Promoting Collaboration Toolset
for equity and learning

Fostering stakeholders' collaboration

In Portugal schools' autonomy assumes frequently the format of a contract, being programmed and ???negotiated??? within the framework of public administration, following a distributed model of power and responsibilities, aiming at creating a new relationship and political legitimacy, on shortening the distance between the decision makers and field actors, or between ???governed and governors??? on recovering democracy and distributing responsibilities for the quality of the services to be delivered to all school users. Therefore, the identification, definition and justification of a problem or issue related to stakeholders' collaboration needs to be addressed as policy making at school level, aiming to enable school leaders to tackle challenges of equity and learning in their schools.

Portuguese authors (N??voa, 2007; Torres, 2011) have questioned the schools' capacity and ability to use their margins of autonomy, namely within countries following a strong tradition of political centralism, which creates a disposition to narrow or to expand their margins of autonomy, depending on their leaders' understanding of the political discourse, on their skill and experience in school leadership, namely on involving the school specific stakeholders.

The question is that in the context of European education policies and school performance, all stakeholders and mainly policy makers, need to respond to some sensitive questions:

Who are the school education stakeholders, what structures exist for their collaboration in each European country, and how are they performing their role?

Sometimes schools' regulatory frameworks for stakeholders' participation are not enough. As the experience of school life in Portugal and other countries often shows, the participation structures often condition peoples' thought and action (ESHA, 2014 Conference, Round table 4), preventing change to occur. Participation in decision making is not just a matter of regulatory frameworks but more importantly of school cultures that encourage and value stakeholders' engagement in school life. That is indeed a challenge for school leadership to address. And that can be achieved mainly through teachers, parents/families and students' involvement everywhere, but above all in socially deprived settings, where social and cultural gaps may exist between school heads, teachers and families/students. The dimension of cultural gaps demands a flexible school approach regarding families' involvement. In brief, a central question is: Is each and every school stakeholder performing his/her role in the best way possible? Why? What else and how can it be done?

Do school leaders build their partners' social capital?

Have school leaders the moral, epistemological, psychological and material resources to undertake this endeavour? If not, what is missing and how those lacking resources can be developed? Is there willingness, openness, knowledge and skill to support this learning process? Do school leaders capitalize on good practices of other schools and stakeholder groups, such as parents and youth associations?

What kind of information do the different stakeholders need and in what form to engage actively in school life?

In school education, as in any field of human life, closeness brings power to people involved but usually brings conflict first. Different people have different needs and interests and therefore different motivations, so clash is at first almost unavoidable. On the other hand, it has been also proved that conflicts that are positively resolved make everyone involved more empowered. So the assumption here is that dialogue, understandable and easily accessible information, and a democratic attitude would benefit the learning processes and equity for all students.

What information the post bureaucratic school has to provide to guarantee equality in access to ???readable??? information by all partners?

The assumption here is that European schools are living within overlapping and contradictory education paradigms, namely post bureaucratic versus hyper bureaucratic ones. The question is: how may schools overcome this situation? What reliable and readable information should schools collect and disseminate and in what format so as to make it accessible and useful to different stakeholders, and to build accountability on the quality of education provision in general and equity and learning in particular?

Are social justice issues taken into account in the analysis of teaching provision and learning quality?

To what extent society in general and each and every school stakeholder in particular is concerned with equity and learning? Is social justice just a flag raised by particular social actors in certain fora? To what extent is it a generalized concern? Shouldn???t it be? If so, how can it be made a reality?

How education policy makers support stakeholder involvement structures, by providing resources, training opportunities, and other support services?

If legislation or any other formal regulations are understood as structuring the school system, what further support is provided by policy makers to foster cultural change? With no change in people???s beliefs and knowledge, any change hardly can be achieved.

School-local community collaboration for equity and learning checklist
Please reflect on the statements presented below and select the level of your agreement with them.
Statement Degree of agreement
(1=Strongly disagree - 5=Strongly agree)
1. Collaboration between our school and the local community has developed a clear vision on equity and learning.
2. Our partnership has collaboratively identified the equity and learning results we want to achieve for the students, the families, and our community.
3. Our partnership has successfully engaged a broad and representative base of partners from a range of individuals and organizations representing the school and the local community.
4. Our partnership has developed strategies for coordinated action to promote equity and learning between school staff and students, families, community members/organizations and local authorities.
5. Our partnership has established a clear organizational structure which is based on agreement upon the roles that individual partners should play, and on ensuring that all partners understand and accept the responsibilities of those roles.
6. Our partnership engages in activities to create awareness about and increase support for issues of equity and learning achievement in our school.
7. Our partnership has identified and mobilized resources (financial and other) from partner organizations and other entities throughout the local community to promote equity and learning.

* This tool is based on the "Strengthening Partnerships: Community School Assessment Checklist" e-book by Martin J. Blank and Barbara Hanson Langford (2000).

Stakeholder-ship on Managing Educational Projects. An interview with Antonio Gon??alves, General Manager of EDUGEP, Portugal.
Created by Maria do Carmo Cl??maco Oliveira and Ana Paula Silva (Universidade Lus??fona de Humanidades e Tecnologias, Portugal).

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© 2014 EPNoSL Project