Involving schools in local regeneration 'demands clearer thinking about their role'
Schools often remain disconnected from regeneration initiatives in their surrounding neighbourhoods. But those who demand to know why schools do not get involved in a wider range of renewal activities may be asking the wrong question, suggests a new report published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Researchers from the University of Newcastle spent two years studying the contribution of schools to regeneration initiatives in two disadvantaged areas of the north of England. They found that although local primary and secondary schools were all undertaking community-related activities, the level of involvement varied greatly and depended very much on the attitude of the headteacher. Whereas some heads regarded their schools as a community resource, others saw their school's main task as protecting their pupils and providing them with long-term opportunities. Many of this latter group saw a conflict between these priorities and local regeneration schemes. However, the researchers found some good evidence to suggest that community involvement activities in schools were making a difference to the lives of their pupils, offering support to families and extending the resources available to the community. Even so, the initiatives undertaken were relatively small-scale and schools lacked the resources to work intensively with families or substantial numbers of local people. 'Any attempt to extend the role of schools in area regeneration initiatives runs the risk of increasing the tensions between their 'core business' of raising attainment and the additional tasks they are being asked to perform,' said Prof. Alan Dyson, co-author of the report Schools and area regeneration. 'Rather than considering how schools can contribute to the regeneration of disadvantaged areas alongside their core business, it might be more appropriate to ask: 'What is it about schools' core business that enhances the opportunities of all children in all the communities that they serve?' and to act upon that.'