Schools play a distinct role in supporting new communities
Schools, nurseries and play areas have a particularly important role in new communities. As well as attracting families to settle in new places, schools and nurseries create opportunities for people from different backgrounds to meet other parents and build relationships.
".....most mixing across social groups takes place between children. It is these contacts - in nurseries, playgroups, schools and in public spaces - that provide opportunities for adults to meet and form relationships. Children provide a common ground and shared interest between people in different tenures."
A good place for children? Attracting and retaining families in inner urban mixed income communities
Emily Silverman, Ruth Lupton and Alex Fenton, Chartered Institute of Housing/JRF (2005)
This is reinforced by the New Towns review which identifies that "the provision of education facilities was key in the development of New Towns and the creation of communities, as so many of the new comers were families with young children, who had been uprooted from their previous schools, friends and social networks. The Development Corporations had to work hard to provide enough schools and teachers ... In the cases where this was not possible, it hindered the integration of communities."
Schools can also provide a hub for community services or community groups, either in the short-term while other facilities are being developed, or long-term by co-locating Sure Start Children's Centres, community health workers or youth workers in the buildings. Early provision of good quality schools and nurseries will encourage more affluent families to use community services and not seek out school places in neighbouring areas, which can create long-term issues with the reputation of local schools.
Creating shared use hubs and buildings - Lessons from Melbourne
Victoria state government has experimented with a new way to meet the need in growing communities for services and community infrastructure including schools, medical centres, sports facilities and community space.
The approach taken by the Government, English Partnerships and LB Greenwich for the Greenwich Millennium Village in London demonstrates what can be achieved by planning ahead to provide a high quality school for new residents. The Education Authority invited schools from across the borough to bid for a complete transfer to a new school building in the Millennium Village. A high-performing school near the Greenwich Peninsula was relocated to the new site, bringing a community of pupils and attracting new pupils from a range of different backgrounds. Families with children already attending the school were given priority for new social housing in the Millennium Village, which enabled some children to relocate to new housing and a new school building. It has now become the school of choice for parents in the area.
Lessons from the New Towns review stress the importance of building school facilities before new residents arrive, and also providing affordable key worker housing for teachers to live in.