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Characteristics of highly engaged school communities

In the film “School of Rock,” Dewey Finn, played by Jack Black, exemplifies the power of engagement and belonging in a school community. Initially an out-of-work musician, Dewey finds himself posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious school. Despite his unconventional methods, Dewey’s passion for music and his unorthodox teaching style ignites a spark within his students. He becomes deeply engaged and fosters a sense of belonging and pride in his students.

Dewey’s enthusiasm and commitment to the students is contagious; he creates an environment where each child feels valued and inspired to explore their talents. Through music, he teaches them confidence, teamwork and creativity. Dewey’s journey highlights the profound impact of an engaged teacher who feels connected to the school community. His pride in teaching and genuine care for his students’ growth underscore the importance of educators who are invested in both their subject matter and the well-being of their students.

While you don’t necessarily want a rock band developing in your school, this dynamic demonstrates a core theme of building thriving school communities: the combination of engaged teachers, supportive parents, and motivated students.
In today’s rapidly changing education landscape, building thriving school communities has become more important than ever. Educational leaders and principals play a crucial role in shaping the environment and culture of their schools, ensuring that they are not just educational institutions but authentic communities of learning, serving, and belonging.

In this article, we will explore key insights and strategies from our research on “Building Thriving School Communities”, that can empower educational leaders to create thriving learning communities.

Thriving teachers feel well supported to provide a quality learning experience

The key areas of focus for educational leaders who are looking to have a highly engaged teaching staff are connection, belonging and leadership. Particularly, leading in such a way that facilitates belonging, and builds trust with team members.

Teachers who are highly engaged with their school community are 1.8 times more likely than those with low engagement to strongly/somewhat agree that they feel like they belong in the school community (92% compared to 51%). Similarly, they are 1.9 times more likely to feel proud to be a part of the school community (91% compared to 49%).

For teachers, the level of support provided by the school for teaching is the most significant differentiator. Highly engaged teachers are 2.5 times more likely to feel well supported by the school to provide a quality learning experience (74% compared to 30% who strongly/somewhat agree).

Highly engaged teachers:

  • Feel well supported by the school to provide a quality learning experience
  • Feel like they belong in the school community
  • Are proud to be a part of the school community
  • Trust school leadership
  • Believe the school’s leaders listen well

 

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Thriving parents feel like they belong in the school community

The key differentiators for highly engaged parents are connection, belonging and teaching. When parents are highly engaged in their school community, they are three times more likely to strongly/somewhat agree that they feel like they belong in the school community (92% compared to 30%).

They are also 2.1 times more likely to believe that strong partnerships are built between staff, parents and students to achieve positive student outcomes (95% compared to 46%). A highly engaged parent’s experience is significantly impacted by their belief that teachers effectively cater for individual learning styles (91% compared to 41%). Alongside the genuine care given to help students navigate life’s challenges (95% compared to 47%).

Highly engaged parents:

  • Feel like they belong in the school community
  • Believe teachers effectively cater for individual learning styles
  • Believe strong partnerships are built between staff, parents and students to achieve positive student outcomes
  • Believe the school helps students to navigate life’s challenges
  • Believe students are equipped to thrive in their life after school.

Thriving students are proud to be part of the school community

When looking to improve the student experience, focus on connection, belonging and leadership. Students who are highly engaged in their school community are 2.5 times more likely to be proud to be part of the school community (89% compared to 36%) and 2.2 times more likely to strongly/somewhat agree they feel like they belong in the school community (89% compared to 40%).

Good school leadership positively impacts a student’s experience. Students who are highly engaged in their school community are 1.9 times more likely to align with the direction of the school (76% compared to 40% strongly/somewhat agree). They are also 1.8 times more likely to believe school leaders exemplify the school’s culture and values (85% compared to 48%).

Highly engaged students:

  • Are proud to be a part of the school community
  • Feel like they belong in the school community
  • Align with the direction of the school
  • Believe teachers are well supported by the school to provide a quality learning experience
  • Believe teachers curate a classroom environment that is conducive to learning and student participation
  • Believe student wellbeing is prioritised by the whole school community.

To learn more about the key factors of a thriving school community download the full infographic. To measure your school’s Thriving School Index learn more here.

Thriving schools infographic

A snapshot of the characteristics of strong school communities and the experiences of parents, teachers, and students.