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Durham University

Research & business

Research lectures, seminars and events

The events listed in this area are research seminars, workshops and lectures hosted by Durham University departments and research institutes. If you are not a member of the University, but  wish to enquire about attending one of the events please contact the organiser or host department.


Research Seminar: School-to-school collaboration that promotes sustainable, equitable and inclusive practices

14th October 2020, 13:00 to 14:00, Zoom seminar, Dr Paul Armstrong, Lecturer in Education and Programme Director - MA Leadership and Management, Manchester University

This will be a virtual seminar using Zoom. Contact for details about how to take part.

Successive governments in England in the last thirty years have favoured two main and overlapping strategies for promoting improvement in school leadership, management and governance. The first is structural change, most notably through the establishment of academies and school trusts. The second is what is sometimes termed school-led system leadership, where ‘strong’ schools and ‘system leaders’, incentivised by increased prestige and resources, take responsibility for ‘failing’ schools and groups of schools. There is research evidence that, while such macro- and meso-level interventions can lead to short-term gains in educational outcomes and positive responses from families and communities, those improvements may not be sustained over longer periods. At the same time, there are increasing concerns that such policy reforms are fragmenting the education system in ways that further disadvantage children and young people by exacerbating social segregation (Greaney and Higham, 2018).

The Reaching out to all learners project, instigated in 2018 across a large urban area in England, aims to develop alternative strategies for educational improvement that are based on schools working together as equal partners, using processes of collaborative inquiry to promote equitable school development. From a starting point where existing practices are shared through a programme of visits and discussions, professional practitioners experiment with new ways of working within, between and beyond schools. Underpinning all these activities is a determination to identify where inequities persist and exploring new ways of promoting inclusive practices.

University researchers strengthen the implementation and impact of these collaborative activities by working across trios of schools to develop accounts of practice. These are informed by evidence from academic- and practitioner-led research conducted elsewhere that has shown how collaboration between schools can help to reduce educational polarisation, to the particular benefit of marginalized students (Armstrong & Ainscow, 2018; Ainscow et al, 2016; Chapman & Hadfield, 2009). In this paper, we report on the emerging findings from the individual and collective accounts of practice produced in 2019/20.

The guiding research question is: How can collaboration between schools, supported by academic research, foster sustainable improvements in practice, reduce educational polarisation, and thereby benefit marginalized children and young people? In this paper, we illustrate the use of research to stimulate learning about innovative ways of responding to diversity, despite a market-driven context where inter-school competition is frequently regarded as the key to driving educational improvement.

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