"A report by the 21st Century Learning Reference Group entitled Future-focused learning in connected communities (May 2014) refers to evidence suggesting the beneficial impact that collaborating in regional networks and across school communities has on student outcomes.
With this in mind what might principals need to consider in schools’ strategic planning to provide opportunities for school communities to connect and collaborate in ways that are productive and meaningful to staff, students and the wider community?"
I really like the definition of Learning Communities in the LCO (Learning Communities Online) Handbook :
"-- Learning – this must always be the primary focus of these communities. The emphasis here is on the emerging pedagogical practices that must be explored and adopted in the networked school, and on the outcomes that are sought for learners. This also recognises that teachers are also learners in this system, and that provision must be made for them to access learning opportunities in this way.
* Community – a networked school is more likely to succeed if it acts as part of a collaborative community. The term community here embraces the notions of participation, trust, agreement and purpose. Individual schools may be a part of several communities, and each will be defined differently by its purpose and the roles of those within it. For most it is likely that there will be a primary community, one defined by geography or special character, to which an individual school will belong."
The LCO handbook, although with a focus on online collaborations, is a useful guide to the myriad of considerations communities of schools need to go through from Proposal (Develop a philosopical context; Identify community of interest; Establish purpose; Set goals and principles; Agree on membership; Explore potential funding sources) through to planning, implementation & sustainability. I recommend you take a look, if you haven't already - you can download the whole LCO as a pdf)
The VLN communities of schools (that created this LCO handbook) show that long term sustainable collaboration is possible and it doesn't necessarily have to be geographically based, it can be with other schools with similar learner needs anywhere in NZ. These sorts of successful collaborations need to be seriously considered and supported when looking towards the systems level change that IES will bring the NZ schooling sector.