This article draws upon recent research into schools and community education across Scotland to explore the issue of collaborative partnerships. It argues that collaborative activity is a prerequisite for educational partnerships within a community education system and puts forward an analysis of collaboration in terms of the values, purposes, tasks and conditions under which activities take place. The authors conclude that collaboration will only be successful when institutional 'core' values and purposes can be reconciled whilst all the partners contribute their distinctive skills. The article focuses on three case studies of home-school and community links designed to involve parents in the education of their children, as illustrations of activity at the centre of a complex web of relationships between the school and the community education system. A new role for schools is envisaged at the heart of the community education system which will facilitate a new agenda between schools, parents and the community.