OVER 130 teachers and education practitioners from across Wales joined the British Council at Cardiff City Stadium yesterday (Tuesday, 23 May) to learn more about Community Focused Schools.
The conference, which concentrated on three areas – multi-agency partnerships, parental and family engagement, and links with the community, aimed to share best practices and innovative approaches in building strong partnerships between schools, families, and their local community.
One of the highlights of the conference was the opportunity to learn from Community School experts from the United States, where over the last 20 years, they have successfully transformed educational institutions into hubs of collaboration.
Key speeches came from Dr Jo-Anne Ferrara, Chief Programme Officer for the New York State Eastern Region’s Technical Assistance Centre for Community Schools; and Dr Amy Ellis, Director of the Centre for Community Schools at the University of Central Florida, who shared their experience at implementing community schools in the USA.
The conference featured case studies and best practices from schools across Wales who are already making huge strides in this area. They included Cadoxton Primary based in Barry, Craigfelen Primary School in Clydach, Education for North Wales, and Millbrook Primary School in Newport, where community engagement is a pivotal part of school life.
Case studies also focused on the Pencoedtre Learning Community, where six primary schools from Cardiff and the surrounding area focus on family engagement; Craigfelen Primary in Swansea, who have established a community kitchen, garden, and a pupil-run community café; and the Bettws Early Learning Community in Newport, South Wales, which brings together local services, organisations and families.
Community Focused Schools are a key priority for the Welsh Government, with schools placing the child at the heart of their approach and connecting family, school and community together to provide an integrated approach to learning and development.
Speaking from the conference was Suzanne Sarjeant, Community Schools, Welsh Government, she said: “Our national mission is to achieve high standards and aspirations for all by tackling the impact of poverty on educational attainment and supporting every learner.
“Our ambition is for all schools in Wales to be Community Focused Schools – responding to the needs of their community, building a strong partnership with families and collaborating effectively with other services, ensuring all learners have the best start in life.
Community Focussed Schools are central to help deliver equity in education and tackle the impact of poverty on educational attainment and are a key driver within Our National Mission.”
The conference is part of a week-long programme organised by the British Council, which will see key visits to community schools around Cardiff and Swansea, as well as meetings with various educational bodies.
Also commenting at the event was Ruth Cocks, Director, British Council Wales. She said: “Today’s conference follows on from practitioners study visits to New York and Florida, and an online event we held during Covid-19 focusing on community schools both here in Wales and in the US. We’re delighted to continue this conversation and have community schools experts from the States join us in Wales this week.
“We believe community schools play a vital role in connecting families, schools, and communities, and by bringing together diverse perspectives, knowledge, and experiences, we can create a truly inclusive and effective educational system that caters to the unique needs of our local communities. Together, we can shape the future of education in Wales and nurture the potential of every learner.”