The Network 14 programme at Hamburg had fewer papers than usual but we convenors thought that in general they were of better research quality than in previous years.
Researchers from the Czech Republic, England, Portugal, Scotland and Wales presented papers, and, for the first time, we hosted a paper from Lithuania.
Unfortunately two papers from the Netherlands and Norway were cancelled in advance, and two scheduled presentations failed to show up. These matters also reduced our programme but nevertheless, every paper extended our understanding of school and community issues, often by identifying serious mismatches and perception gaps.
Three papers set in UK inner city contexts contributed to a growing strand of the network's domain, in addition to its established themes of research on home-school relationships, and rural communities and their schools.
Colleen Cummings, (Newcastle University, England) identified three models of inner city schools' endeavours in neighbourhood regeneration. Though none of these achieved quantitative gains in attainment within the two years of the project, the research helped clarify the need for 'vision not visions' of regeneration.
Gill Crozier (Sunderland University, England) identified an acute and critical perception gap between teacher, parent and student expectations of school amongst Bangladeshi families in a city in NE England.
Joanna McPake (Stirling University, Scotland) reported the attempted transformation of a state comprehensive with a multi-ethnic student population into a state-run 'international school' aiming to promote social inclusion, value cultural diversity, and combat racism. Joanna identified local, national and international curricular 'imperatives', and suggested that the case study school might shift its focus from the 'local' towards the 'international imperative' more typical of the conventional 'international' school.
One of the benefits of a network is to be able to follow participants' research programmes develop over time.
In addition to Joanna's paper, this year included two such papers, each of which identified critical perception gaps.
Klara Sedova, (Masaryk University, Czech Republic) presented the third paper from a major project on school - parent relationships.
This identified a mismatch between evidence from quantitative and qualitative data sources. Whereas questionnaire scales indicated positive attitudes, interviews revealed teachers' considerable reservations about parental involvement in practice.
Richard Thorpe and Ina Williams (University of Wales at Aberystwyth) extended their research on small rural schools, with a study of initial teacher trainees on professional placement in small schools.
Indications of a mismatch between the trainees' expectations of the teacher's role and the actual pedagogical skills required in small schools were supported by statistically significant differences in perceptions of the trainee-mentor relationship between trainees placed in small compared with large schools.
It's also good to have new contributors to the network.
Vitolda Glebuvienne and Aldone Tarasoniene, (Vilnius Pedagogical University, Lithuania) presented their findings from a major survey of children's maturity for school using a battery of intellectual and social measures and observations.
They identified higher levels on intellectual measures for children who had attended a one-year pre-school programme compared with children whose pre-school experience was at home or in kindergartens.
Other analyses showed advantages for children from urban as opposed to rural settings.
Finally two papers focused specifically on parental involvement.
Felicity Wikeley (Bath University, England) presented the findings of a small-scale longitudinal follow-up of parents' views on their children's education.
Having surveyed these parents' views when their children entered school as the first cohort to experience the national curriculum (NC), this paper presented their views, and those of the students, now 18 years old, as they emerged form the school system. Far from creating strong parental demand for change, the interview findings suggested that there had actually been little change in levels of parental involvement, and, as one parent put it, her children's educational experiences had 'not been bad'.
Maria de Lurdes Cardoso (Castelo Branco, Portugal) reported a small scale observational study of parental involvement in science education with six families.
Observations of parent-child interactions during home-based science investigations with everyday 'equipment' revealed a wide range of spontaneous 'scaffolding' strategies and 'pedagogical cultures' of which teachers should be aware.
Overall, despite smaller, but no less appreciative audiences than previous years, Net 14 enjoyed a successful conference in Hamburg, and would continue to welcome papers reporting empirical work or systematic review of research on educational issues relevant to communities and their schools, and in particular:
- home-school, and school-community margins including research involving parents
- educational transitions e.g. between home and school, school and school, or school and beyond
- teaching and learning in settings which challenge dominant ideologies or mainstream contexts such as small or rural schools, minority language or denominational schools
Linda Hargreaveson behalf of Net 14 convenorsSept 2003