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With individual school performance in the spotlight, Deakin University researchers want to know how students in socially disadvantaged schools develop the resilience they need to deal with challenging circumstances and achieve success.
“We know that social disadvantage due to poverty, poor health, unemployment, and educational underachievement is concentrated in particular communities. But not all students in disadvantaged communities have poor outcomes,” Deakin education expert and project leader, Professor Jill Blackmore, explained.
“There are students and schools that are incredibly successful even though they are working under incredibly difficult circumstances and we want to understand the secret of their success; what it is that gives these families, schools and their students the resilience to overcome the challenges they face.”
Professor Blackmore and her colleagues believe part of the answer could be in what is going on outside the school.
“Research is telling us we have to focus on schools as social hubs, as a part of the community they are in. These schools can’t do it alone; they need the support of the community, government and non-government agencies as well as good health, welfare and transport infrastructure.
“Our project is investigating not only what schools and families do to make kids resilient but also examining the role played by government agencies, sporting and religious groups and non-government support agencies in these communities – what we refer to as interagency collaborations.
“Our aim is to determine how these collaborations contribute to the resilience and success of the students, families and schools,” Professor Blackmore said. “You cannot compare the performance of individual schools without recognising the different community resources schools can bring to bear on student learning.”
The researchers hope their work will help other schools and communities to achieve success.
“We believe this project will produce significant national and regional outcomes – including approaches, strategies and models – that will inform families, school, communities, policymakers and practitioners about how they can achieve similar sustainable results through working together,” Professor Blackmore said.
The Interagency collaborations supporting resilient students, families and schools in disadvantaged communities project is being undertaken by researchers and doctoral students from Deakin University’s School of Education and School of Health and Social Development and Victoria University over three years in partnership with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, VicHealth and Community Connections Victoria and has an Australian Research Council Linkage Project grant.
Professor Jill Blackmore has a Personal Chair in Deakin’s School of Education and is the Director of the University’s Centre for Research in Educational Futures & Innovation.