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The term "community school" refers to types of publicly funded school in England, Wales and Ireland, and in the United States to a school that serves as both an educational institution and a center of community life.

England and Wales

A community school in England and Wales is a type of state-funded school that is run wholly by the local education authority (LEA). The LEA is responsible for the school's admissions, owns the school's estate and employs the school's staff.

In the mid-19th century, government involvement in schooling consisted of annual grants to the National Society for Promoting Religious Education and the British and Foreign School Society to support the "voluntary schools" that they ran, and monitoring inspections of these schools.The Elementary Education Act 1870 imposed stricter standards on schools, and provided for the setting up of locally elected school boards in boroughs and parishes across England and Wales, empowered to set up elementary-level board schools where voluntary provision was insufficient.A number of voluntary schools, especially those of the BFSS, chose to become board schools.Parents were still required to pay fees, though the fees of the poorest were paid by the board.

The Education Act 1902 abolished school boards, transferring their functions to counties and boroughs acting as Local Education Authorities.The board schools were thus renamed county schools.The Act also introduced county secondary schools, which were greatly expanded during the 20th century.The schools were renamed community schools in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

Approximately 61% of the state-funded primary and secondary schools in England are community schools.


A community school in the Republic of Irelandmarker is a type of secondary school funded individually and directly by the statemarker. Both academic and vocational programmes are available and facilities are broader than at voluntary or vocational schools. The facilities are for use by the community and adult education in addition to normal programmes of education at this level.

The United States

According to the Coalition for Community Schools, a branch of the Institute for Educational Leadership, a community school is "both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources" with an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, leadership, and community engagement. Community schools are generally public, i.e. government and tax-payer funded, though many private and charter schools have also adopted the model. One of the difficulties the movement has encountered is the sheer diversity of institutions claiming to be community schools. This, coupled with the decentralized structure of American education, has hampered efforts to quantify the number of community schools nationally extant.

The movement gained momentum in the Chicago area, where the Federation for Community Schools is working to disseminate the model throughout the public-school infrastructure. With the appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, to the post of Secretary of Education, the concept of "schools as centers of community life" has become part of the national education agenda. Currently, many local, state, and national organizations seek the establishment of community schools throughout the country. Of these the most prominent non-profits are the Coalition for Community Schools, Communities In Schools, Schools of the 21st Century (an initiative of Yale University), the National Community Education Association (NCEA), and the Children’s Aid Society. The United States government (through the 21st Century Community Learning Center) and various state governments also provide funding and policy support for community school initiatives.


Several leading universities have established centers to investigate the community-school-family triad. A key focus of the Harvard Family Research Project is "linking families, schools, and communities to support success in school and in life." The Institute for Education and Social Policy at New York University also studies the relationship between these three tributaries to student learning. Fordham University’s National Center for Schools and Communities has a slightly narrower focus, emphasizing quality education for minority and low-income students. At Johns Hopkins University, the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships augments academic research with guides to best practices and workshop resources for parents, educators, and activists.

Scholarship has made explicit the precise effects of such partnerships on everything from drop-out rates to standardized test results. For example, a 2003 study of 82 Maryland elementary schools found, after controlling for external variables, that "the degree to which schools were working to overcome challenges to family and community involvement predicted higher percentages of students scoring at or above satisfactory on state achievement tests." Joyce Epstein, the director of the Center on Schools, Family, and Community Partnerships is a lead researcher in the field. In a 2005 article for The Journal of Educational Research, she and colleague Steven Sheldon not only established the link, via data collection and analysis, between school-family-community partnerships and improved student attendance, they also laid out several activities to reduce chronic absenteeism. The establishment of channels of communication between schools and parents, workshops for parents, and after-school programs for students are among the best practices utilized by the community school model of education.

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