As the cost-of-living crisis continues to affect families, schools across Wales are playing a vital role in supporting their local communities.
A Community Focused School is one, which builds a strong partnership with families, responds to the needs of their community and collaborates effectively with other services to ensure all children thrive.
In March this year, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles announced almost £25m investment in delivering Community Focused Schools, to fund practical ways of improving school facilities in order to enable greater community use. This includes providing equipment storage for community groups running extra-curricular activities and improving external lighting in sports areas. This funding will be allocated to local authorities across Wales on a formula basis based on pupil and school numbers.
One school already helping their local community is Blaenymaes Primary School in Swansea. The school established a parent council in order to gain a parent perspective of their needs in terms of partnership working and parent support.
The school also continued building links with the housing association POBL which led to family engagement activities with community groups, such as Room to Grow and Swansea Community Farm.
Room to Grow aims to upskill families in growing their own produce at home to support the increasing cost of feeding a family. Pupils at Blaenymaes and their families take part in sessions in the school grounds. These sessions included building planters and providing the material to grow produce at home.
“Come cook with me” sessions run in school by Helen Spencer, Family Inclusion Officer, offer families the opportunity to learn how to cook tasty and healthy recipes on a budget. All recipes and ingredients are provided to families so that they can replicate them at home. In addition, the group were provided with cooking equipment that they may not have at home such as digital scales and measuring spoons.
Emma Amirat, Acting Deputy Head at Blaenymaes Primary School, said:
Through engagement with our Parent Council, it was clear that parents enjoyed the support given to help them with their child’s learning, however, they also had challenges that worried them outside of the school day. We made the decision that in order to enhance our capacity to support families holistically, we needed to further develop links with community groups.
This approach has meant we can invite groups, such as Room to Grow and Swansea Community Farm, into our school to offer families purposeful opportunities.
Listening to our Parent Council is a key driver in what we offer families. We are developing plans to offer solutions to uniform costs, fuel poverty and providing family swap shops.
Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said:
Community Focused Schools connect families, schools, and communities together. This helps provide a joined-up approach to learning, while ensuring that there are no financial or social barriers to a child’s education.
As a government we are clear that tackling the impact of poverty on attainment is at the heart of our national mission for education. I have seen first-hand the fantastic initiatives schools up and down the country are doing to help both the school community and local area. Our new Community Focused Schools guidance sets out advice and information to help schools turn their vision into a reality.