ORGANIC LEARNING PROJECT
There are all sorts of challenges that are inherent within networking,"
according to Sue Egersdorff, co-leader of the Organic Learning Project which has a network of 12 schools in Cheshire.
"Just the logistics of moving the children around the different schools and doing risk assessments so they can network is a challenge in itself."
But she believes it is all worthwhile, and says: "The benefits have been enormous and the opportunities for the children are so rich."
Sue helped set up the project when she was headteacher of Leaf Lane infants and nursery school. "The idea was to look at how children's emotional wellbeing and their view of themselves can affect standards."
She believes it has had a huge impact with one school receiving an "outstanding" verdict from Ofsted after being in special measures, and a commendation for its focus on the children's wellbeing. Sue concedes that setting up the partnership in the first place can be extremely time consuming but says: "As the schools got to know each other they started to ring each other up and say we will bring the children over to your school."
PRIMARY SCHOOLS LEARNING NETWORK
The PSLN is made up of nine primary schools in the West Midlands and has been operating as a school improvement programme for four years. Bryan Schram, co-leader of the network and headteacher of Southwood middle school, believes pupil networking is vital with the main benefit being the sharing of practice. "If you work in isolation you miss out on so much," he says.
The PSLN has been placed in the top 10 per cent of networks for the impact it has had on learning.
"We do think it has improved learning. The children know they are being listened to and they know they have an influence on what is going on in the school," says Mr Schram
One or two schools have left the network since it was founded four years ago. Bryan puts this down to a change in leadership.
"The senior team and the governors have to be fully committed or it doesn't work," he says.
Schools need also to put aside time to attend meetings and conferences. "It has worked so well here," Bryan says, "because we have integrated it into the working of the school. We see it as the way forward. The Government needs to see it as the way forward as well, and put funding into it."
HUMMERSKNOTT SCHOOL AND LANGUAGE COLLEGE, DARLINGTON
The school has strong links with schools in other countries such as China and Russia and pupils talk to the link schools by email and through video conferences.
Pupils at Hummersknott study a range of languages including Mandarin and Russian and after a period of study have the opportunity to go on an exchange trip. The children are paired up with their foreign counterparts and email each other before they go. Before the exchange trip, the children will also meet on a video conference.
Dave Watson, education consultant in charge of the foreign links projects says: "We have also done video conferencing with German schoolchildren.
"We had a very interesting discussion about the Second World War. The German children were asking why the Queen would not apologise for the Dresden bombing. We had some Russian children over on an exchange visit at the time and they sat in on the video conference. It made for a very interesting debate.
"We also had some Second World War veterans present who put across their side of events."
He claims the video conferences are beneficial because "they improve the children's language skills and their cultural understanding. We have also found that they are far less inhibited than the adults.
The kids love it and get so excited. The least likely kids who are quite shy and reserved will speak out and are totally unafraid."