“Community Aware” education policy: Enhancing individual and community vitality


  • Hope Casto Skidmore College
  • Brian McGrath National University of Ireland-Galway
  • John W. Sipple Cornell University
  • Liz Todd Newcastle University




community development, policy, rural education, social support, schools, extended schools, pre-kindergarten


This paper advances the theoretical and applied connection between education policy and community development. We call this community-aware education policy, and it is based on Dean’s (2012) conception of human need that is thick (i.e., accounts for a relational context), rather than relying solely on a thin conception (i.e., instrumental view with an individualistic focus). It is our contention that contemporary policy initiatives can be better designed and implemented so that individual and professional goals are attained while family and community well-being are enhanced. Using literature from the field of community development highlighting social support concepts, we “thicken” the concept of social policy to arrive at our theory of community-aware education policy. This theory is then applied to two cases in different national policy contexts: universal pre-kindergarten in New York State (US) and full-service schools in England (UK). Ultimately, we argue for a thick approach to need that results in the provision of a range of services and activities to serve children in schools better, and also the communities in which they reside.


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Author Biographies

Hope Casto, Skidmore College

Hope Casto is an Associate Professor at Skidmore College (US) whose work highlights place-based education as an important link between school achievement and community development efforts. 

Brian McGrath, National University of Ireland-Galway

Brian McGrath is Lecturer in Political Science & Sociology and the Programme Director for the MA in Community Development at the National University of Ireland-Galway. His current research interests include migration and migrant communities, rural society and change, social ties and communities, and community governance. 

John W. Sipple, Cornell University

John W. Sipple is an Associate Professor of Development Sociology at Cornell University (US). His work focuses on the intersection of the implementation of social and educational policy on community development and capacity. 


Liz Todd, Newcastle University

Liz Todd is Professor of Educational Inclusion at Newcastle University. She engages in research with a strong social justice agenda, being known for her work on the interaction between communities and schools, the engagement of young people in development and research, and respectful democratic approaches to change (personal and organisational).




How to Cite

Casto, H., McGrath, B., Sipple, J. W., & Todd, L. (2016). “Community Aware” education policy: Enhancing individual and community vitality. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24, 50. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.24.2148