New Report and Film: Schools as Community Infrastructure

In this new report, Beth Perry demonstrates how schools play critical roles as community infrastructure, bringing together physical and social infrastructures and networks of care and connection in the community.

Red Robin House at Arbourthorne Community Primary School

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the roles of schools in supporting communities in areas of low income into sharp relief. Schools have played key roles in addressing food poverty, overcoming digital exclusion and supporting mental health and well-being.

Yet these roles are not new. Innovative schools up and down the UK and internationally have long sought ways to ensure they contribute to their neighbourhoods and improve the lives of residents. Beyond addressing immediate need, what contributions can a school make to addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality?

A new report produced by the UI explores this question through telling the story of Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield and its initiative to make Arbourthorne even better.

Download the report here

Drawing on a learning programme led by the UI of Phase 1 An Even Better Arbourthorne (2019-2022), the report opens up debates around how

• schools can be extensions of home not the state

• schools are sites of social reproduction

• schools can be mobilised as community infrastructure.

The UI has also worked with Sean Lovell to produce a film to bring the work to life.

AEBA Short Film

The AEBA project provides a potential blueprint and theory of change for how schools can play these wider roles in their communities. Importantly, this means valuing the skills and expertise within communities and prioritising local ownership over professionalised delivery in grounded co-production partnerships.

UI researchers will continue to support the school and community in their efforts to make Arbourthorne even better throughout the next phase of funding (2022-2025). This includes working collaboratively with colleagues across the University to mobilise resources and networks to support locally-determined priorities.

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