26 SES 14 A, What Makes Effective Area-Based Reform in Disadvantaged Areas? Learning from Austria, England and Germany
There are now a number of different approaches designed to improve educational outcomes, which seek to look beyond the individual school while also recognizing the importance of place and context. One example of such an approach is the notion of area-based networks. Networks in education generally can be thought of as ‘systems of interconnected people and organizations, such as schools, whose aims and purposes include the improvement of learning and aspects of well-being known to affect learning’ (Hadfield, et al.,2006: 5). Although some studies have pointed to possible challenges of establishing networks between neighbouring schools, area-based networks can serve to mobilize and circulate social and cultural capital in a way that is impossible for many schools and families acting alone (Armstrong and Ainscow, 2018). As a result such networks can act as an intermediary form of organization that allows for (more) exchange, learning and innovation which is viewed as especially useful in areas that are socioeconomically disadvantaged.
The importance of working in networks is also fundamental to many regionalised efforts to support school quality development. In relation to Germany, the idea of regionalization, especially in so-called school and educational landscapes in the sense of a ‘new regionalism’ (Armin 2004), sits squarely within current approaches to school system reform. In these locally based networking activities, it is thought that jointly created solutions to problems and educational offers can adequately address challenges on the ground. Furthermore many of these regionalized initiatives – such as educational landscapes – are more than just ‘loose’ networks, and are in fact steeped in a strong value-laden purpose and a specific theory of change (Tulowitzki, et al, 2018). For instance, educational landscapes operate by opening up the school to the district and to cooperation with stakeholders from non-formal and informal education. This in turn can lead to a wider ‘life-oriented’ perspectives on learning content and learning processes. As a result, teachers are afforded the opportunity to perceive disadvantaged students outside of the academic context, allowing them to reflect on their deficit-oriented attitudes whilst also ensuring a stronger focus on students’ learning potential (c.f. Bremm and Klein, in Press). In a similar mould to regionalized approaches are those reforms attending to specific geographical areas: so called ‘area-based reforms’. These in the past have comprised ‘big city reforms’ (e.g. Tower Hamlets, Hackney and London Challenge in London) (Boyle, 2018); but tcan also encompass smaller areas, such as the Lebenswelt Schule and Rütlieducational landscapes in Germany. As the examples above illustrate, area-based reforms are also seen to offer particular promise for schools in socially disadvantaged areas.
Symposium aim: There is currently an international policy focus on area-based reforms (Gilbert, 2017). This focus is grounded in research which suggests the use of area-based reforms, such as educational landscapes and area-based networks, can be effective in supporting school improvement in areas of disadvantage (Boyle, 2018; Tulowitzki et al.,2018; Gilbert, 2017). Nonetheless harnessing the benefits of such reform is not without challenge and participation by schools and other stakeholders in area-based reforms will not necessarily automatically improve educational outcomes (Boyle, 2018; Gilbert, 2017). The aim of this symposium therefore is to use our four papers to explore case studies and other recent research in order to derive a better understanding of how to maximize the impact of area based reforms. The research will be synthesized by the discussant who will draw out key themes and implications for area based reforms as well as set out future challenges and possible research foci for this new area of research and improvement activity.
Amin, A. (2004). Regions unbound: Towards a new politics of place. Geografiska Annaler, 86B (1), 33-44. Armstrong, P. and Ainscow, M. (2018) School-to-school support within a competitive education system: views from the inside. Vortrag auf dem International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement, Singapore, 8-12 Januar 2018. Boyle, A. (2018) Big City Reforms, Lessons from New York, Toronto and London, Vortrag für die Robert Bosch Stiftung, London, 1 März 2018 Bremm, N. and Klein, E.D. (im Druck). Deficit Thinking and Organizational and Instructional Improvement in Schools Serving Disadvantaged Communities: Data from Germany. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Gilbert, C. (2017) Optimism of the will: the development of local area-based education partnerships. A think piece, (London, London Centre for Leadership in Learning). Hadfield, M., Jopling, M., Noden, C., O’Leary, D. and Stott, A. (2006) What does the existing knowledge base tell us about the impact of networking and collaboration? A review of network-based innovations in education in the UK, (Nottingham, UK: National College for School Leadership). Tulowitzki, P., Duveneck, A. and Krüger, M. (2018) A professional learning network for the entire local education system: Educational landscapes in Germany, In C. Brown and C. Poortman (Eds) (2018) Networks for learning: effective collaboration for teacher, school and system improvement, (London, Routledge).
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