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Collaboration, competition and conflict: An ethno-case study of a family of schools in England

Owen, Daniel (2020) Collaboration, competition and conflict: An ethno-case study of a family of schools in England. Doctoral thesis, Staffordshire University.

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Abstract or description

The architecture of the school system in England has changed considerably since 2010. Most state-funded secondary schools are now academies, independent of local authority control. In this new educational landscape, many single academies and multi-academy trusts (‘MATs’) are collaborating in formal and informal ways. As this transformation moves apace, there is little academic research on the views and motivations of leaders in these organisations as they develop. There is also little knowledge on the inner workings of these academies and MATs (MATs) because they are not inspected.

This thesis explores the perceptions of school leaders in a newly forming federation of schools that later became a MAT. It looks back in time to identify the source of leaders’ competitive motivations and charts the history of the relationships between case study schools over two decades.

Using the lenses of ‘actor–network theory’ (ANT) and ‘coopetition’, the thesis presents an ethnography of a developing network of schools. It describes an emerging network of ‘actors’ and the ways in which they interact. The thesis goes on to show how the juvenile field of coopetition can be applied to school federations and MATs. The thesis, therefore, contributes to both the knowledge we have on MATs and coopetition. This description of how schools interact is valuable new knowledge as more and more schools join MATs and we begin to see the first failed MATs breaking up and schools being ‘re-brokered’. The thesis finds that the negative consequences of collaboration are attributable to fundamental weaknesses in leadership practices but that these weaknesses are exacerbated in otherwise skilled and dedicated school leaders by the development of networks within a pseudo-marketised education system, alongside an imbalance of competitive and cooperative actions.

It recommends that school leaders embarking on leading school federations and MATs should be cognisant of the existing research on coopetition and that they have a deep knowledge of the longer-term narratives that drive inter-organisational understanding. It concludes that some elements of the wider education network need to be ‘democratised’ so that school leaders have a better understanding of the networks in which their schools reside.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty: School of Life Sciences and Education > Education
Depositing User: Library STORE team
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2022 13:59
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2022 13:59
URI: http://eprints.staffs.ac.uk/id/eprint/7201

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