DONALD DEWAR, the Scottish Secretary, has dusted off the 25-year-old community school concept, put in Pounds 26 million over three years and pledged the new policy will be at the "leading edge" of the drive to raise standards and counter social exclusion.
New community schools, Mr Dewar said at the launch of a pilot project in Hawick, would make a concerted attack on the "vicious cycle of underachievement".
The Scottish Secretary said: "For too long, children have been condemned to repeat the cycle of deprivation, educational underachievement and failure. Their life chances are reduced at an early stage."
He believed the new programme, modelled on the American "full-service schools", would bring professionals under one roof to co-ordinate approaches to child and family problems. Expert advice would be on hand and "not at the end of a referral chain to other agencies".
Mr Dewar said the American schemes had improved attendance and attainment, cut drug abuse and teenage pregnancies, and led to better employment opportunities.
The plan, first revealed in The TES Scotland on September 25, envisages two new community schools in each authority, beginning next year. The Scottish Office wants 30 projects in operation inside a year. Each pilot, which could include clusters of schools, would be entitled to apply for up to Pounds 200,000 in additional funding. The emphasis will be on primaries, finding new ways of working collaboratively and multi-agency training.
Five development projects were announced at Burnfoot primary, Hawick, Peterhead Academy, Baldragon Academy, Dundee, Lochend Secondary, Glasgow, and Braidfield High, Clydebank.
The consultation document says there is no one way to build a community school, but projects must have certain characteristics and will blaze a trail for other schools. "The approach will be piloted in new community schools but the Government will expect that the approach will be extended to all schools, " it states.
Likely features include close work with parents and families, child care, welfare and advice services, health promotion projects, services for the vulnerable, lifelong learning opportunities, supported study schemes and links with community organisations.
Personal learning plans for each pupil, trailed in Labour's pre-election manifesto, will also be included setting out targets for attainment and the responsibilities of school, parent and pupil.
The Government has also floated the idea of "integration managers" in schools or clusters to oversee developments among agencies. It does not specify if the posts will go to teachers.
THE BRIEFMAXIMUM POTENTIAL
The new community schools should ensure:
* Each child has the fullest opportunity to maximise potential. Achievements in all areas must be celebrated, basic skills nurtured and developed, self-esteem enhanced and high expectations maintained.
* Full attention in identifying and addressing the child's needs - social, developmental, emotional and health - and their impact on realising potential.
* Particular focus on the family and parentsguardians and the contribution they can make.
* Teachers, social workers, community education and health professionals integrate their work.