When we talk about teaching and learning, our focus has traditionally been directed at the institution called school. The Big School initiative centres on the philosophy that learning is not solely the responsibility of a school- that, in fact, an entire community is responsible for meaningful teaching and learning.
The Country Education Partnership is pleased to be working in partnership with the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, who have provided valuable resources to support The Big School initiative in two rural communities across Victoria – Nathalia and St Arnaud.
When calculated, young people spend a small proportion of their time at school, in a formalised learning environment (approximately 12-15% of their time in any given year). Given this, there is an enormous opportunity for the broader community to bolster this teaching and learning time to ensure the greatest possible opportunities for their young people.
The Big School approach takes both the opportunity and responsibility of teaching and learning from the school site to beyond the school perimeter and into the local community. By building the capacity of all community members and recognising the expertise and human capital within a local community- the prosperity of all within the community will grow.
Learning and teaching becomes the focus of not just the school, but of the whole community.
If we raise the individual capacity of all community members to both teach and learn well on a daily basis then not only educational outcomes for children will improve but the whole of community will benefit intellectually, financially and culturally from a true learning community.
With the support of the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the Country Education Partnership has been supporting two rural communities in developing a whole of community approach to the provision of education for their children and young people. This support has resulted in a range of activities including:
- St Arnaud Shared Learning approach
- the development of the Nathalia Learning Community
- the development of a community facilitated Reading Book Box initiative
- Nathalia common approach to Literacy
- the engagement of local business in reading programs with the local schools and families
- community involvement in supporting students learning
- the development of a whole of community approach to engaging young people in learning: NLC 2017 FINAL REPORT
- the establishment of a whole of community approach to youth aspirations and resilience
- facilitation of whole of community nutrition approaches.
This project expects a range of outcomes, with the main expected outcome being that rural and remote communities provide a whole of community approach to learning that engages students and impacts positively on their opportunities and outcomes.
We are already seeing some great outcomes being provided to children and young people within these rural communities.
Specifically these outcomes have include:
- greater involvement of the community/families in supporting and providing quality learning;
- increased partnerships between education organisations and local businesses, community organisations, sporting clubs, etc.
- greater utilisation of the resources available within communities to provide learning; NLC 2017 FINAL REPORT
- increased engagement of students in learning resulting in improved outcomes;
- a resource kit that can be utilised by other communities.