University Of Tasmania
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An investigation of the way in which school and community leadership processes influence the role of schools in rural community development

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posted on 2023-05-26, 07:07 authored by Johns, S
Whilst there is nothing new about rural school community linkages, the growth of school community partnerships in recent years represents a new phase in this symbiotic relationship: one that is formalised, and supported by government at the policy level. Partnerships are based on a collective, rather than individual or 'hero leader' view of leadershipa and are designed to facilitate collective learning and problem solving. They facilitate the integration of school and community resources, and are designed primarily to enhance student outcomes. School community partnerships also facilitate lifelong learning, but only passing attention has been paid to their impact on the broader capacity-building, or social capital outcomes in rural communities. Using a qualitative approach, and a case study strategy of inquiry, this study explores the process of building school community partnerships, from the perspective of those involved in partnership development. Five effective school community partnerships were selected, using a purposive sampling strategy. Data were collected from multiple sources, including semi-structured interviews, researcher observation, written documentation, and community perception maps, and were used in the preparation of case studies of five different rural school community partnerships. Extensive cross-case analysis was then undertaken to enhance transferability of the findings. The study found that effective partnerships are complex and long-term in nature. Viewing partnership development as a five-stage process through which social capital is built and used, it is the fourth stage, critical retlection, that is the key to partnership sustainability. This stage is not adequately recognised in research into partnership development. At this stage, partnership identity is affirmed as successes are recognised and celebrated, and the decision is taken to continue the partnership learning cycle. Thus, the social capital built over the earlier stages of partnership development is marshalled at the critical reflection stage, to facilitate further collaborative action. Specific leadership roles are linked to the five-stage partnership development process. These roles are weighted towards facilitating the partnership (building social capital amongst partners). Roles are not based on formal leadership positions, and are shared amongst school and community members. Those who undertake specific leadership roles have relevant skills, knowledge and attributes, as well as a high level of commitment to the partnership. This is not to deny the critical role of formal school leaders (principals). They are keyholders to partnership and rural community development, with the ability to unlock access to social capital within and beyond the school and community. If the community-wide benefits of school-community partnerships are to be maximised, there needs to be greater policy flexibility in terms of time and financial resources, to take into account the sequential and long-term nature of partnership development. Because partnerships require extensive resources, support, and commitment from both school and community, the study concludes with the call for greater integration between rural community development policy and rural education policy. This will facilitate sharing of resources and leadership training opportunities, as well as legitimise and more fully support the role of rural schools in community development.


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Copyright 2004 the author

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