Community
Collaboration

The World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration recognises and celebrates schools that have collaborated and developed meaningful partnerships with their wider community to have an integrated approach in helping each of their students striving for a whole child approach based on equity and inclusivity.

Discover the winning and shortlisted schools, celebrated for their outstanding community partnerships, commitment to inclusivity, and transformation into vibrant community hubs.

Winner

SPARK Soweto

South Africa

Finalists

William Henry Burkhart Elementary

United States of America

Top 10 shortlist

ACS International School Cobham

Cobham, England, UK

The power of partnerships and community: ACS International School Cobham’s work to be the best for the world ACS International School Cobham, an independent school in Cobham, Surrey, UK, is a shining example of what it truly means to make a difference in the lives of others. Through their exceptional partnerships, outreach programmes, and charitable endeavours – and most impressively with their STEAM 2022 project bringing together thousands of students in the wider community through gamified learning at a theme park – the school is working for the betterment of all.

ACS International School Cobham is part of the ACS International Schools group. The ACS group itself became a registered charity in 2018 with a view of collaborating with other schools and communities to enrich everyone’s education by sharing expertise and resources. The partnerships model is free to all schools in the network and provides access to facilities, expertise and other benefits such as counselling, financial and legal advice, teacher CPD and more.

In response to ACS Cobham’s community's request for STEM education, the school developed its STEAM 2022 project. After months of planning and collaboration, the school hosted an event at Thorpe Park in Surrey, bringing together 75 partners, including The Queens Colours Squadron, The RAF, The Mercedes F1 team, and many more. The event attracted 10,000 state school children, free of charge.

The school’s charity partners helped ensure that the event was as inclusive as possible, working with UTCAI to bring inner city children, Inner Wings to engage girls, special schools to accommodate SEND students, Meru to work with disabled children, children's hospices, and various links with the refugee communities.

To gamify the event, the school created an approach where all educational content was linked to curriculum content, and students had to complete educational experiences to gather 'stamps.' Once they had collected five stamps, they gained access to the roller coasters. This approach allowed the school to capture important evaluative data on who did what, their gender, age, and demographic. In total, the day logged a total of 51,318 hours, as well as 42,765 hours of learning before the event with resources we had provided.

If ACS International School Cobham wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it intends to provide partner schools’ reading and writing programmes with free book vending machines and outdoor library sheds. It sees this project helping dramatically with getting the region back on track after the pandemic.

Barham Primary School

Wembley, London, UK

Inspiring self-belief and igniting futures: By honouring diversity and identity, this school elevates a whole community

Barham Primary School, a state school in Wembley, London, UK, transcends the confines of its deprived environment and propels its students towards a future of greater opportunity. By focusing on nurturing the identity and potential of its diverse students, the school empowers them to embrace ambitious goals while honouring their cultural values. This emphasis on developing cultural capital and cultivating an authentic voice enables students to navigate their diverse backgrounds with confidence and self-belief.

Barham faces challenges most other primary schools don’t: with 930 pupils, well above the national average, and 31 different languages within the student population, as well as various religious beliefs, the school is also in an area of social housing estates and intersecting community groups, exposing students to various societal issues such as gangs, grooming, radicalisation, drugs, poverty, and hunger.

Despite these challenges, Headteacher Karen Giles has been unwavering in her dedication to the school community, proactively fostering strong relationships with parents and always going above and beyond to create an inclusive and aspirational environment, making her a singular force in driving positive change. Giles and her team actively engage parents in developing language proficiency and essential skills as a first means to promote student success. They also work closely with community groups, especially first and second-generation immigrants, as a means to reduce marginalisation, empower individuals, and create a sense of belonging and support.

The school’s curriculum is also built upon the twin pillars of cultural capital and authentic voice. At the heart of this curriculum is the school’s “5R” model, which weaves together five essential skills – relationships, reflectiveness, resilience, resourcefulness, and risk taking  – empowering students to embrace their full potential and navigate their educational journey with confidence.

This framework equips students with the self-awareness, determination, independent thinking, and empathy to successfully transition to secondary schools and further, more challenging, learning paths. Alumni regularly come back, showcasing the achievements made possible through Barham's commitment to breaking the glass ceiling.

If Barham Primary School wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, Giles and her staff aspire to invest in a core team and cultural capital activities for their pupils and families. By prioritising these crucial resources, the school will continue to empower its community, nurturing potential, and making a lasting impact on the lives of its students.

Booker Washington Institute

Kakata City, Liberia

From the chains of poverty to beacon of hope, the Booker Washington Institute empowers Liberia’s youth with vocational education

Booker Washington Institute, a government technical secondary school in Kakata City, Liberia, is empowering students with the necessary skills and knowledge to break the country’s chains of poverty and unemployment. Every year, with over 60% of graduates successfully launching their own businesses, securing employment, or moving into tertiary education, the school has become a beacon of hope in Liberia's job market and youth advancement in general. The institution's visionary approach to technical and vocational education is a game-changer, paving the way for a new generation of self-sufficient and accomplished Liberians.

Booker Washington Institute was founded 94 years ago in 1929 on the principle that students needed practical, technical and vocational training to be prepared for the world of work. This became even more important over the course of Liberia’s history, especially in the wake of the 14-year-long civil war.

Today, Booker Washington Institute’s academic-TVET programme is a platform for job creation and entrepreneurship among its students, with an emphasis on agriculture, engineering, construction, hospitality management, business education, computer science, educational leadership, and much more. Altogether, the school provides students with the skills to become successful contributors to national and global development.

To ensure that students are well-equipped, the school attracts the best instructors with industrial experience and professionals in partnership with companies and businesses operating in Liberia. Through these partnerships, students are offered internships with the hope of employment upon completion of their internships.

At the same time, financial institutions and strategic businesses fund some of the best student entrepreneurs to start their own businesses, and those interested in agriculture are provided with resources and tools for start-ups as small cooperatives for production.

If Booker Washington Institute wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it plans to further its efforts in creating employment opportunities and contributing to local community and national development. This includes expanding partnerships with local businesses, funding student entrepreneurs, and increasing access to resources for crop production with a focus on smart climate agriculture activities involving solar technology. Booker Washington Institute will continue to empower its students to become successful contributors to society and agents of change in their communities.

Escola Municipal Professor Edson Pisani

Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

A community’s voice and future: Escola Municipal Professor Edson Pisani improves lives in a favela through education and advocacy

Escola Municipal Professor Edson Pisani, a government kindergarten, primary and adult literacy programme school in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil, has been a long-standing source of transformation and advocacy for its students and the Aglomerado da Serra, one of the largest and oldest favelas in Brazil. With its ability to mobilise students, families, and neighbours, and to coordinate with the government and local leaders countless times to educate, discuss, and propose actions for improvements in the area, the school is a proven voice for change by promoting sustainable living practices, reducing garbage, and improving the community’s quality of life.

For over 100 years, the Aglomerado da Serra favela has lived without any guaranteed basic rights, such as treated water, sanitation, and transportation. In the early 2000s, the favela saw several public structural works under the Vila Viva programme, which included a new road dividing the Aglomerado da Serrae. In 2013, the programme proposed a second phase, which included widening the street where the school is located and displacing many families.

To get the project architects and engineers to attend community meetings and thereby gain access to the project information, the Escola Municipal Professor Edson Pisani quickly organised the community, gathered signatures, and then partnered with the Federal University of Minas Gerais’ (UFMG) Faculties of Architecture and Law. Ultimately, this saved the many families from being removed, as initially proposed.

In the meantime, the Vila Viva programme had left debris all over the community, creating dangerous areas and causing an increase in garbage, pests, and diseases. It also created an issue around the community’s water sources. Here again, the school partnered with the UFMG’s School of Architecture to create the Water in the City Project, which studied the water problems and mapped out water points.

The construction work opened up a two lanes avenue, which would finally make it possible to accommodate a bus in the favela. More concerned about cars from the wealthy neighbourhoods, the municipality refused to create the bus line. The school then, in partnership with the Tarifa Zero movement, mobilised the community, organised meetings, collected more than 4,000 signatures and carried out numerous other actions to put pressure on the municipality. After two years of struggle, the bus line was created and connects the favela to the subway, generating more access to health, education and employment, thus guaranteeing the right of the favela population to come and go.

In the last year the school focus has been on urban waste management due to lack of facilities. Working with the School of Architecture at UFMG, alternatives have been designed and tested, ranging from the creation of gardens, urban furniture, and games. As a result, abandoned cars were removed from the school's street, the alleys where students live are cleaner and the school is moving towards zero waste production.

If Escola Municipal Professor Edson Pisani wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it intends to further improve the community's quality of life by implementing more sustainable initiatives, providing better access to education, and creating more opportunities for students to engage in community service.

Kongkong Elementary School

Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines

Tapping into Indigenous knowledge to tackle undernourishment

Kongkong Elementary School, a government school in the mountainous town of Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines, is tapping into Indigenous knowledge to champion local farming and tackle child undernourishment. Their Project APPLICATION has helped more than 97% of the school’s once undernourished students reach healthy nourishment.

The staff took a dumpsite at the back of the school in 2018 and used it as the grounds for Project APPLICATION (Applying Pro Environment Practices and Local Ideas, a Collective Advocacy Towards an Intimate care for Our Nature). With roughly 30% of the student population being Indigenous, the project aimed to transform the site into an Indigenous Peoples Village and Demo Farm that provides learning opportunities to share cultures, traditions, and safe local farming practices. To that end, the school won the support of the Municipal Local Government Unit of Kasibu and funding from the Parent-Teachers Association. With that, six houses were put up to represent both the majority (Ilocano) demographic and Indigenous Peoples groups (Kalanguya, Ibaloi, Bugkalot, Tuwali and Ayangan). The school brought in Indigenous Peoples elders to share their local, organic farming practices, which included how to make organic insecticide, organic fertiliser, and more for the Demo Farm.

During the pandemic, the learners, teachers, and parents applied the knowledge and skills they had gained from the project and established their own organic gardens at home. As a result, 100% of teachers and 94% of households were able to sustain themselves independently.

The school also started providing environment-related information education campaigns, symposia, and training workshops for proper waste segregation and recycling activities to learners in partnership with the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office of Kasibu and other partners.

If Kongkong Elementary School wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it intends to expand the project to reach more communities in Kasibu and other neighbouring areas, further promoting environmental responsibility and cultural diversity among learners, parents, and the community.

Nagar Nigam Pratibha Baalika Vidhyalaya F- Block, Dilshad Colony-1st

Delhi, India

Community-led education support: How one school engages and empowers parents for their students’ success

Nagar Nigam Pratibha Baalika Vidhyalaya (NPBV) F- Block, Dilshad Colony-1st, a government school in Delhi, India, has broken through the traditional mould to provide community-based interventions and support to bridge the gap between teachers, students, and parents. The school’s Family Champion programme has empowered parents to become leaders in their communities, thanks to which 65 out-of-school children have re-enrolled in school. With the school community's collaborative efforts, NPBV F- Block, Dilshad Colony-1st has redefined community engagement and proven that it can lead to exceptional success.

In 2020, the school’s teachers began to notice a growing disconnect between the students and their studies, mainly due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and the community feeling overwhelmed with their financial situation and other insecurities. In response, the school developed and launched its Family Champion programme to help students and their families to navigate the challenges of remote learning and stay engaged with their education.

The community parents, known as Family Champions, received a need analysis, baseline assessment, and continue to receive two training sessions per month led by Kshamtalaya Foundation to prepare them for their roles as educators and teacher leaders. In its first year, the programme onboarded 35 Family Champions, who focused on strategies for engaging children in learning at home, COVID and vaccination awareness, and self-care.

The programme then led to 54 community learning centres, 61 parent learning ambassadors, and home-based learning support, beginning with 30 Family Champion-led Learning Circles – collaborative and participatory learning groups – across the community. As a result, 90% of Family Champions have reported feeling more confident holding conversations with parents and teachers. The Learning Circles benefited 1,665 children in the past three years from 2020-23. This demonstrates the programme’s importance in building capacity, empowering parents, and improving children's foundational literacy and numeracy skills in the community.

If NPBV F- Block, Dilshad Colony-1st wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it plans to expand its Family Champion programme to other communities and train more Family Champions. This will create a solid basis for community-based educational interventions that empower families and communities to support student success.

NLCS Jeju

Jeju, Republic of Korea

Beyond the Curriculum: The ripple effect of NLCS Jeju's community service programmes

NLCS Jeju, an independent international boarding school offering a British Education located on the UNESCO world heritage site of Jeju, Republic of Korea, has created a ripple of positive change for both the students and the island community through its “Beyond the Curriculum” programmes that benefit society. With 16 active projects and over 1,300 students involved since 2017, the programmes have built trust and strengthened relationships, all of which promote a culture of collaboration and social responsibility.

Since the school's inception in 2011, NLCS Jeju has taken a proactive approach to community service. The school recognised the value of co-curricular activities (CCAs) in the holistic development of its students and made it mandatory for all students to participate in after-school and Saturday morning activities. This ensured that students had the opportunity to engage with the community outside of the classroom and develop empathy and a sense of responsibility towards their surroundings.

The "Beyond the Curriculum" team liaises with the local community to create projects that are designed to benefit society. The service projects have tackled a range of issues, from supporting local children's centres and senior homes to cleaning up local hiking trails and promoting environmental conservation. The students themselves also initiate school projects, which creates a sense of relevancy, engagement, and ownership.

Growing interest from the media and other schools around the country are clear marks of success, as is the high level of engagement from the school community in its fundraising projects. Still, for NLCS Jeju, it is the school’s acceptance and recognition by the local community that is its greatest measure of success.

If NLCS Jeju wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, the school intends to use the prize money to expand its existing community service projects and create new initiatives that will enable students to continue making a positive impact on Jeju.

Oberoi International School

Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Igniting hope and empathy through community collaboration

Oberoi International School, an independent international school in Mumbai, India, brings hope, empathy, and shared possibility to its students and surrounding communities. With a curriculum designed to foster social responsibility while challenging students academically, the school prioritises community collaboration through its Skill Sharing and Mentorship programmes, community service projects, and partnerships with local organisations and IB programmes worldwide.

Oberoi International School describes itself as being surrounded by many realities. To overcome many of the differences between these realities, the school works hard to build trust with local organisations and community members by setting clear goals and objectives for its collaborations. Importantly, the school involves its students in the process to cultivate their sense of ownership and agency.

The school’s multifold approach to community collaboration includes community service projects, cooperative learning, peer-to-peer learning, skill sharing, and mentorship programmes. The collaborations have not only focused on addressing community needs but also on engagement with the communities, to learn about social issues and develop leadership skills.

The resulting awareness and empathy have led to several meaningful student-led initiatives, like the Unified Theatre, a collaboration with Priyanj Special School, which involves students from both schools working together, sharing resources, and staging plays, with proceeds donated to charity. Another initiative is Project Chirag, which entails organising fundraising events and then visiting rural villages to construct solar panels. Throughout the process, the students actively engage with the local community and school children, fostering meaningful interactions and creating a positive impact. By combining their efforts with hands-on involvement, the students are not only addressing the energy needs of these villages but also establishing valuable connections and knowledge-sharing opportunities with the residents.

The school has also partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for the underprivileged, organised fundraisers for food distribution drives, and facilitated Relay for Life events, which raised INR 2,00,000 for the MESH Foundation and Tata Memorial Hospital.

If Oberoi International School wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it plans to make a transformative difference in the lives of underprivileged children in India. The focus will be on upskilling teachers and providing resources to schools catering to underprivileged students. By investing in their education, the school can empower these children to break the cycle of poverty and create a brighter future for themselves and their families.

SPARK Soweto

Johannesburg, South Africa

Rooted in service and kindness: How one school’s collaborative approach helps build a village to raise the children

SPARK Soweto is an independent kindergarten and primary school in Johannesburg, South Africa. By prioritising affordability, community engagement, and environmental stewardship, this school has become a catalyst for change for its disadvantaged community, which was once symbolic of the struggle against Apartheid. With initiatives that tackle social and economic challenges head-on, such as curbing local unemployment and addressing gender-based violence, the impact this school has made in such a short time is the result of listening and responding to the community.

SPARK Soweto's model is rooted in the five core values of Service, Persistence, Achievement, Responsibility, and Kindness (SPARK), and the school's community is further enshrined in the 6th core value of Ubuntu – ‘I am, because we are.’ As such, the school prioritised community engagement from its very inception which involved interacting with and surveying the community to understand their educational and social needs.

Based on that understanding, the school launched a number of community initiatives to help address the challenges of its surrounding area, such as its Environmental Stewardship programme, which involved cleaning the surrounding areas and erecting permanent concrete bins to curb waste pollution. This helped instil environmental responsibility and stewardship in the community.

The school also addressed local unemployment by prioritising the hiring of local youth who have just completed their undergraduate studies. The school engaged with the local municipal counsellor and formed an agreement that at least 30% of the people hired at SPARK Soweto must reside within the Soweto community. As a result, over 60% of the staff that work at SPARK Soweto were residents of Soweto, which further solidified the school's investment in making the community better.

Other initiatives include a Christmas drive each year to balance the socio-economic struggles during the festive season, and counselling to educate and raise awareness about Gender-Based Violence in South Africa.

In an important example, that the community has adopted the school as a result of its efforts, community members took it upon themselves to check on the school and its buildings for any signs of damage, day and night, during recent riots. Significantly, while several buildings in the area were attacked, the school itself was left untouched.

If SPARK Soweto wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, the school intends to continue to build on the community initiatives that have already shown significant impact. The school believes that it takes a village to raise tomorrow's leaders and is committed to investing in the community that supports the school.

William Henry Burkhart Elementary

Indianapolis, Indiana, US

The school that opened its doors and heart to refugees from Myanmar

William Henry Burkhart Elementary, a public school in Indianapolis, Indiana, US, has been a shining example of the American spirit of community in its effort to welcome and support refugees from Myanmar. Despite the sudden surge in school enrollment, leading to 46% of the students being English Learners, the school partnered with local community groups and adapted its instructional model to create a comprehensive and accessible support system.

Over the last decade, the influx of refugee children has brought a 160% increase in the number of English Learner students to Burkhart, and 84% of its students are eligible for free/reduced price meals. Less quantifiable have been the children’s social and emotional needs.

Few of the new families had more than one set of clothes, for example, and those clothes were rarely well-suited to the harsh, Indiana winters, so teachers collected coats, shoes, and other clothing to help and to foster a strong relationship. At the same time, Principal Darlene Hardesty, who was a 5th-grade teacher when the refugees first began to arrive, attended professional training to learn how best to support students' language and academic needs.

To this end, and to scale Hardesty’s efforts, Burkhart partnered with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET). Together, they developed systems and structures to provide the rest of the teachers with meaningful and impactful instructional support. This led to a co-teaching model, where an additional, “translator” teacher helped during classroom lessons. Through weekly, teacher-led professional learning "cluster" meetings, the school's culture became more collaborative, allowing teachers, teacher assistants, and school translators to work closely together in addressing student needs.

Despite the high number of English Learner students, Burkhart is regularly recognised for excellence in education, even ranking 3rd in its district for overall proficiency. But its true impact is best illustrated by the story of one current instructional tutor-translator who first arrived at the school in 4th grade as one of the refugee children. After overcoming her personal challenges, the student decided to return as an educator, giving back to the school that shaped her success.

If William Henry Burkhart Elementary wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it plans to establish a lasting college scholarship fund. This scholarship will be awarded to a former Burkhart student who has overcome adversity, inspiring current students. The scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to share their stories with current students, motivating them in their future endeavours.

Dunoon Grammar School

Dunoon, Scotland, United Kingdom

Skilling students to reverse a “brain drain”

Dunoon Grammar School, a state secondary school in Dunoon, Scotland, is using its skill-based courses to turn around the fortunes of its predominantly rural local area, which has seen an exodus of young people lacking opportunities.

To try and reverse this “brain drain,” Dunoon Grammar School evaluated the community’s needs and gaps in the workplace and it facilitated over 50 skill-based courses to empower students to work in a range of different professions. Courses are diverse, offering students the chance to learn more about travel and tourism, design, or maritime studies.

Dunoon Grammar School works hard to ensure students reach their destinations post-school and connects them to regular work placements to bolster their chances. The school also develops entrepreneurial skills in its young people, allowing them to establish their own local enterprises or to effectively contribute to regeneration projects.

Working with Apps for Good - an educational charity that promotes coding skills – students have generated ideas and coded prototype apps, IoT and Machine Learning solutions to benefit society. When COP26 was held in Glasgow students conceived and coded apps to address the Climate Crisis.

The school has also offered learning experiences for children and parents to enjoy together in areas such as health and wellbeing, numeracy, literacy and digital skills. Its family liaison officer also supports families with applications for government benefits, helping to address the poverty-related attainment gap.

The school won the JA Europe Entrepreneurial School Award and its community collaboration work has also been celebrated through a number of Early Day motions at the UK Parliament at Westminster and the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.

If Dunoon Grammar School were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would use the funds to assist with transport and invest in more advanced remote learning technology.

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EMEB Profª Adolfina J. M. Diefenthäler

Novo Hamburgo, Brazil

How democracy can give students a stake in their school’s success

EMEB Profª Adolfina J. M. Diefenthäler, a primary school in Novo Hamburgo, Brazil, was once a dilapidated institution that saw high numbers of students failing and dropping out, but now has almost no failures after bringing in democratic assemblies that give students a stake.

Back in 2012, like other schools in the area that serve impoverished communities, EMEB Profª Adolfina J. M. Diefenthäler was considered a “weak” institution and teachers were demoralised by the poor attitudes of its students who lacked the motivation to complete their studies. The facilities of the dirty, graffiti lined school were in such disrepair that many were unusable and verbal and physical conflicts could erupt in class. There was a lack of community spirit; both students and teachers felt as if they didn’t belong.

Determined to turn this around, the school pursued a democratic educational model. The school brought in a small Democratic Management Committee, independent of the school’s leadership, which reached out to students and parents to better understand what change they wanted to see within the school. All students participate in monthly class-based assemblies and raise issues which are recorded in notebooks. Representatives from each class then meet with Democratic Management Committee to raise the issues and discuss solutions. The Democratic Management Committee then reviews what’s written in the notebooks and sees which of the proposals are possible.

Each year, a school-wide conference is held at which the biggest demands and issues are discussed and debated in greater detail. It all comes down to a vote to see which of the viable demands can be achieved in the following year. In assemblies and conferences, everyone has a vote and each student has the right to criticise, demand or amend any proposals brought forward. The school makes sure the forum is a safe place for pupils to voice their concerns and have that voice respected.

Since everyone can participate, everyone feels responsible for the development of the school and learns to listen and respect everyone's needs. Teachers, meanwhile, feel empowered as agents of change.

If EMEB Profª Adolfina J. M. Diefenthäler were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would consult the school assemblies to determine what would be the best use of the funds, ideally buying round tables, whiteboards, games for the younger years.

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PCMC English Medium School, Bopkhel

Pune, India

Seeing parents as partners in children’s holistic development

PCMC English Medium School, Bopkhel, a school in Pune, India has created a cultural dynamic centred on close ties within the community and with parents as partners in children’s holistic development.

The school resides in a small, remote village and is run as a Public Private Partnership between NGO the Akanksha Foundation and local government. Most of its students come from low-income families and many parents had little education and did not always see education as important for their child when earning a living is the biggest priority.

With the knowledge that parents have a profound impact on children’s ability to learn and absorb information, the school makes home visits to better understand students’ home environments and build strong relationships with their parents, instilling in them the importance of education.

PCMC English Medium School, Bopkhel also works with local doctors, grocers and religious leaders to help create programmes that help parents in financial need. The school launched a programme of free medical check-ups in the community and ‘Master Chef’ style classes were launched that taught families about how to have a healthy and balanced diet. Students are also part of a daily fruit eating initiative that keeps them on track for healthy eating and every week they have a set meal plan. The impact has trickled into their home lives as parents have started to follow the same nutrition plan.

To work on the emotional needs of its students and their families, social workers and counsellors scheduled meetings with parents, offering therapy for any distress caused by their background or financial status. For some parents, these talks worked to great effect, allowing them to become emotionally stable enough to help support not only their own children, but others as well. Such schemes helped create a more vibrant and tight knit community in the village, with parents becoming more actively involved in the management of the school and their children’s lives.

If PCMC English Medium School, Bopkhel were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would donate some of the money to the Akanksha Foundation due to their contribution towards the management of the school. The funds would also be distributed towards schools that also work with the Akanksha Foundation.

Still I Rise International School

Nairobi, Kenya

Celebrating difference amongst diversity

Still I Rise International School, an international private school in Nairobi, Kenya, is the first school in the world to offer the International Baccalaureate to refugee children, free of charge. Located in the heart of Mathare slum, one of the largest slums in Africa, the school works to celebrate difference among its diverse students and tackle the inequalities they face, providing them with two meals a day, uniforms, stationery and health insurance.

Around half of its students are refugees from Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Somali, South Sudan, and Rwanda, the rest are Kenyans from vulnerable backgrounds. At times, such a mix has resulted in clashes due to the differences in language, culture and nationality. During school meals, some students have refused to eat because the food is of a different origin. Others viewed each other with suspicion or as inferiors based on their ethnicity. Some students struggled to communicate in English or Swahili, making school life difficult. In response, the school worked to celebrate the differences among its student body, encouraging them to see each other as equals.

The school works to bring students together regardless of culture. Students are encouraged to speak their native language at least once a week and on occasion teachers and students attend school in an outfit of their choice that shows off their unique heritage. Students have taken to crafting traditional artefacts, reciting traditional poetry and singing their own national anthems.

If Still I Rise International School, Nairobi were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would use the funds to expand its library with computers and open it to the public to enjoy as a way of giving back to the community. It would also use the funds to establish a Jenga Pamoja Initiative Exhibition, which would display the unique cultures of its students.

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I.E.D. Instituto Técnico Comercial José de San Martín

Tabio, Colombia

Overcoming conflict with debate

I.E.D. Instituto Técnico Comercial José de San Martín, a K-12 public school in Tabio, serves vulnerable children with complex backgrounds or disabilities. Most of this school’s students come from poor families and many have been displaced by violence. Believing that they have the power to build peace and a different reality for themselves, their communities and the country, the school created the Annual Social Science Congress to teach them that they can contribute to a better society through debate and mutual respect.

The Social Science Congress, an initiative that has entered its 10th year, is a forum to stimulate critical thinking, research, innovation, and social transformation. Being involved in the Congress has allowed students to strengthen their communication skills on multiple subjects, including questions that reflect some of the biggest issues that the country faces. All students participate with papers and debates and write about their research about the annual theme. An important component of social inclusion consists of adapting these activities to promote the participation of students with special needs.

All students are invited to participate in the "Sanmartinian Artists" contest, where they draw a piece that identifies the annual theme of the Congress, which seeks to encourage their artistic expressions. The gallery of drawings is presented at the event and the winning drawing becomes the logo of the Congress.

The Congress continued during the height of COVID, with the event transferred online; students and teachers were connected through Facebook, WhatsApp, and Google Classroom. In order to ensure access to all students and their families, the event was also broadcasted on the local radio station for those who have limited internet access. During the pandemic, the theme of the Congress enabled students to analyse the confinement that they and the country were experiencing. The digital Congress earned the recognition of the Ministry of Interior, which gave the school a National Award in the category of ‘Children, Youth and Adolescence’.

This school is supported by the Fundación Alquería Cavelier, as part of its flagship education program “Programa de mejoramiento de la calidad educativa”, in partnership with the Education Department of Cundinamarca.

If I.E.D. Instituto Técnico Comercial José de San Martín were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would use the funds to expand the work of the Congress and of the other seven postulated projects that work on environmental sustainability, social inclusion and technological innovation; for which they do not have the necessary resources. The school has counted on the support from the Alqueria Cavalier Foundation in human talent for quality training for the teachers and management team. Lastly, the school would continue to help its teachers and students in research and training work, in order to transcend borders.

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G.L. David Memorial Integrated School

Balanga, Philippines

Taking a village to raise a child

G.L David Memorial Integrated School, a public school in Balanga City, Philippines, believes that no child should be left behind and brought the whole community together to ensure their welfare.

Inspired by the African proverbs “it takes a village to raise a child”, the school has brought parents, community members, local government, and businesses establishments together to cultivate pupils’ social, intellectual, and emotional wellbeing and tackle barriers to their education.

One of the major problems the school identified was that the majority of its students came from low-income backgrounds with families having financial difficulties and many students were malnourished. Apart from special literacy and emotional development programs, the school launched the KAIN PA project to help provide daily free meals to its students. The initiative procures vegetables, fruits and other goods from government officials, NGOs and parents who buy ingredients from the market and sometimes help cook the meals themselves. The KAIN project was a resounding success with malnutrition rates falling from 12.11% in 2019 to 2.13% in 2020. The school also gets free eye screening through the Essilor Company, which also donates glasses to pupils and teachers.

If G.L David Memorial Integrated School were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would use the funds to improve the school’s library and laboratory. The money would also be used to continue supporting the KAIN PA project and other pupil’s wellbeing programs.

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Community School “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe”

Schalkau, Germany

How to teach community spirit

Community School “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe” in Schalkau, Thuringia, Germany teaches its students that the best way to truly learn is to experience working with the community. Focused on vocational training, Goethe School is inspired by the motto: “Together we are strong,” and pushes its students to understand that school is a collaboration with many crucial partners including local companies, kindergartens, institutions, retirement homes, the police and local authorities.

The rural school believes that students take pride in working with outsiders and contributing to community goals. They learn how to tackle real-life challenges, so the staff encourage students to think collaboratively.

One of the school’s initiatives saw students build playhouses for kids, market stalls and outdoor seating for the wider community to use for the local Christmas market at Castle Eyrichshof, Bavaria. The market stalls were then reused for a number of events throughout the year. From that project a close collaboration with staff at the castle was born. Together, students from Goethe School and Castle Eyrichsh are preparing an exhibition showcasing their works. Annually, all year groups search for new sponsorships from community leaders and businesses in order to better understand history, traditions and handicraft techniques. Students also make their own initiatives. One form 8 class restored a local green space not too far from the school grounds. They mowed the grass, swept away the litter and prepped the space for sport activities and made it into a welcoming space for the community to enjoy again.

If Community School “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe” Schalkau were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would use the funds to update the school’s facilities and develop its outreach programme to local partners. It would also use the money to buy trees, plants and other materials to revitalise the school’s yard and buy fabrics to create costumes for the drama department that would put on plays for retirement homes and kindergarten students.

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Beaconhouse School System Gulshan Middle 1

Karachi, Pakistan

How teaching progressive values brings change

Beaconhouse School System Gulshan Middle 1, a private school in Karachi, Pakistan, has created key outreach programmes based on progressive values that help some of the most vulnerable people in the community, in particular transgender and intersex people.

Beaconhouse School System Gulshan Middle’s ethos centres around the idea that education and the youth who inherit progressive ideals, can invoke greater change – even if that change is small.

The school seeks to help enlighten its students and encourage them to help bring about positive outcomes through PSHE lessons. Its core strands comprise several principles: Personal Development, Social, Health and Emotional Values and Beliefs. It has used this as a foundation for club activities that actively work with different parts of the community and promote eco-friendly initiatives such as ‘Team PNEC- NUST, Shell Eco-Marathon’. The campaign allowed students to learn about the design of a model for a fuel-efficient car that helped broaden their insights into the type of infrastructure necessary for an eco-friendly and greener Pakistan.

But central to Beaconhouse School System Gulshan Middle 1 mission is the collaboration its students have had with transgender and intersex people. Through its Social Services Club, students first partnered up with Pakistan’s first Transgender Lawyer, Nisha Rao. Together, they created a documentary that helped illustrate the issues faced by the transgender community, who are amongst the most marginalised in Pakistani society. Students also partnered up with a non-profit, TransPride Society to build awareness and spread positive messages of inclusion, love and human dignity.

If Beaconhouse School System Gulshan Middle 1 were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would use the money in two ways. The first would be to allocate some of the money to the student council and community services that would expand their activities. The second use would be used to upgrade the ICT and science lab facilities in order to help spread the school’s resources abroad and foster collaboration with institutions internationally.

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Westside Elementary

Sun Prairie, United States of America

Why schools should nurture parents as well as children

Westside Elementary is a K-5 community school in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, United States, whose core belief is that nurturing children and their parents with love and compassion allows young people to thrive. It’s not uncommon to see a mother call a teacher when she runs out of baby formula or families going through the school’s food pantry. At Westside Elementary, the wellbeing of its students and the people in their lives takes precedence over all else and it partners with a number of organisations to achieve this.

The school is one of the most diverse elementary schools in the local area. When it realised that some parents and caregivers needed extra support with English language skills, it took action by partnering with a local adult education organisation, The Literacy Network, to provide adult classes in English as a second language.

Collaborating with the Rooted Family, a group that teaches mindfulness, the school holds parenting classes twice a year for six weeks. Classes teach strategies based on brain development, building healthy relationships between parents and their children, and supporting parents in raising confident children. The school also puts on healthy cooking and active lifestyle classes for families with another partner, University of Wisconsin Extension - Nutrition department. Partnering with a local church, therapy support groups are arranged for those suffering from bereavement.

If Westside Elementary were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would use the money for professional development opportunities for its staff in restorative justice and hire an on-site restorative justice coach to work with our community, families and children who need extra emotional support.

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Khoj School

Mumbai, India

Building emotional intelligence and empathy in students and caregivers

Khoj - Apni Shala's SEL-Integrated School Initiative, currently operating at a public school in Mumbai, India, uses a hybrid educational model that incorporates counselling, mindfulness and inclusion practices to help empower its students and their families.

The school caters to 200 children from Grade K-4 who come from low-income families in Mumbai’s Govandi, Makhurd and Chembur areas, part of M-East ward, one of the most marginalised areas in the city. The area, largely underserved, has a low student attendance record – 46% of children between the age of 3-5 do not attend school – and an illiteracy rate of 21%.

It was through the joint efforts of the community and the faculty behind Khoj that the school was able to find a physical space and build classrooms that could provide room for young children to have an education. Central to its commitment to education is the view that when it comes to teaching a child, it cannot happen in isolation, but through a harmonious and healthy ecosystem that revolves around the child’s wellbeing.

This led Khoj to develop a holistic educational model informed by Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). The process focuses on building emotional intelligence and empathy, in not just the students but ‘caregivers’ - a term Khoj prefers to use when referring to parents or guardians.

Central to this is the idea that ‘people are not the problem: the problem is the problem’. The school has taken great strides to get to the heart of issues causing distress to its students in their home life, with the understanding that the breakdown in family relationships is commonly the result of oppressive systems of poverty and exclusion. For instance, in the case of physical violence, Khoj first works towards ensuring the child’s safety and then proceeds to support the parent with mental health support and coaching in emotional management.

Its students also meditate in the morning before class and if they feel overwhelmed during their lessons, they can request to leave the room so they can calm themselves and return at their own pace.

Khoj aims to become a model school in the given context. If Khoj were to win the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, it would use the prize money to help create tools for data management and impact assessments so that the practices can be widely shared, and invest in professional development courses for its faculty so that it can continue to offer a high-quality education to its students.

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SPARK Soweto

Johannesburg, South Africa

Rooted in service and kindness: How one school’s collaborative approach helps build a village to raise the children

SPARK Soweto is an independent kindergarten and primary school in Johannesburg, South Africa. By prioritising affordability, community engagement, and environmental stewardship, this school has become a catalyst for change for its disadvantaged community, which was once symbolic of the struggle against Apartheid. With initiatives that tackle social and economic challenges head-on, such as curbing local unemployment and addressing gender-based violence, the impact this school has made in such a short time is the result of listening and responding to the community.

SPARK Soweto's model is rooted in the five core values of Service, Persistence, Achievement, Responsibility, and Kindness (SPARK), and the school's community is further enshrined in the 6th core value of Ubuntu – ‘I am, because we are.’ As such, the school prioritised community engagement from its very inception which involved interacting with and surveying the community to understand their educational and social needs.

Based on that understanding, the school launched a number of community initiatives to help address the challenges of its surrounding area, such as its Environmental Stewardship programme, which involved cleaning the surrounding areas and erecting permanent concrete bins to curb waste pollution. This helped instil environmental responsibility and stewardship in the community.

The school also addressed local unemployment by prioritising the hiring of local youth who have just completed their undergraduate studies. The school engaged with the local municipal counsellor and formed an agreement that at least 30% of the people hired at SPARK Soweto must reside within the Soweto community. As a result, over 60% of the staff that work at SPARK Soweto were residents of Soweto, which further solidified the school's investment in making the community better.

Other initiatives include a Christmas drive each year to balance the socio-economic struggles during the festive season, and counselling to educate and raise awareness about Gender-Based Violence in South Africa.

In an important example, that the community has adopted the school as a result of its efforts, community members took it upon themselves to check on the school and its buildings for any signs of damage, day and night, during recent riots. Significantly, while several buildings in the area were attacked, the school itself was left untouched.

If SPARK Soweto wins the World's Best School Prize for Community Collaboration, the school intends to continue to build on the community initiatives that have already shown significant impact. The school believes that it takes a village to raise tomorrow's leaders and is committed to investing in the community that supports the school.

Judging Criteria

The criteria for judging and rating this Prize category are the following:

1. Collaborative Leadership & Practice

2. Active Parental Engagement

3. Integrated Student Services

4. Expanded Learning

Children gathering around school desk while teacher explains something to them.

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