The International Centre of Excellence for Community Schools
Community schools are not confined to the United States. In fact, there are thousands of institutions adopting and adapting this approach across the globe. Many of these adaptations have been inspired by the American movement. For example, professionals from 76 countries have visited Children’s Aid community schools since the first one opened in 1992.
The International Centre of Excellence for Community Schools (ICECS) was founded in England in 2009, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; CAS has been active in the International Center's work from its inception. ICECS has established a set of International Quality Standards that offer a framework for dialogue and comparisons. Chris Jones, the Centre’s director, wrote the following update for the November issue of Partnership Press.
The International Centre for Excellence for Community Schools
By Chris Jones
A child starting school today will retire in about 2083. Let’s face it, most of us have no idea how much the world will have changed in the next 10 years, let alone in 65. Yet, how often do we teachers say that we are preparing our children for the future? How can we do that if we are working in schools designed to cope with industrialization and mass production over 100 years ago?
It is too much to ask teachers to tackle this alone. We need all hands on deck! That is where Community Schools come in. These are schools open to new ways of working with a relevant curriculum, understood and supported by the local community. They bring additional services and opportunities for learning through partnerships with other agencies, and they acknowledge parents as co-educators.
The International Centre of Excellence for Community Schools (ICECS) was set up to support the development of Community Schools through networking, demonstration projects, research, and training. We work across the world with non-governmental organizations, ministries, universities, and anyone who wants to play a part in this work. Recently, we have produced a series of webinars with international panels of speakers drawn from countries as diverse as the United States, Canada, South Africa, Russia and Bosnia. We are working in collaboration with the International Healthy Schools Network, and share their Wiki pages where we have written an article about Community Schools around the world.
We have also included several articles explaining our thinking behind the International Quality Standards for Community Schools. Hundreds of community schools (in13 countries) use this self-assessment framework and it has proved to be very useful. We advise principals to bring a group of stake-holders together (pupils, parents, teachers, partner agencies, and community organizations) to jointly review each of the Standards to determine how well their partnership is performing.
There are nine Standards: leadership, partnership, social inclusion, services, community development, lifelong learning, volunteering, parent engagement and school culture. Schools relay that this framework helps them articulate what they are trying to accomplish, and the process of discussing standards together helps them build momentum, and strong partnerships. Often, when they finish their assessment, they are able to gather support for their priorities.
We at ICECS are often asked to speak at national and international conferences. This past summer we spoke at an International Healthy Schools Conference in Thailand, and we will be speaking at an International Conference for Community Schools in Kiev in November; Ukraine has a national policy that encourages the transition to Community Schools.
We are currently having our website reconstructed. If you would like more information about our organization, or if you would like to tell us more about your work, please give us a call. We can be reached at 00 44 (0)7772865504, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to share ideas, please visit our ICECS Statement on Community Schools Wiki page.