From networking to school
networks to ‘networked’ learning:
the challenge for the Networked
In this chapter I want to discuss a movement, an arc, which maps out where much of the theory and practice around school networks, at least in the UK, currently appear to be leading. It is a movement where a value of professional networking has moved onto stressing the need to create more formalized networks of schools. At first, bringing schools into networks was primarily a means of helping deliver central and local government initiatives more effectively. Now the agenda is shifting as the power of networks which have come together around local interests is being harnessed as a mechanism for system-wide change. This is the movement from networking, to networks, to what we have termed, in the Networked Learning Communities Programme, ‘networked learning’.
Networking has been around for sometime in the UK where there has been a number of school network structures arising from both central government initiatives and a plethora of local initiatives developed by schools and local education authorities. At this point, networks are being discussed as a means of dealing with a range of policy concerns from how to deal with the flattening performances of central improvement initiatives, such as the national Numeracy and Literacy Strategies, enhancing the leadership of schools, to dealing with broader multi-agency agendas encapsulated in the recent Green paper, Every Child Matters (DfES 2003). As an academic currently working within a national ‘network of school networks’ initiative, the Networked Learning Communities (NLC) Programme, my work spans this arc both practically and theoretically as we work with school networks that have arisen from both central as well as local initiatives.