Over the last number of years members of the Federation have contacted our office with regards to problems accessing and using government schools facilities.
There is a government policy allowing community language schools (CLS) free use of schools, if they are registered with the CLS Program, to help communities teach their language. The decision to allow a community language school access to a government school is made at a local level, that is, by the mainstream school principal.
When you use a government school, the main thing you need is a lease agreement. This document will outline the number of rooms to be used, equipment such as desks, chairs, whiteboards/blackboards, toilets and playground if you have a recess or lunch time break for students. Also the time you have access to the school and rooms. The school hall for presentation days or other special one-off events should also be available free of charge, as many principals as a gesture of goodwill help the community language schools. Electronic equipment like televisions, DVD players and electronic whiteboards have to be negotiated.
One important factor when using a government school is that you are using someone else’s work place. You have to respect and look after what you use. Mainstream school teachers like to have a clean classroom on Monday morning with everything put back in place ready to start a new week and not find things moved or students’ works moved or damaged. This biggest issue facing community language schools is the use of the classrooms and toilets.
Suggestions to help when using classrooms/facilities
- When you arrive to open up – check all the rooms and facilities you use. If you find anything unusual like lights on, windows open, doors unlocked, taps leaking etc, leave a note for the Principal to inform them. Better still, keep a written record of everything so email the Principal and also discuss such matters openly and in a collaborative manner.
- When you finish for the day, return everything as you found it. Desks and chairs neat, empty the bins, clean the boards, make sure the floor is clean, toilets are clean and taps and lights are turned off and secure the school grounds if this is your responsibility. It is the CLS teacher who you employ to make sure things are tidy.
- Whoever closes the school should do a final check of all classrooms and toilets.
- Make sure everything is locked and the alarm turned on. Security is paramount.
Tips to build successful partnership with the host school
- Partnership and Goodwill -Any successful partnership is based on goodwill, respect and mutual understanding. Your School should try to participate with the mainstream school where practical.
- Successful relationships can be forged early: visit your mainstream school principal early in the new year (make an appointment) because many schools have new principals every few years due to staff changes. This will give you the opportunity to talk about your CLS using their school. Raise any concerns at the meeting, plan visits and ask if and how you can be involved with the mainstream school events ie host a morning tea once a year. Also, see when you can meet with the teachers of the classrooms you are using to explain what you do.
- Open communications is the best way to solve any problem because if problems are ongoing this creates an atmosphere of misunderstanding .
- Keep all correspondence written letters/emails you have with the principal to ensure that you have all the facts and evidence to support your case if problems arise e.g. if other groups use the school you do not want to be blamed for something you did not do like damage.
- Put on a morning tea for the school staff, so you can meet them and explain about your school.
- Make a donation to the school for resources.
- If they have a multicultural day or any other event make sure to be part of it.
- Join the school’s Parents & Citizens Association.