NEW COMMUNITY schools will only succeed if they "go with the grain" of existing developments, Douglas Osler, senior chief inspector of schools, said this week.
Mr Osler accepted there would be no single model across the country. "It's growth out of what is already there that will be most successful," he told a heavily subscribed conference in Glasgow organised by the Scottish Local Government Information Unit and Children in Scotland.
The Government's senior adviser, who has been instrumental in framing the ambitious initiative to extend the boundaries of comprehensive education, backed gradual expansion to all schools. "We do not want to see a stereotyping of community schools only to those areas with the most socio-economic problems," Mr Osler said.
The need for "diversity and diversification" was underlined by Alastair Struthers, head of Lochend Secondary in Easterhouse, a pilot school.
Mr Struthers said it was important that local authorities were encouraged to spread their net wider. "New community schools should not always be identified with areas of social deprivation. There is a risk of stigmatising them. We need to broaden the concept," Mr Struthers said.
Mr Osler said schools alone could not meet all the needs of children, nor help pupils take advantage of every learning opportunity on offer. Multiple problems demanded multiple solutions.
Education has a key role, insisted Mr Osler, who sits on the Government's interdepartmental network on social exclusion. "Effective, inclusive school education is a major defence against future exclusion. It is usually the critical factor in the quality of life."
Researchers, however, advised against repeating the community school models of the 1970s, drawing in all services to purpose-built centres. Mog Ball, a social researcher and writer, told the conference to be "wary of super institutions, the hypermarket of community life".
Smaller bases were more effective, Ms Ball said. She also cautioned against domination by professionals. "We have to start encouraging participation."
Professor Jim McCall of Strathclyde University said American experience of full-service schools showed there was no one model. Scotland had to be clear about goals for new community schools, management structures and long-term funding. "There has to be multi-agency commitment, an agreement to work together," Professor McCall said.