Clustering: cep.org.au. Rural Learning Summit Collaborating Through Learning Communities

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1 Clustering: Collaborating Through Learning Communities Rural Learning Summit 2012

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3 Contents Introduction 1 Background 2 A New Paradigm for Clustering/Collaborative Autonomy? 5 Clustering/Collaborative Autonomy as a Framework 6 Learning Provision 8 Workforce Utilization 11 Leadership 13 Administration, Governance and Management 15 Conclusions 17

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5 Introduction It gives me great pleasure to present to you a report of the deliberations and outcomes from the recent Rural Learning Summit The focus of these deliberations centred on: Clustering Collaborating through Learning Communities. It takes into account the state governments policy of local autonomy and flexibility especially across the areas of i i Choice: ensuring that all schools are supported to provide high quality learning for young people and their families within a global learning context. Local Decision Making: allowing local education communities to develop and provide learning within a culture of professional trust, co-operation and responsibility. i Partnerships: supporting the operation of partnerships to improve student outcomes partnerships between education organizations; between education organizations and their communities; and between education organizations and business. Rural education communities throughout Victoria have had a long involvement in clusters for a range of reasons. These initiatives have generally covered two key areas: broadening learning opportunities for rural young people improving learning outcomes amongst rural learners. Within CEP, we believe that the use of collaborative clusters across the spectrum; across education sectors; and between education and the wider community is an effective way in enhancing and improving learning opportunities and outcomes for rural communities. The Rural Learning Summit examined the potential clusters and clustering can provide as a future strategy for rural education communities across Victoria and calls for a rethink of how they can again be a key strategy in providing quality learning across the years spectrum. Representation from a range of rural education settings across the state; key stakeholder groups; education sectors; the rural youth ambassadors; and the wider rural communities attended this years Summit. The 2012 Rural Learning Summit was developed in partnership with the Hume Region of Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, and the Sandhurst Diocese of the Catholic Education Office. We were also pleased that the Minister for Education, The Hon Martin Dixon, attended this years Summit to be involved in the deliberations. I hope that through the discussions and actions identified at the Rural Learning Summit, we are be able to identify the opportunities that clustering provide for rural communities into the future. The ultimate purpose of this Paper is to present the ideas and concepts to education sectors; governments; and rural communities on how we can improve the learning opportunities and outcomes for rural learners from years through the use of clustering Wendy Graham Chair 1

6 Background This Paper has a strong focus on exploring the real potential that collaborative approaches through clustering can provide in enhancing and improving the learning opportunities and outcomes for rural young people, as well as build the capacity of rural education leaders and staff across the years spectrum. It explores the potential clustering provides across four key areas: Enhancing learning provision Workforce utilization and continuous professional development Education leadership support and development Governance, management and administration It also explores the learnings from past experiences within rural Victoria; recent research undertaken across the globe; and from experiences of other education jurisdictions across Australia and internationally. Clustering over the Past 35 Years Within rural communities across Victoria the concept of clustering has been seen as a valuable tool to broaden learning opportunities and improve the learning outcomes of young people. Clustering was a key strategy utilized within two key initiatives developed at a commonwealth level as a result of the Karmel Report in the late 1970s Disadvantaged Schools and Country Area Programs. Based on the key principles of school community partnerships; local flexibility and decision making; devolution of authority to local communities; and cross sectorial approaches (both sector and from 0-18+) many specific initiatives were developed to enhance and improve learning within rural communities through clustering. At this time rural education was often seen as a leader and innovator in a number of areas across the education sectors. This was especially the case in broadening the opportunities for learners. One example of this was the development of the Wimmera Language program that utilized a combination of a shared specialist language teacher model, and the use of communication technology, to deliver four languages to over 20 rural schools (both primary and secondary and across sectors) throughout the Wimmera. The learning from these cluster experiences can be summarized as: A collaborative approach through clustering provides greater opportunities for young people some resulting in improved student outcomes. Greater collaboration between schools and their communities Greater level of professional dialogue; innovative thinking; and peer support and reflection as a result of resources being provided through clusters. Sharing of staff expertise and resources across schools and community Common curriculum planning and professional development within communities With the introduction of concepts such as Schools of the Future and Self Managing Schools many of these cluster arrangements and initiatives decreased with many ceasing. The re allocation of education resources through individual education organizations was seen as a key contributor to these changes at a local level and also resulted in an increased competition for student numbers in rural communities thus resulting in less focus on providing a whole of community approach to learning. Self Improving School Systems David Hargreaves has developed a number of Think Pieces where he places clusters of education organizations; local solutions; partnerships; and leadership as the next stage of improving student outcomes. All of these directly relate to the themes of Minister Dixons outline of Victoria as a Learning Community in A Self Improving School System is based on the belief that a new vision is required to accelerate school improvement within a recued centralized environment. This new vision is based upon the leadership gains and the establishment and use of partnerships and clusters of schools. He highlights that within a Self Improving School System, clusters of schools accepting responsibility for self improvement for the cluster as a whole is required. 2

7 Central to this system, Hargreaves would suggest there are four key building blocks: capitalizing on the benefits of clusters adopting a local approach stimulating co-construction between schools expanding the concept of system leadership He goes on to highlight the benefits of a self improving system which include greater ability to cater for individual student needs; professional development and learning of staff; builds leadership capacity; and aids integration of children and young peoples services. The focus on flexible, local solutions demands a significant change in past thinking and action. Solutions exist in the local education communities (early years, schools and post schools) particularly those who commit to collaborate with each other. Focus on approaches that promote and support local flexible solutions is promoted as a preferred option compared to the centralized one size fits all approach. Teaching Schools Approach The government in the UK released a White Paper The Importance of Teaching as part of their move to a local autonomy approach to learning development and provision. Within this paper, there was an endorsement of a cluster based approach to school improvement. The National College of School Leadership has a long heritage of promoting school to school support and as a result had developed a national network of Teaching School Alliances (or clusters), which incorporate early years, schools, universities and other interested organizations. Within their development of Teaching Schools, the College explores the definition of clustering as: two or more schools working closely together to pursue a common purpose although we would normally expect a cluster to be four or more schools. These Teaching School Alliances are underpinned by the two principles of: the moral purpose to support and educate every child in our community regardless of whether they go to my education organization, or not; acts of kindness, where the professional development and growth of other education organizations is as important as mine. The Teaching Schools are supported through leadership development and continuous professional learning and as a result have had an impact on accelerating improvement of student achievement; creating resource efficiencies; enhanced professional learning of teachers and leaders; creating a self sustaining system; and increasing the sustainability of leadership. The recently reported Department of Education study of 400 schools in 30 local authorities (regions) showed that sustainable school improvement is accelerated through the development of collaborative leadership and learning within and between schools with schools across the three strands of the project achieving 5% better improvement in Maths and English combined at Level 4 compared to non cluster schools (2011). 3

8 Clustering and Local Autonomy Since the last state election within Victoria, the government s policy has been centred on a local autonomy approach where local education organizations are entrusted to provide a leadership role, in partnership with their communities, in the development and provision of learning. As indicated above, many education jurisdictions across the world have also embraced the local autonomy approach and can provide us with some valuable information and knowledge on how it impacts on rural education communities. Within such a policy framework it raises the question of what is the best approach to local autonomy within a rural context. Does it focus on individual education organizations or can it be seen as having a broader community focus where education organizations work collaboratively within identified communities? The development of a concept referred to as collaborative autonomy allows rural communities to embrace the learning from the past as well as the developments occurring in other jurisdictions: schools working together with common aims under a common banner they all believe in whilst retaining, at a local level, a sense of autonomy and uniqueness. Research suggests that sustainable school improvement comes from support and challenge from other schools and other partners. Accelerated progress for students comes through a mixture of support on a personal scale, great classroom teaching, a sense of success and aspiration within the alliance, and the ability to shape a personal program that suits abilities and talents. (Collaborative Autonomy Trust) Within this policy framework, many rural education communities are revisiting the potential that clustering can provide in supporting learning within their communities. This has also been evident in rural communities in other states who have embraced the local autonomy approach. Many overseas education systems have reported a similar response. 4

9 A New Paradigm for Clustering/Collaborative Autonomy? Based on the deliberations held at the Rural Learning Summit 2012; recent discussions within forums of rural education clusters; the experience of past whole of community cluster arrangements developed as a result of the Karmel Report; the research and reflective work undertaken by the National College of Leadership in the UK; the think pieces focusing on Self Improving Schools developed by David Hargreaves; and the growing globalization of learning, this paper explores the potential a new paradigm of clustering/collaborative autonomy provides rural communities. It is centred on the key principles: i ii a firm focus on enhancing and improving student learning and life chances. the need for individual education leaders to focus on system leadership through collaborative arrangements above focus on individual education settings and their operation. This Paper proposes that the new paradigm for clustering/collaborative autonomy centre on two levels: Cluster Education settings working collaboratively, and in partnership with their communities, to develop learning initiatives that enhance and improve student opportunities and outcomes as well as build the capacity of leaders and staff. These in the past have been referred to as natural clusters, or generic clusters. These clusters would generally have a geographic base where they would concentrate on the community (as defined by them) in which they provide programs and services. In the formation of such clusters, local communities would consider areas such as: sense of community education provision from 0-18 years providing a continuance of learning other community networks and arrangements These clusters/collaborative autonomy arrangements would consist of early years; schools; and further education organization s and have strong involvement from local business and the wider community. Ideally they would consist of 3 to 10 education organisations. Such a cluster approach within the new paradigm would reflect the concept of Tight Clusters as outlined by David Hargreaves in his Think Pieces. The historical cluster arrangements within the Victorian education context have generally been of a loose nature and Hargreaves would suggest that a move to a more formal alliance (based around an agreement) is required to ensure a quality and sustainable cluster framework resulting in school improvement. The core focus of such arrangements needs to build the capacity of each education organization and have a focus on all young people and children s needs and aspirations. Cluster Links Clusters (or individual education organisations within clusters) could develop links to further enhance and enrich what is provided within a cluster/collaborative autonomy arrangement. Such links could be developed either: within natural clusters with a focus on a specific interest, or outside the natural cluster to other natural clusters ; regional/metropolitan centres; other states; or other countries. Such links could be utilized to access expertise; specialist programs; cater for areas of need or interest; and expand professional development and learning of staff and leaders. Cluster Links would generally have a specific purpose and focus, and in most cases have a defined timeline. Within the growing global learning environment where there are many opportunities available to learners and staff today, these links are not necessarily restricted to local geography. The development of communication technology, and the evolution of blended learning approaches, also allows real potential for the cluster link approach to be extremely valuable to rural communities in providing opportunities for learning and facilitate access to quality expertise and personnel. 5

10 Clustering/Collaborative Autonomy as a Framework Clusters have historically provided a valuable tool for supporting Victorian rural communities in exploring educational challenges as well as developing initiatives to address them. The development of a new cluster paradigm, within a local autonomy environment to accommodate the needs and aspirations of rural learners in todays learning environment requires us to consider four key areas: learning provision workforce utilization leadership governance and management This paper provides an outline of the ideas, possibilities and potential identified through the deliberations at the Rural Learning Summit that clustering/collaborative autonomy provides rural communities into the future and details the support that would be required to ensure that they are successful in enhancing and improving learning opportunities and outcomes for rural communities. It is by no means a comprehensive list of issues and ideas, but it provides a starting point for discussion within them. The overwhelming response from the Rural Learning Summit deliberations was the concept of clustering/ collaborative autonomy provides a real opportunity for rural communities to enhance and improve learning provision and outcomes for young people. With the ever developing learning environment and the growing internationalization of learning, the concept of a two tiered cluster/collaborative autonomy approach, as detailed earlier, was recognized in the various deliberations as essential for supporting the provision of such learning within rural communities into the future. It was also seen as a viable strategy to address the gap that occurs in student opportunities and outcomes of rural young people compared to their peers in regional and metropolitan locations. As part of the Summit deliberations, there were a number of key elements; benefits; and support strategies identified to ensure that such an approach is successful. Key Elements Learner Centred: strong focus on the learning opportunities and outcomes of young people through the development of a strong shared vision. the involvement of student voice. Whole of Community a whole of community approach to learning which includes education, business, community services and the broader community. includes all education organizations (from years) Local Flexibility: flexibility to allow local communities to determine their focus, approach, composition, and structure. the flexibility to be involved in a range of cluster arrangements to ensure quality learning is provided. acknowledge and support the individual education settings that operate within a collaborative approach. Potential Benefits for Rural Communities: Through an effective cluster/collaborative autonomy approach (both local and links) the Summit identified three key areas of benefit for rural communities: better learning outcomes for young people within these communities more efficient use of expertise, purchasing, and utilization of resources enhanced rural community sustainability. The Summit also identified a number of more specific benefits of a cluster/collaborative autonomy approach: Easier to meet the learning needs and aspirations of all young people and children. Supports the better utilization of quality staff across all cluster members Through collaboration, share and exploit best practice 6

11 Decrease administrivia and duplication through shared planning and delivery; use of resources and expertise; etc. Greater community ownership of the learning provided within their community. Builds leadership development, succession, and capacity Enhances the professional learning and quality of staff. Support to Implement To achieve such a cluster/collaborative autonomy approach, the Summit identified a number of support strategies required to ensure it has a high impact on learning opportunities and outcomes within rural communities: i Professional Development for Rural Learning Communities: Professional development and support for rural communities to embrace and engage with a collaborative autonomy approach in developing and providing learning. Such support would need to be provided across the state through a consistent framework. Increasing the awareness of parents and the wider community as to the potential such approaches provide their rural communities Support a cross sectoral, and framework ensuring a whole of community approach. ii iii iv Leadership Capacity: Professional Learning specific to education leaders in relation to collaborative autonomy and the potential it provides. Within such support, move leadership from a distributive model to a contributive model; and from a protective/custodian model to a collaborative model. Cluster/Collaborative Support: Incentives provided to rural clusters to support them in assisting their communities in the development and implementation of a collaborative autonomy approach. Resourcing: Review of the current resourcing arrangements (eg Student Resource Package) to support initiatives that would support cluster/collaborative autonomy approaches eg sharing of staff, etc. Within this overall framework of clustering, the Rural Learning Summit considered in depth the potential that clustering provides across the key areas of: Learning provision Workforce utilisations Leadership, and Management and Governance 7

12 Learning Provision The use of a cluster/collaborative autonomy approach that is based on a whole of community framework was seen by the Summit to provide a number of valuable opportunities in enhancing and improving learning provision within rural communities. The Summit highlighted a number of key opportunities for learning provision: Greater Access and Choice for Rural Young People: Through shared planning, development and provision students gain the potential to have greater access to learning choice and breadth of subjects and programs the potential to lead to a curriculum guarantee Greater social opportunities for students through links with education organisations across the cluster thus building social capital Clustering allows for the exploration and development of more flexible learning programs and opportunities Better use of Expertise and Resources: Clustering within rural communities would overcome duplication of learning provision thus allowing for more flexible approaches to greater choice Improved and more co-ordinated approach to student services and support Through the development of a cluster/collaborative learning approach, students have an opportunity to access greater number of high quality teachers therefore providing the potential for improved learning outcomes Support the development of information collection and data analysis to be undertaken on a cluster basis rather than individual school, to provide a picture of the education provision within the community as a whole rather than by individual organisation. Blended Learning Opportunities through the opportunities that communication technology provides, there is real potential to enhance student learning across the cluster. Through a cluster link approach it also provides the opportunity to access learning in other regions, states and internationally. To ensure that a high quality learning provision is achieved through the cluster/collaborative autonomy approach a number of key areas of support were identified to ensure its success: The provision of good practice case studies of clustering/collaborative autonomy and there impact on student outcomes and opportunities Professional development for staff to gain an understanding of the potential clustering/collaborative autonomy provides in provision of learning. There is a real need for an extensive professional development strategy to support rural educators to gain these skills. Throughout rural Victoria, the skills and knowledge of rural teachers as to the opportunities communication technology provides in enhancing learning is low, 8

13 Case Study 1: Portland Academy, UK The Portland Academy is a cluster comprising five schools; early childhood services/programs; and universities providing a 0-24 years learning approach, with a total student population of approximately 1,500. Their community is located in the very south of England and is seen as the sandstone centre of the country. It also has two male prisons located on the Portland Island, which impacts on the demographics of the community. The Academy has developed a partnership between the five schools; early years services; local government; a university; and a philanthropy organisation to develop their learning approach with a focus on stage, not age. It has developed three key learning themes of focus including: entrepreneurship sports science environmental science While each site of the Academy retains their own identity, they work collaboratively in the development and provision of learning programs and staff utilisation. The Academy has an Executive Principal, with each site maintaining a Head Teacher role. The learning program is developed for the cluster with staff expertise being shared across all sites. It offers early childhood services and learning; school based learning; and post 16 year learning including university study. It is also developing a framework to use communication technology in providing 24/7 access to learning for all their students. One exempla program is that through the university, there are a range of programs being offered for the parents of the school students, as well as those school students interested in extending their learning. It has brought a very strong partnership between education, local government and philanthropy to support the learning of their community. Case Study 2: VCE Provision As part of the Nathalia cluster of schools (including both CEO and DEECD education organisations) the secondary schools have developed a cluster approach to the development and provision of senior school programs (including VCE, VET, VCAL, etc) for the Nathalia community. Central to the approach is one agreed process for planning, development and provision of such programs on an annual basis. This approach has a strong student centred approach where individual learning plans are developed for each student across the secondary schools. Education leaders from the cluster work collaboratively in the development, promotion and implementation of the program. Examples include one promotional strategy, a common orientation program, shared timetable, and combined parent information sessions. Each year the needs and interests of students are catered for with the allocation of appropriate staff expertise to ensure that high quality delivery is provided for the students this is regardless of what school they are employed by. 9

14 Case Study 3: Blended Learning Approach The ebiology project was developed to provide learning for a number of small rural communities focusing on VCE Biology Units 3 and 4. The project involved 40 students, nine teachers and the involvement of a mentor teacher from across rural Victoria. It utilised a blended learning approach which include weekly online forums; a web based classroom; and regular class time in each of the nine schools. There were three key elements of the project: providing the opportunity for rural students to have access to a high quality Biology program building the capacity of rural teachers in the use of blended learning approaches and the delivery of Biology. The project results showed the following: student results were on average 5% above their GAT projected results teachers knowledge of Biology deepened and their skills and knowledge of blended learning was enhanced. I feel that I have learnt a lot from participating in ebiology. I have picked up a lot from discussing aspects of the Biology course with the mentor teacher and the other teachers. My approach to how I teacher Biology has changed and the depth of detail I provide has increased considerably. I have access to a greater range of resources than previously, and have seen how a number of other teachers go about teaching biology. This has provided me with a range of techniques and approaches to teaching aspects of the biology course that I had not previously considered. I have developed skills in the presentation of lesson through the use of blended learning approaches. While initially stressful, I found it to be a positive experience. 10

15 Workforce Utilization The Summit participants saw clustering/collaborative autonomy as having the real potential for building the capacity of the teaching workforce as well as exploring innovative ways to use staff expertise across the community. The Summit highlighted a number of potential opportunities: Continuous Professional Development The development of strong professional learning teams across the various education settings within the cluster provides real opportunities to enhance and build the skills and knowledge of staff. The potential of developing teacher exchange initiatives across cluster links partnerships. Student Access to Quality Teaching and Learning There is a real potential of providing students with access to a broader base of high quality teachers. With greater opportunities to support professional collaboration amongst staff within the cluster, and through cluster links, there is real potential for student learning outcomes to be improved. Use of Staff Expertise it provides the opportunity to explore creative ways of employing teachers. For example staff being employed for 0.8 at their base school and 0.2 across the cluster. The development of cluster selection approaches that provide the opportunity to employ staff (especially leaders) and ensure consistency of approach and sustainability. The potential for partnerships between rural clusters and other education institutions (eg universities), provides the opportunity of providing a broader expertise and support for education provision, as well as a platform for involving potential employees through pre service teacher participation. To ensure the full utilization of the cluster workforce approach, and to explore the implementation of the above ideas, professional development support and training would need to be provided for rural communities. In addition, the documentation of case studies and existing models of cluster approaches focusing on the utilization of education workforces would be valuable resources for rural communities. 11

16 Case Study 1: Murchison Cluster A cluster of remote schools within the centre of Western Australia have developed a cluster aimed at supporting the professional development and learning of their staff and leaders. The Cluster established a leadership role to work across the cluster in: inducting new staff into the cluster providing valuable professional development and learning for all staff support the role of the principals within the cluster schools developing online support forums for staff in specific areas eg early years, science, literacy, etc. This role has substituted the individual schools professional development role and has had a significant impact on the professional development and learning of staff throughout the cluster. Many staff have reported that the approach has provided valuable peer support and professional learning through the development of ICT links across the cluster. The cluster is currently exploring how they can develop links with teacher training universities to encourage research and professional learning expertise into the cluster. They are also looking at ways in which pre service teachers can gain experience of teaching within a remote location. Case Study 2: Rural Professional Learning Framework The Rural Educators Network, and the Rural Centre of Excellence was established to support the recruitment and retention of quality staff to rural education communities of Victoria. The focus of the network included: rural cluster and university partnerships promoting rural teaching opportunities supporting new graduates within rural communities and supporting the ongoing development of rural teachers. A key outcome of the network has been the establishment of partnerships between rural clusters and teacher education universities. They have provided a real opportunity for pre service teachers to explore the role of am teacher within a rural community through an immersion approach; providing professional development for rural teachers; research; and supporting new graduates within rural clusters. These cluster arrangements have been established across rural Victoria, with a significant increase in the number of pre services teachers taking up careers within rural communities. Rural new graduates have access to an online support forum and a range of professional development activities. Linking the universities with rural cluster arrangements has provided an added value with their expertise being utilised in professional development and research. 12

17 Leadership Leadership is recognized as a critical element of a successful and vibrant education setting. The development of a cluster approach to learning provision provides a range of opportunities to support and strengthen leadership within rural communities: Leadership Support The development of a community of leaders within a cluster approach would provide a supported and sustainable approach to leadership within a community education leaders could be seen as education leaders within a community rather than a leader within one organization. Clusters/collaborative autonomy provides a real opportunity for collegiate support within an identified cluster. Leadership Models Cluster/collaborative autonomy approaches provide the opportunity for a broader skill base to engage with community and economic development. Cluster leadership approaches could provide the opportunity to develop new models of operation thus decreasing administration and management commitments. For example a portfolio approach, executive principal role. Clustering/collaborative autonomy provides the potential in supporting leadership roles across KLA areas thus providing a strong learning approach across the cluster Student Leadership Provides real potential for stronger focus on student leadership that could be linked to a broader community leadership role of young people. To support the exploration, and development, of such approaches, professional learning and support focusing on providing a contributive/collaborative leadership approach would be required to support a shared leadership. Within a rural context, such professional support could also include skill and knowledge development in community and economic development to support the broader community leadership roles that education leaders undertake within rural communities. 13

18 Case Study 1: Executive Principal Cluster In a cluster of rural schools and early years organisations in Scotland they considered how they could enhance learning provision offered to their students. The increasing workload on the principals within each school was seen as a pressing area of need and a possible area for the cluster to focus. As a result the cluster developed an approach that introduced an Executive Principal role. This role was established to take on a managerial role on behalf of all cluster schools including areas such as management functions; strategic plan development and reviews; links with education systems; overseeing facilities and building developments; school community interaction; etc. This role was also responsible for developing a cluster leadership approach and facilitated the gatherings of the individual organisations principals through facilitating professional development; exploration of collaborative approaches to learning; and review processes. The introduction of such a role then allowed the principals in each rural education organisation to place a greater focus on the provision of quality learning within and across their individual organisations. This cluster of rural schools has reported that the performance of students has increased over the three years of the cluster approach. Case Study 2: Harrogate Leadership Cluster Harrogate cluster comprises a number of rural schools in rural England who have formed a Leading School Alliance. The Alliance, which has developed a formal MoU between the schools and two universities, has a strong focus on developing education leadership across all staff from pre service teachers through to head teachers utilising the Big 6 leadership framework. A key element of this cluster has been the development of a portfolio leadership approach, where two Head Teachers undertake a special area of responsibility on behalf of the cluster. These roles include professional learning, staff recruitment, education provision, research student learning and development, etc. Such an approach has decreased the requirement of all head teachers to attend education department and other meetings, with only those with the specific portfolio having to attend. This allows the other principals to spend more time on the areas of their speciality and within their own school. The cluster has also developed one strategic plan, thus negating the requirement of each education organisation to develop their own. As part of their agreement, the cluster has developed a head teacher appointment process that requires at least one head teacher from another alliance school to be involved in any head teacher selection process this ensures succession and consistency across the cluster. The involvement of two universities has provided a strong focus on leadership development across all staff (and potential staff) within the cluster. 14

19 Administration, Governance and Management Administration and management activities within a rural education setting have been an issue for some time now and the clustering/collaborative autonomy approach provides the opportunity to address such issues. The Summit identified a number of areas of potential where clustering/collaborative autonomy could address the above issue and allow for a stronger focus on teaching and learning within rural communities. Within such an approach, however, it was highlighted that any such developments need to ensure that the identity of each education setting is maintained and enhanced. Business Management Models The potential of developing cluster/collaborative autonomy business management models that support more efficient approaches to the business of the cluster settings. For example bulk purchasing, cluster approach to OH&S, etc. The potential of exploring the engagement of an Executive Officer role to support the cluster within areas including extra curricula programs; professional development; partnerships with community organisations; etc. The potential to support a cluster approach to OH&S and other similar areas of responsibility. The possibility of developing a cluster staff management approach to develop a breadth of expertise and quality across the cluster. The development of a cluster business management approach to provide support, professional learning, shared expertise and knowledge, and explore areas of possible collaboration while ensuring the integrity of each education setting. Governance Models The possibility of developing a cluster governance model (flexibility of models to cater for local needs and desires) to support a common approach to learning provision within the identified cluster community. Strategic Plans The potential that a Cluster/collaborative approach could provide in the development of cluster strategic plans, school action plans and the like. Case Study1: Cluster Management Support Within a rural cluster of five small primary schools there was concern as to the increased workload of principals in areas such as organisation of professional development for staff; camps; sports days; cluster days; applying for grants and writing submissions; etc. While each school within the cluster wanted to maintain their own administration support roles, there was a real interest to look at innovative ways to address the areas mentioned above. The five schools within the cluster combined resources to engage a part time executive officer to undertake all this work and more. The cluster reports that this position has provided an extremely important role amongst the five schools releasing a great deal of time for principals to be more involved in education leadership within their own schools and across the cluster. The added benefit reported by the cluster is that this role has provided a range of extra opportunities as a result of the position networking with a range of valuable organisations and accessing a range of funding sources. Principals indicate that without this role, these opportunities would not have occurred due to their time commitments in other areas. 15

20 Case Study 2: Cluster Business Manager Model In a rural community of UK a cluster of schools (from both sectors and including primary and secondary) have developed a business management approach that supports the overall administration and management of the cluster schools. The cluster has developed a professional learning group of business managers from all schools regardless of whether they are 0.2 or full time. Central to this professional group is building the capacity of each business manager through training and further education. One nominated business manager facilitates this cluster group and this role becomes part of the cluster leadership team. Through the cluster approach they have developed a range of approaches that include: human resources ICT Buildings and maintenance Equipment purchase and maintenance Etc. Through the cluster approach the organisations involved have noted a significant saving on costs as a result of bulk buying and related strategies. Integral to the cluster approach is the support of each business manager in each education organisation through a strong professional development program. One business within the cluster takes on the facilitation role of the group and the cluster provides financial support to their employing school for them to undertake this role. This role also sits on the leadership team of the cluster. Case Study 3: Cluster Governance CEP facilitated a project that supported three rural clusters in exploring future governance options. The project was focused on three cluster communities who had areas of concern in relation to the operation of their current governance arrangements. The current governance arrangements within the school sector generally operate at two key areas: one school one school governance one governance multi site schools. The overwhelming outcome of the project undertaken by CEP was the need to develop a Collaborative Governance model to allow clusters of schools to establish governance arrangements based around the cluster without compromising the individual school entities. The three clusters involved in the project expressed a real interest to explore the concept of a cluster governance approach into the fuure. 16

21 Conclusions As a result of the extensive deliberations at this years Rural Learning Summit, there are a number of conclusions that could be gained: 1. There was an overwhelming response from the Summit that the concept of clustering/collaborative autonomy provides a real opportunity for rural communities to enhance and improved learning provision and outcomes for young people. 2. The development of a two tiered cluster/collaborative autonomy approach, as detailed in this paper, provides the basis upon which rural learning communities can provide a quality learning provision into the future. 3. The development of a professional development and support strategy to assist rural learning communities (especially education leaders and school governance bodies) to embrace a cluster/ collaborative autonomy approach within their community. 4. The development of a range of resources and case studies that can be utilized in supporting rural learning communities in the establishing cluster/collaborative autonomy approaches. 5. The development of a specific strategy that supports rural learning communities in embracing a cluster/collaborative autonomy approach within their communities to enhance and improve teaching and learning. Such a strategy be based on learnings gained from previous cluster approaches within Victoria, and the learnings gained from other jurisdictions (eg Teaching Schools; School Alliances; etc) 17

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