Study reveals nature of school-community partnerships

Media release

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Monday, 18 Apr 2011

An analysis of applications for the inaugural NAB Schools First awards, reveals almost all (98 per cent) of the 801 applications for ‘Impact Award’ made by primary and secondary schools from around Australia in 2009 were said to have benefited students.

The analysis of information provided by schools in their applications, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), has created a rich database of information into why schools are forming partnerships with business and community groups, what kinds of partnerships are being formed, and what impact these partnerships are having in improving outcomes for students.

ACER chief executive Professor Geoff Masters said the study is unusual among international studies both in terms of the number of partnerships studied and the inclusion of evidence about the impact school-community partnerships are having.

Findings of the study include:

  • almost half (45 per cent) of the partnerships were between schools and local community groups;
  • 20 per cent of all partnerships were school-business partnerships. Just over half (53 per cent) of these partnerships  were with state or national corporates and 47 per cent were with local businesses;
  • Catholic schools were slightly more likely (20 per cent) to be exclusively partnered with a business than schools in other sectors (14 per cent);
  • the majority of Independent school partnerships (54.8 per cent) were with community-based organisations;
  • a large majority of partnerships were focused on issues faced by ‘at risk’ boys in Years 9 and 10; and
  • most partnerships were established with an aim to improve student engagement, improve academic outcomes, enhance social wellbeing or broaden students’ vocational skills and options.

Professor Masters said there were likely to be mutual benefits in encouraging stronger relationships between schools and businesses and urged more businesses to establish partnerships with schools.

“School-business partnerships can help prepare young people for future careers by giving them practical vocational experience and confidence. They can also help businesses develop an understanding of working with young people, some of whom may become future employees,” Professor Masters said.

“It is pleasing to see local businesses supporting their schools. However, large corporations also have a role to play in partnering to support Australian schools. NAB’s $15-million investment in NAB Schools First is an example. I expect we will see more examples of this kind over the next few years,” he said.

CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Jan Owen AM, said she hoped to see a greater focus on school-community partnerships aimed at addressing the needs of girls in the future.

The analysis, School Community Partnerships in Australian Schools by ACER Principal Research Fellow Michele Lonsdale is available to download from the ACER website at

NAB Schools First is a partnership between NAB, ACER and FYA. Further information about the program, including details of how to apply for 2011 awards, can be found at