- Denise MifsudDenise MifsudEuro-Mediterranean Centre for Educational Research
It is evident that in many educational systems there has been a partial dissolution of the traditional single school model towards more flexible modes of organizational link-up, taking the form of increased collaboration among schools. The early 21st-century climate of rapid technological change creates a need for collective knowledge creation and information sharing at classroom, school, and system level. Different forms of networks, collaboratives, and federations have become an established part of many educational landscapes and have arisen for a number of reasons. Some have been “imposed” on schools, others have been “incentivized” by the offer of external funding, but many have arisen because of the efforts of educational leaders who want to “make a difference” in their locality, which assumes their essential “good.” Within education, networks are regarded as one of the most promising levers for large-scale reform due to their potential to re-culture both the environment and the system in which policy-makers operate through increased cooperation, interconnectedness, and multi-agency. School networks contribute to capacity-building across the education service through the production of multiple solutions for potential, multifaceted, and intractable problems. Networks foster innovation, providing a test bed for new ideas while offering a platform for gradual innovation, distributing the risks and the workloads among different schools. Moreover, they provide capacity-building, reflective practice, and an inquiry frame of mind besides raising achievement and enhancing student outcomes through the sharing of resources and professional expertise. Networks enable schools to overcome their isolationism and move to form community relationships. Notwithstanding the benefits generated by collaboration, some of the ambiguities surrounding the setting up of school networks focus on: network purpose; collaborative inertia; collaboration and accountability; trust and relationships; conscription and volunteerism; identity and autonomy; competition and cooperation; lateral agency; and power inequality. There is no simple, single solution to leading networks, due to the very nature of a network making it difficult to define who its leaders are, resulting in leadership that is defined by activity rather than by formal position.