Management, School Networks, Assessment Standards, Professional Capital
In almost all educational systems, interest in establishing and promoting local educational networks is increasingly encouraged. In the case of Ireland, funded educational networks known as 'education clusters' have been established to foster collaboration between educational centers with the aim of improving their innovative capacity, as well as the profitability of educational investment through economies of scale. Although this approach is meritorious in theory, there is limited evidence about how the members of these networks perceive their priorities. There is also little research on who should define evaluation methodologies and standards for networks. Thus, our study is guided by three interconnected questions, answered using the Irish case as an example:
The findings reveal that, although in theory the benefits of educational networks related to the improvement of professional capital are evident, there are still many issues to be resolved in order to make networks capable of generating such benefits. These include the limitations of reciprocity among network members and the need for support to moderate the competitive nature of schools within a network, thus allowing the existence of competitive collaboration. In this research, a significant majority of school directors disagreed with the idea of using educational networks as a cost-reduction mechanism across economies of scale.