There are quite a few educators who believe that competition in education and between schools works against the grain and damages the interests of children. You end up with a fragmented ,atomised system as schools compete for the best pupils and staff in a dysfunctional, polarised system. It is much better, indeed ,essential to foment collaboration and partnerships between schools. Indeed for a self-improving school system this is a pre-requisite. Another view is that competition is a fact of life. It drives creativity and innovation and performance it releases energy ,it encourages efficiency, and it helps raise standards. But there is another view too. That you need both collaboration and competition in the system. A good leadership team knows when to collaborate and when to compete.
There is little doubt that collaboration between schools both formal and informal, makes an awful lot of sense. The London Challenge is now seen as an exemplar of collaboration at its best. Overall London schools collective performance has increased dramatically over the last few years. It can certainly help with teachers professional development. Better CPD helps improve the quality of teaching and student outcomes. No one school has access to all the resources and skills it needs to drive improvements. If you collaborate with others you can not only access new skills and leadership but you can open your school to new ideas and approaches to better meet the challenges you face.
There are many types of Federations in operation (six types at the last count) although the typical Federation involves just two schools. But there is some evidence that suggests that certain types of Federation helps both CPD and to improve student performance . ‘ Professors Daniel Muijs and Mel Ainscow are among those who have done some useful work in this area. I was struck by a quote used by Professor Muijs in a recent presentation which suggests that competition and collaboration are not mutually exclusive (dont even collaborative ventures and partnerships compete with each other for skills and resources, ?) Here is the quote:
“Competition and Collaboration are not contraries. They are complementary. In every aspect of life we do both .Schools are highly co-operative endeavours in which scholars vigorously compete. The Olympic Games combine immense co-operation in structure and rules with intense competition in events. Only in a harmonious oscillating dance of both competition and co-operation can the extremes of control and chaos be avoided and peaceful permanent order be found” (Dee Hock 1999)