Cooperation within education systems can take different forms – from networking to more formalised clustering of schools. 'Networking' includes teachers and other school staff coming together to discuss ideas and share good practices on certain topics, or reciprocal sharing of resources to benefit the individual schools and communities. 'Clustering' is usually a more formal grouping of a number of schools in the same city or local region, with joint vision and development processes as well as decision-making. Representatives from schools come together to share resources or work on larger initiatives together that contribute to schools and the region as a whole.
Based on successful initiatives in Members States, this way of working has been shown to have excellent benefits for:
- easing transitions between educational levels (e.g. from early childhood education and care to primary, from primary to secondary, including vocational education and training);
- the continuity of learner support across schools/region and throughout a pupil's education;
- the provision of learner support (e.g. multidisciplinary teams able to take a variety of approaches but in a coordinated way);
- parental involvement; and,
- teacher training and, in particular, continuous professional development of teachers (CPD).
All of the above can help to prevent early school leaving.
Experience from Member States shows that cooperation among schools is easier to achieve if it involves and is supported by local and national authorities, as appropriate, according to national circumstances.
Even in centralised systems, local authorities can provide additional support to help deal with family-related and social problems that result in young people leaving school early, for example through outreach efforts to target learners outside of the school environment. National authorities can assist by encouraging and enabling this regional/local cooperation and by allocating funding for initiatives. National and local education departments are also well placed to liaise with other government departments and services to ensure alignment of policies which address early school leaving.
An example of clustering of schools: Portugal
In Portugal, a major reorganisation of the school system aimed to address geographical discrepancies both in rural areas (where many schools are small and isolated) and in towns (were schools are often overcrowded). The reorgnaisation was to improve upon results of PISA 2000 and to address issues that contribute to high levels of pupil drop-out. The re-organisation led to the introduction of a network of ‘school clusters’ that bring together several schools (of different levels – from early childhood education and care to secondary) in a single educational project and under one main school leader. A typical cluster may consist of 5 to 10 pre-school units and primary schools feeding into lower secondary schools and a single higher secondary school. There are currently 811 clusters and non-group secondary schools in operation.
European Commission, Working Group Schools Policy, Early school leaving Country focus workshop: School governance and collaborative practices, Portugal, 11-14 November 2014.
Find out more:
Bennet, B., A. Daughtrey, and A. Wieder, Collaboration: Closing the Effective Teaching Gap, Center for Teaching Quality, Carrboro, North Carolina, 2009.
MacNeil, J., School- and Cluster-based Teacher Professional Development: Bringing Teacher Learning to the Schools, Working Paper #1, US AID, Washington, D.C., 2004.
Lock, A., Clustering together to advance school improvement: working together in peer support with an external colleague: Full Report, National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services, Nottingham, UK, 2011.