14 SES 11 A, Community-engaged Teachers and Social Networks to Improve Social Equity
Several studies prove that the change in the school network will influence on routines of everyday life of families (e.g. Izadi 2015; Haartsen & Wissen 2012; Onescu & Giles 2012; Kvalsund 2009; Egelund & Laustsen 2007; Witten et al 2001; Lee & Lubienski 2017; Paulgaard 2016; Bernelius & Vaattovaara 2016). The change of the daily routines, use of time and moving effect unavoidably on the local vitality. Mostly negatively there where the community has lost its school and pupils, and positively in the welcoming one.
Surely the multiplier impacts are clear, but are they clear anymore when the school network planning process is begun in the municipality? How well will these be identified, confessed and understood then? It is always talked, of course, about the arranging of school transports, but it would be as important to talk how the service network and the community might change both locally and in the whole municipality. Why so hard? It is largely a question of attitudes – old, narrow, black and white, top-down thinking.
One interesting variable, kind of a silent signal is that how do the parents act in the closure situations. Traditionally school building itself has been and still is an “actant” (Corbett, 2016), an active part of, or an institution in, its community (Kearns et al 2009), but this kind of thinking is no longer shared by all. As it already can be seen in the cities. Abandoning the community based, school as the “heart of the village” thinking changes the way school networks are discussed, planned, offered and delivered (Tantarimäki 2014). This observation supports, and gets support from, Massey’s (1994) thoughts on change in ‘sense of place’. This must be taken into consideration too, and the key words for that are openness, trust and collaboration (Tantarimäki & Törhönen 2017)
So the mutual relationship of a municipal school network, service network and everyday life of families is worth understanding. This study was done to open and explain this in Finnish context, and to Finnish decision-makers. One tool for that is a simple map training. Possible changes in everyday life is here illustrated in two ways:
- by showing on the map three examples of the real life situation in which plans were made to close the local small school and 2-4 alternatives were given to be chosen as a new one. The variable is a change in the way to school, and as examples three cases located in the medium-sized cities, and there both in urban areas and rural areas close to urban areas (City of Lappeenranta, Salo and Vaasa).
- by introducing examples of how other municipal services (than education) were taken into consideration when a school network was re-checked. In which situations the cooperation and the new solutions succeed. As a research material 40 case municipalities (Tantarimäki & Törhönen 2016).
The objective is also to wake-up municipalities to the fact that they still have a school and service network left. At least some kind of, at least in part of the municipalities. It is a resource for developing, nor just a burden. For example in Finland there are 60 municipalities (about fifth of all) where is only one comprehensive school left. There is also 60 municipalities with only one grocery left. By combining these altogether 27 municipalities with only one school and grocery (Statistics Finland 2018, T&T 2016). When there is a knot left from the service network, what next?
So when conscious choices and decision are made in the municipalities, one must be aware of their multiplier impacts too.
In the background there is the series of three studies by Tantarimäki & Törhönen (2016a; 2016b; 2017). Now it is concentrated on the middle one or the 2nd one. The first two studies were part of the ARTTU2 research programme (2014-2018) of The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities. This programme included 40 target municipalities, selected by location, size and language relation. The first was an audit of school network changes in Finland in the 2000s. The second examined the mutual relationship between school networks, other public service networks and everyday life (in a municipality). Both studies focused on the first year of four different council seasons: 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013 (local councils are elected for four years). Both studies used data from Statistics Finland, including publically available reports, programmes and strategies connected to the school network or service network of the 40 target municipalities. The data were analysed using GIS software to show changes in school networks in these municipalities, and to identify possible rural-urban differences in network changes (as classified by the Finnish Environment Institute, 2016). In the 2nd study all the plans and reports made in the 40 municipalities in the council season 2013-2017 were searched and checked. Because the viewpoint was the mutual relationship between school networks, other public service networks and everyday life, it was concentrated on what other municipal services than education services were also examined, how was the overall picture etc. The third study examined the present state of school network planning in Finland (Tantarimäki & Törhönen, 2017). It focused on school network plans, planners and planning practices, in all 297 municipalities of Mainland Finland during the council season from 2013 to Spring 2016. It was financed by the Kunnallisalan Kehittämissäätiö (The Foundation for Municipal Development).
Point 1. Expectedly the possible change in moving in the cities were smaller than in the frame area or in the countryside. However, in cities the time distance is emphasised more than a physical distance. These municipalities also points out aptly both the ability to react to new situations and the inability to react to new possibilities. Lappeenranta: wider service viewpoint, but centralising realisation. Vaasa: the school operated decades in the rented premises, but the “model” was not seen as a new opening to the cost discussion of school premises. Traditionally the municipality owns the premises. Salo: opening of the new refugees' reception centre stopped the whole school network planning process. At that time wave of refugees surprised Europe and the new comers needed also school places. Point 2. The synergy can be found when designing new schools and services. New service solutions in the centres of population growth are municipality-led and are being developed together with citizens. Instead all the activities associated with old (rural, suburb) schools were organized almost always only by the locals. “Empty table” is easier to fulfill, but there are similar wishes in both situations. Besides, these situations can exists in the same municipality, even at the same time. What does this tell about the planning culture? So for future: what are the possibilities for re-developing, re-organizing and re-vitalizing the premises, based on the place-based needs of local demography? Results in numbers: - 17 school and/or service network reports made (out of 40 municipalities) - 7 focused on education services, 10 included services more widely: education (basic, second degree), pre-school and daycare + e.g. library, culture services, exercise, child health clinic, youth work, welfare, play areas. - the services are more widely examined in municipalities more than 50 000 inhabitant (6 out of the 8 reports)
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