Towards a framework for school-to-school networking in challenging circumstances

Christopher Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: In recent years, there have been a number of policies aimed at improving educational standards in England, particularly in urban and challenging contexts. Many of these attempts have been underpinned by the principle of collaboration, where schools work together to generate and share knowledge across institutional boundaries. Purpose: This article draws on empirical evidence to explore the relationship between Networked Learning Communities and school improvement in challenging circumstances. Programme description: The Networked Learning Communities programme aimed to support school improvement through collaborative enquiry. The programme involved over 1000 schools working together in over 80 networks. The scheme was piloted in 2000 and officially closed in late 2006. However, many of the networks continue working collaboratively, either in revised form or under a new branding. Sample: The research involved three networks focusing on four secondary schools facing particularly challenging circumstances. Design and methods: This study consisted of a literature review and case studies of four schools located in three networks. Data collection involved the scrutiny of documentary evidence (school, network and national level) and semi-structured interviews with a range of key stakeholders (including leaders, teachers, support staff and students). Interviews were recorded, coded and analysed to illuminate emerging patterns, trends and themes within the data. Results: While there was no significant short-term gain in examination performance within schools in the study, results suggest Networked Learning Communities supported a number of processes associated with building the capacity for school improvement but the sophistication and extent to which they were developed varied across networks. Conclusions: The evidence suggests a more contextually sensitive approach to networking in urban and challenging contexts may yield greater returns. It is argued that such a cyclical approach should focus on: an analysis of the context, agreeing purposes, accessing expertise and taking action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-420
Number of pages17
JournalEducational Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


  • Challenging circumstances
  • Networking
  • School improvement
  • Urban


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