School-to-school collaboration in England: A configurative review of the empirical evidence

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In recent years school‐to‐school collaboration in the English context has been promoted by a myriad of policy initiatives. Many of these initiatives have been directed at structural reforms seeking to facilitate a 'self‐improving system' in which schools support one another to raise standards of teaching and learning and address educational inequality. Yet, at the same time, the English school system remains a deeply marketised and competitive arena while there are debates concerning the extent to which collaboration between schools can meaningfully facilitate educational improvement and equity. Taking these issues as a starting point, this paper reports on findings from a configurative review of the empirical evidence on school‐to‐school collaboration in England. Drawing on 46 peer‐reviewed empirical studies from 2000 onwards, the paper provides insight into the reasons why schools enter into collaborative arrangements and the conditions and factors that can facilitate and hinder such activity, as well as the possible benefits that can result from collaboration between schools. A number of weaknesses within the field are also identified. For example, there is a need for more conceptual and terminological clarity and a stronger theoretical basis for research in this area. We also argue that the field is deficient in respect of critical perspective and interpretation (of collaborative practice). Furthermore, research into school‐to‐school collaboration is lagging behind policy and practice, presenting a formidable challenge for a system increasingly underpinned by an expectation that schools will work in partnership with one another.

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Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalReview of Education
Early online date25 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Nov 2020

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