Chapter 11: Leadership across partnerships and networks
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This chapter focuses on leadership across inter-school partnerships and networks. It argues that existing research and policy has prioritised a focus on leadership within individual schools, but that this is insufficient in the context of contemporary societies and school systems. Networks offer the potential for more inclusive and rounded models of educational provision, but this is not a given - networks can equally have a ‘dark’ side and the chapter includes a vignette of a problematic, exclusive network. The chapter also: provides a brief overview of inter-school network policies and practices in different parts of the world; identifies core features of networks as well as common barriers which leaders must attend to; and analyses research and theory regarding the leadership of networks. It outlines three capabilities which appear central to successful network leadership: working productively with tensions and paradox, collective sensemaking and adopting an ecological approach. Finally, it sets out two main suggestions for future development in this area: firstly, challenge the dominant focus on leadership within schools, and secondly, work to understand the structures, roles and capabilities required at the ‘middle tier’ as well as school level in order to maximise the potential of networks that support equity.

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