A management framework for regional and school-based networks for principals in diverse contexts
Networks can be defined as a system or process that involves different cooperating individuals or groups that are interconnected. Furthermore, networking can be described as the activity of exchanging ideas, information and services amongst individuals or groups. Networks also include the establishment of partnerships between associated organisations and people. When partnerships are engaged in properly, there is a definite positive outcome for all involved. Professional development entails the continuous training and development of someone’s according to his/her qualified field of expertise. The continuous professional development of a person should take high priority as it will ensure longevity in his/her career and contribute to the improvement of the organisation. Professional development opportunities for school principals in the South African education system is limited, unstructured and fragmented. Unlike countries like the USA and UK, there are no compulsory school management and leadership training or certification to become a principal. High demands are placed on school principals with little or no support in terms of development programmes to acquire the necessary abilities and expertise. The power of learning networks can’t be underestimated. Using networks for development purposes were tested and tried in the last two decades with useful effect. Therefore, the use of networks for the professional development of school principals can also be used with great effect, but it should be well planned and directed. Networks, formal or informal, should be properly established, managed and sustained in order to realise the desired outcomes and achieve the objectives of the network. Networks that are well organised and engaged in correctly can be advantageous to the personal and professional development of school principals, and ultimately lead to school improvement and the education system as a whole. What is interesting from the results of the study is that it was indicated that the following factors might influence networks: difference in years of experience as a school principal, age of the network participant, home language, difference in education level of the principals, type of school the principal is working in and the area in which the school is situated. Furthermore, it was also indicated that diversity aspects (being different) also need to be taken into account when engaging in professional development networks in order for it to be properly functioning. A Network Framework for Professional Development (NFPD) was established to assist principals with developing and engaging in network activities towards their own professional development and school improvement.
- ETD@PUK 
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