the community—teachers, administrators, students and their families—share a common vision of what the school should be like. Together they set goals that lead them toward this vision.
    • In doing so, they create a culture of discourse in which the most important educational matters facing the school are openly and honestly discussed. Members respect each other, value their differences, and are open to each other’s ideas. Even when there is disagreement, people listen to each other, because they believe deeply that differences are vital in moving their school forward.
    • The teachers in Turning Points schools know they can be more effective and are continually looking for the piece of advice, the book, the research, the organizational structure that will help them improve. The many different voices, experiences, and styles of the school community add to its strength and vitality.



    Erebus International (2012). Evaluation of the take-up and sustainability of new literacy and numeracy practices in NSW schools – Final Report for Phase 1, undertaken on behalf of the NSW Minister for Education

    Erebus International (2013). Evaluation of the take-up and sustainability of new literacy and numeracy practices in NSW schools – Final Report for Phase 2, undertaken on behalf of the NSW Minister for Education

    New South Wales Smarter Schools National Partnerships (2013) 2012 SSNP Annual Report

    Masters, G. (2010) Teaching and Learning School Improvement Framework. Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

    National Turning Points Center. Turning Points. Centre for Collaborative Education

    Zbar, V.,Kimber, R. and Marshall, G. (2010). Getting the Preconditions for School Improvement in Place: How to Make it Happen. Centre for Strategic Education Seminar Series Bulletin 193: Melbourne


Whole school factors

The school is strategically linked with key community stakeholders who can support the school with resources and experiences not otherwise available.


Classroom/teacher factors

Teachers feel they are in active partnership with the community, particularly families, in identifying and responding to individual student learning needs.


See also

Read Strengthening Family and Community Engagement in Student Learning, a resource, developed by DEEWR through the Smarter School National Partnerships project, parental engagement in schooling and low SES communities,

Examine the Family-School Partnerships Framework, a guide for schools and families produced by DEEWR.

Explore resources on the Family-School & Community Partnerships Bureau website, which has been established to Australian schools, families and communities build sustainable, collaborative, productive relationships.

Review this research into the success of Reading Adventure Packs, a strategy to improve students’ involvement in and attitude to reading at home.

Explore resources around building learning communities, produced by e-Lead, a Washington-based organisation.