15 SES 03, Paper Session
Partnerships and networks have marked local education policies in Portugal since late 1990s, constituting a new challenge in the highly centralized, until recently, Portuguese education system. Though the centrality of the state is prevalent in most educational matters such as pedagogy, curriculum and assessment, in the last decade the central government is implementing the transference of responsibilities to municipalities such as resource allocation and social services (meals, transportation and support to the families by providing extra after school activities). Decentralisation of education has been a trend, in the last decades in Portugal (Barroso, 2004). One of the most common justifications for educational decentralization is the promotion of school achievement, even though other rationales have emerged to explain it. The idea that municipalities are much closer to the people than central government and, therefore, they are seen as a locus of citizen participation and democratisation is another rationale (Pinhal, 2011).
Networks and partnerships are seen as bringing innovations and respond to school problems and wellbeing. They have been developed in several countries as in the UK, Australasia and USA, for instance (Hadfield & Chapman, 2009; Chapman & Hadfield, 2010a). Particularly, in the UK, some of the published research work is concerned with interschool networking and pupils learning improvement (Muijs, West & Ainscow, 2010). Apart from being an elected strategy in decentralization policies in education, networking has been considered as a reliable strategy to foster connections among schools and entities and to have the potential to improve schools, to broaden opportunities and to share resources (ibidem). However, as it was pointed out by Lima (2010), apart the added-value of networks, networks should be studied through multiple theoretical and methodological lenses. In his view, networks are not immune to weaknesses and disadvantages, e.g., the possible conflicts between partners’ cultures. Networks and partnerships involve negotiation processes for obtaining consensus and shared objectives.
The involvement of local authorities in networking regarding school improvement and achievement is central in a research project Building Local Networking in Education? Decision-Makers Discourses on School Achievement and Drop out in Portugal (FCT) that assumes education as a social right for all children (Bernstein, 1996). It is the current agenda for local networking connecting local authorities, schools and communities that is at stake here on the education of children and young people, encouraging new and open forms of identity construction, knowledge building and sociabilities coming from non-formal contexts (Araújo, Sousa, Costa & Loureiro, 2011). Different actors’ perspectives (local authorities as education councilors and officers; school agents as principals, teachers and parents) are focused on the involvement of municipalities in promoting school achievement.
The research was informed by two main conceptual poles: network in education and school disengagement, tying up a conceptual framework around extended forms of citizenship and social justice (Araújo, Sousa, Costa, Loureiro & Portela, forthcoming). As for school disengagement, it appears as an ‘umbrella concept’ that covers most of the complexity of related concepts (e.g. school dropout, early school leaving (ESL), young people neither employed nor in education and training (NEET) (Dale, 2010; Ferguson et al., 2005). There is a wide consensus about the negative repercussions of school disengagement and the need to decrease it is a European target (Council of European Union, 2011).
This paper addresses the following research questions: “What do different actors say about school disengagement and networking? May their perspectives facilitate or hinder networking in education?”
Araújo, Helena. C., Sousa, Florbela, Costa, Isabel, Loureiro, Armando, & Portela, José. Building local networking in education? Decision-makers’ discourses on school achievement and dropout in Portugal. In B. Boufoy-Bastick (Ed.), Cultures of education policy: Comparative international issues of policy-outcome relationships. Strasbourg: Analytics. (forthcoming) Barroso, João (2004). Os novos modos de regulação das políticas educativas na Europa: Da regulação do sistema a um sistema de regulações. Educação em Revista, 39, 19-28. Bernstein, Basil (1996). Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity – theory, research, critique. London: Taylor & Francis. Chapman, Christopher, & Hadfield, Mark (2010a). Realising the potential of school-based networks. Educational Research, Vol. 52 (3), 309–323. Chapman, Christopher, & Hadfield, Mark (2010b). Supporting the middle tier to engage with school-based networks: Change strategies for influencing and cohering in Journal of Educational Change, 11, 221-240. Costa, Isabel, Loureiro, Armando, Silva, Sofia M., Araújo, Helena. C. & Coutinho, Vanessa. Municipalities’ education officers’ perspectives on school disengagement. Educação, Sociedade e Culturas. (accepted). Council of the European Union (CEU, 2011). Council recommendation on policies to reduce early school leaving. Recommendation 10544/11, EDUC 100, SOC 424. Brussels, 7 June. Dale, R. (2010). Early school leaving: lessons from research and policy makers practice. Network of Experts in Social Science and Education (NESSE) Report for the European Commission. Ferguson, Bruce, Tilleczek, Kate, Boydel, Katherine, Rummens Joanna, Edney, Dara, Michaud, Jacques, & Cote Daniel (2005). Early School Leavers: Understanding the Lived Reality of Student Disengagement from Secondary School, Final Report, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Retrieved August 2013 from: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/parents/schoolleavers.pdf Hadfield, Mark & Chapman, Christopher (2009). Leading school-based networks. Abingdon: Routledge. Lima, Jorge (2010). Thinking more deeply about networks in education. Journal of Educational Change, 11 (1), pp. 1–21. Muijs, D., West, M., & Ainscow, M. (2010). Why network? Theoretical perspectives on networking. School effectiveness and school improvement, 21 (1), 5-26. Pinhal, João (2011). A construção do sistema educativo local em Portugal: uma história recente. Cadernos de pesquisa. Br. cad_pesq11.indd. ISSN 2175 2613. Retrieved November, 25, 2012, from www.utp.br/Cadernos_de_Pesquisa/pdfs/cad.../2 _a_construcao_cp12.pdf. Scott, David, & Usher, Robin (Eds.) (2002). Understanding educational research. London: Routledge. Seale, Clive, Gobo, Giampietro, Jaber, Gubrium & Silverman, David (Eds.) (2004). Qualitative research practice. London: Sage. Sousa, Florbela, Araújo, Helena C., Costa, Isabel, & Loureiro, Armando (2013). The emergence of new actors in the education local spaces in Portugal: Partnerships between schools, local authorities and the community. Istanbul, ECER September.
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