Building a sense of community belonging: Making mobile families welcome in a rural Australian school
Seasonal farm workers play an important economic role through their contributions to annual harvests and the fact that they spend income in the community where they sojourn. However, research shows that farm workers and other temporary residents are often socially marginalised in rural communities and feel as though they are outsiders who do not belong. This paper reports research that focused on a primary school in a rural community in Australia, where seasonal mobile farm workers arrived for the annual harvest. Using a single case study design, the research demonstrated that the school made a deliberate attempt to welcome newly-arrived students and their families into the school community. Using a whole school strategy, the school staff aimed to meet families’ and students’ social needs, thereby building a sound foundation for the academic work of schooling. However, the data and data analysis also suggested that the school’s strategy was helping to work against the deficit discourses that operated in the broader community, thus demonstrating the school’s role as a hub for the community’s socio-educational development.
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