As education systems in many countries respond to demands for higher standards, they face the challenge of how to achieve equity. Put simply, how can systems continue to raise overall levels of achievement whilst reducing the gap between higher and lower performing groups of learners? This paper reflects on evidence collected as a result of a series of studies, all carried out in 1 English local education authority, to address this agenda. This programme of research was unusual in that it tracked developments over 10 years. The findings point to the potential of processes of networking between schools as a possible way forward. At the same time, they also reveal how the implementation of such collaborative approaches presents difficulties, particularly within a policy context that emphasises competition between schools as the main driver for reform. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.