3 Partnering with community organisations and local businesses

Leading a school requires a fair amount of coordination with community organisations and local businesses. There will be a number of community organisations near your school. Some will be informal, such as mothers’ associations or self-help groups; others will deliver more structured services and programmes that improve the opportunities available to the students through resources that would otherwise be inaccessible. They may offer programmes ranging from literacy and numeracy skills to performing arts, life skills, popularisation of science and agriculture, communication skills, and vocational guidance. Some help the school with the midday meal, others with scholarships for the students and still others help create some infrastructure in the school. Partnerships between schools and community organisations ensure that these services and programmes are delivered with expertise and complement the teachers’ skills.

Your leadership role includes in connecting community organisations and local businesses with your school agenda and curriculum and using these partnerships to enhance your students’ learning. Field visits by students and school visits by professionals or experts are two examples of how you can enhance learning in this way. Table 1 gives an example of how one class has mapped its partnerships against the curriculum and the school calendar.

Table 1 Example of Class VII establishing community partnerships.

SubjectTopicInstitution/siteContact personPurposeMonth
GeographySoilFarmers’ cooperativeMrs GuptaTypes of soils and how to identify themJuly visitor
CivicsLocal self-governmentPanchayatMrs CharkrabatiBe able to enumerate the responsibilities of the Panchayat August visitor
ScienceSoundInstrument maker workshopMr JavedMaking an instrument using stringSeptember visitor
EnglishLetter writingPost officeMr ChanaLetter writing protocols and pin codesOctober visitor
HistoryHeritage sitesDelhi SultanateMr ThapaIdentifying the material used in the structure, where it would have come from and the style of constructionJanuary visitor

Organising these field visits is not easy, as it involves getting permissions, briefing the relevant people and the safe movement of students to the site and back to school. Your teachers will need support and encouragement from you in order to arrange trips. Remember that the students’ parents and the SMC are both resources and will likely be willing to go the extra mile if you need support, including accompanying the students on a field visit to ensure an appropriate adult:student ratio.

As a school leader, you are responsible for:

  • engaging community organisations with your school
  • setting up appropriate working practices
  • monitoring and evaluating impact.

Any partnership needs to be recommended to the SMC and its effectiveness must be reported on a regular basis to ensure that it remains beneficial to the school and operates effectively.

Activity 4: A field visit to a science activity centre

The Class IX students were taken to a science activity centre run by a foundation for several days. One of the students wrote an account for the school blog (Mehta, 2014), which you can read below.

Figure 3 Telling the story of a field visit.

Our destination was Bangarpet. This was our second and last field visit to Kuppam, which we had visited in Class VIII. Surprisingly, everything we did at Kuppam this time was different from our previous experience. All the arrangements were well coordinated and we were comfortable.

The science part of this trip was excellent and we experienced project-based learning and independent exploration in the beautiful world of science. Project-based learning was a new experience that asked the students to pose a driving question and through experiments we would either confirm or add changes to a pre-framed hypothesis. This really changed the way I look at science. Also it was an unforgettable experience to experiment with hi-tech lab apparatus and work like mini scientists within the campus.

The foundation had made excellent arrangements for us. We stayed there for about six days and performed physics, maths, biology and chemistry experiments. We had sessions with highly respected professors, which enhanced and enriched our knowledge of science. The foundation has its own discovery centre and a dome theatre where we saw a short film about space.

The best parts of the trip were the community visits, where we actually stepped into the rural ways of education and visited local schools. The students there were so knowledgeable and talented in ways many could only dream of. It was a proud moment to see them. We did some fun activities with them.

We will always treasure the memories of the visit to the stone quarry, the tiring but satisfying walk to reach the peak of the ancient Kuppam Fort and the special cultural night planned for us in which we danced, sang and tried playing various instruments. I’d like to conclude by saying that fun and learning can come to you in all sorts of ways, and that learning through understanding is the best.

Now write in your Learning Diary what sort of things you think the school leaders and the science teacher had discussed with the foundation before sending the students to the centre to make sure it was a successful trip. Also, note down what you felt was achieved through the field trip in terms of the students’ learning.

Discussion

Your list of things the school leader and science teachers would have discussed with the Foundation probably included the following:

  • dates
  • number of students that could be accommodated
  • travel
  • stay
  • budget
  • daily programme
  • resource persons
  • food and menu
  • safety
  • extra activities
  • medical facilities
  • curriculum.

The school leader would also have a similar list of what to discuss with parents, which might include:

  • information about the purpose of the field visit
  • a proforma for permission granted
  • instructions in case of medical care and special dietary requirements
  • a list of things for the students to take along
  • dropping-off and picking-up day, dates and times.

There would also be a list of information to discuss with any teachers going on the trip.

Activity 5: Evaluating your current partnerships with your community

Now you should examine one of the community partnerships that operates in your school. It may be a very minor relationship that you have with a local business or it may be a more significant partnership with an NGO where you share facilities. Consider the prompts in Figure 4 to evaluate the impact of this partnership on your students’ learning and whether you might be able to gain more from working together.

Make notes in your Learning Diary using a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) grid as shown in Figure 4. You may want to involve staff, parents and the partner in this evaluation.

Strengths

List all the good things about the partnership, taking care to consider the impact on student learning

Weaknesses                                           

List any downsides of the partnership that make it difficult to run

Opportunities

List the things that are not currently happening that might happen – again, think specifically about improving student learning

Threats

List anything that gets in the way of the partnership working as well as it might

Figure 4 A SWOT grid for evaluating the partnerships that your school has with your community

Discussion

This simple grid can be very helpful in analysing exactly what is working in a partnership and where improvements could be made. You can find more information on SWOTs in the additional resource section of this unit.

  • Has the grid helped you in identifying some areas where you could improve the impact of the partnership on student learning? This could then form the basis of a set of recommendations to your SMC or help you make some decisions about priorities.
  • Do you think you could use the grid with the SMC before formulating the school development plan with them? Maybe this would help you to take forward this important work more easily and convince the SMC about the needs and priorities of the school.

2 Partnerships with other schools and NGOs

4 Engaging with students’ parents and guardians