Every school in Wales should become a community-focused centre, offering out-of-hours learning and other activities for pupils and local people.
Schools should also receive external accreditation of their work with the community and partner organisations, according to a vision statement issued by the Association of Directors of Education Wales (ADEW) and ContinYou Cymru, the community learning charity.
Sioned Bowen, executive adviser to ADEW, spoke out at the launch of the statement at a conference in Llandrindod Wells last week. She hopes all 22 Welsh local education authorities will have a local community schools strategy in place by spring to dovetail with council community strategies.
The Assembly government wants schools to provide learning and other services (such as health, family support and enterprise promotion) to pupils and local people both in and out of school hours and term time, and in partnership with other organisations.
Jane Davidson, education and lifelong learning minister, has pledged pound;3 million a year for the next three years for LEAs to spend on pump-priming initiatives to get out-of-hours activities running in schools. She told the conference that a recent report on narrowing the performance gap between schools in deprived and other areas had shown that engaging the community helped to raise pupils' aspirations.
But she added: "We understand schools can't do this on their own."
Every LEA in Wales now has a named officer for community-focused schools, and Welsh councils have bought in strategic support from ContinYou.
But Pam Boyd, ContinYou Cymru's executive director, admitted the timescales and funding were challenging. "There is a bit of a frantic rush to make it all happen," she said.
But she added: "It's not just about money, it's about ethos and culture and what's already happening in schools.
"It's not about being fluffy, nice and altruistic. There is growing evidence that if we are to make a difference to our children, it's only going to happen with enhanced support for communities.
"It's a huge culture shift and it's not going to happen overnight."