Network 14, “Communities and their Schools”, hosted three sessions, covering two network themes:
home-school and school-community relationships, and education in rural schools and their communities.
As usual, the papers were interesting, informative and illustrated a variety of theoretical and methodological positions, and very varied contexts.
Five proposals were redirected or rejected and two papers were withdrawn at the last minute. This led the secretariat to cancel one session and reschedule two papers. This caused a little disruption but fortunately the presenters dealt professionally with the changes.
We would like to point out, though, that such late rearrangements can disrupt within-session coherence, and make unwarranted assumptions about presenters' availability.
A session on improving communication and understanding between communities, families and their schools, included research on young children's attitudes to transfer from pre- school to school (Kalliope Vrinioti, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) which revealed surprisingly mixed emotional reactions, of both joy and anger, and highly gendered friendship patterns.
Evidence for counter-intuitive relationships between cultural capital and school-family relationships in rural and inner-city case studies in Cypress was presented and discussed by Loizos Symeou, (Cambridge, UK).
Gill Crozier and Jane Davies (Sunderland, UK) reported the role of the extended family and social capital in attitudes to school in Pakistani and Bangladeshi families in northern England.
On Friday morning, after an interesting study of co-operation between teachers and after-school care staff by Anita Soderlund (Stockholm Institute of Education, Sweden), five presentations focussed on teaching and learning in rural communities, with a particular focus on local issues and education.
Richard Thorpe (U of Wales at Aberystwyth) spoke briefly about his scheduled paper but then gave a spirited account of conflict and its resolution in the amalgamation of three small rural schools with fierce Protestant inter-denominational differences, to the wider benefit of the whole community.
Sophia Mavropoulu and Nikoleta Seremeditu (Thessaly, Greece) provided an insightful interview based study of the motives and experiences of volunteer befrienders of families with children with special educational needs, with the aim of establishing links between the families and community.
In our final session on rural school-community relationships and a 'pedagogy of place', Hakan Karlsson (Mid-Sweden U) reported an evaluation project on entrepreneurship education with young people in a rural area of Sweden which is challenging pedagogical and curricular assumptions.
Prof Miles Bryant, (Nebraska, USA) argued for the importance of teachers focusing on the local agenda rather than the state curriculum, and reported projects with positive effects on local communities, and implications for pedagogy of place.
Finally, Persa Fokali and Maria Savaidu (U. of the Aegean) presented a project involving school children, University students parents, teachers and local community in planning and pursuing local sustainable development through making and marketing art and craft, which increased children's understanding of environmental sustainability in relation to their own areas.
Taken together, these papers illustrate powerfully the educational potential and school- community value of pedagogy with a sense of place.
We would like to thank the students of the Faculty of Education, University of Crete who attended sessions and provided excellent technical and general support.
To conclude the conference, the network convenors discussed progress on a joint publication venture on rural schools and their communities, and decided that Dr Janne Pietarinen of Joensuu University, Finland, would become main convenor of Network 14 taking over from Linda Hargreaves as from December 2004.