Building Collaborative School Communities
Insights from Dr Amanda Bell AM
Advisor at Fisher Leadership
For school principals, when their communities hum with positive support, it makes for a very content and happy environment for everyone. The research shows that students do better academically, their attendance is improved and their overall wellbeing lifts with engagement of their parents in their school.
Unfortunately, with the many demands on a principal’s time, supporter groups can sometimes go off on a tangent, even though their intentions are good. A cohesive school community requires constant nurturing, investment and needs the support of the staff and school as much as the school needs their support. Many curricular and cocurricular activities, and fundraising drives would not occur or be successful without the philanthropic mindset of engaged supporters such as parents, grandparents, alumni, past parents, past staff and other friends of the school. The potential is limitless.
Fisher Leadership has been working with principals and supporter groups to look at future possibilities for a more collaborative and cohesive community engagement model. In particular, it seems that schools and communities alike are keen to be far more inclusive and streamline the vehicle to connect with more diverse groups. This can often minimise the administrative burden of many independent groups’ operations, especially regarding compliance, finances, privacy considerations and database management.
Schools are increasingly the default hub for community connections, where once it may have been the place of the local church parish, the Country Women’s Association or other established community organisations. As a result, schools have an opportunity to take the lead and revisit how they engage, with whom and for what purpose.
As we spend more time online, we spend less time interacting well with one another, in person, or engaging with our local communities. The more we live in social media echo chambers, the less we trust one another, the more we struggle to find common ground.
We have worked with a school on a pilot project to reimagine what a supporters’ association could look like, rather than the older models of separate entities such as a P&F, Old Collegians, Friends of Rowing etc. Instead, we workshopped ways to bring everyone together into a cohesive community where the depth of expertise, capacity to volunteer and goodwill for the benefit of students expands exponentially under one umbrella organisation.
By engaging an external facilitator with wide school experience, a principal can be once step removed from the change process, yet be able to participate and guide the premise of a new model so it dovetails with the values and future strategy of the school.
If you’d like to discuss the untapped potential of your school community, please contact us for a preliminary discussion on what might suit the unique needs of your context.
 Pérez Sánchez et al., 2013; Tárraga et al., 2017 Garbacz et al., 2017 Ross, 2016
 Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2023
Fisher Leadership has been working with principals and supporter groups to look at future possibilities for a more collaborative and cohesive community engagement model. If you’d like to discuss the untapped potential of your school community, please contact us for a preliminary discussion on what might suit the unique needs of your context.