This paper describes and analyses the work of a large scale improvement project in England in order to find more effective ways of fostering equity within education systems. The project involved an approach based on an analysis of local context, and used processes of networking and collaboration in order to make better use of available expertise. Reflecting on the impact and difficulties involved in using such an approach, the paper draws out lessons that may be relevant to other contexts. Consideration is also given to the implications for policy makers, practitioners and community stakeholders.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
In England, children from economically poor backgrounds are entitled to a free lunch in schools. This is used as a proxy indicator of the numbers of disadvantaged children.
There are 152 English local authorities. They are democratically accountable for providing a range of services for their local communities, including education. The ten local authorities in Greater Manchester are: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Manchester, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan.
Challenge advisers were independent, experienced education experts, employed through the Department of Education to provide support for Challenge activities, particularly in the lowest performing schools.
Grammar schools select students academically at the age of eleven. In general they do not tend to cater for young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
This is now part of a national scheme where outstanding head teachers are designated as National Leaders of Education. As such, they are expected to provide support to other schools. They receive additional training in relation to their support roles.
Teaching schools are seen as having a similar role as teaching hospitals. On the basis of the excellent practice that exists, they offer professional development to staff from other schools. This approach, which was developed within City Challenge, is now part of national policy.
Ainscow, M. (1999). Understanding the development of inclusive schools. London: Routledge.
Ainscow, M. (2010). Achieving excellence and equity: Reflections on the development of practices in one local district over 10 years. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 21(1), 75–92.
Ainscow, M., Booth, T., Dyson, A., Farrell, P., Frankham, J., Gallannaugh, F., et al. (2006) Improving schools, developing inclusion. London: Routledge.
Ainscow, M., Dyson, A., Goldrick, S., & West, M. (2012) Developing equitable education systems. London: Routledge (in press).
Ainscow, M., & Howes, A. (2007). Working together to improve urban secondary schools: A study of practice in one city. School Leadership and Management, 27(3), 285–300.
Ainscow, M., Muijs, D., & West, M. (2006a). Collaboration as a strategy for improving schools in challenging circumstances. Improving Schools, 9(3), 192–202.
Ainscow, M., & West, M. (Eds.). (2006b). Improving urban schools: Leadership and collaboration. Open University Press.
Anyon, J. (1997). Ghetto schooling: A political economy of urban educational reform. New York: Teachers College.
Ball, S. J. (2010). New class inequalities in education. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 30(3/4), 155–166.
Benn, M., & Millar, F. (2006). A comprehensive future: Quality and equality for all of our children. London: Compass.
Brighouse, T. (2007). The London challenge—a personal view. In T. Brighouse & L. Fullick (Eds.), Education in a global city. London: Institute of Education Bedford Way Papers.
Chenoweth, K. (2007). It’s being done: Academic success in unexpected schools. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Crowther, D., Cummings, C., Dyson, A., & Millward, A. (2003). Schools and area regeneration. Bristol: The Policy Press.
Dobbie, W., & Fryer, R. G. (2009). Are high-quality schools enough to close the achievement gap? Evidence from a bold social experiment in Harlem. Cambridge: Harvard University.
Dyson, A., & Raffo, C. (2007). Education and disadvantage: The role of community-orientated schools. Oxford Review of Education, 33(3), 297–314.
Fryer, R., & Levitt, S. (2004). Understanding the black-white test score gap in the first two years of school. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 86(2), 447–464.
Giroux, H. A., & Schmidt, M. (2004). Closing the achievement gap: A metaphor for children left behind. Journal of Educational Change, 5, 213–228.
Gorrard, S. (2008). Who is missing from higher education? Cambridge Journal of Education, 38(3), 421–437.
Gray, J. (2010). Probing the limits of systemic reform: The English case. In A. Hargreaves, A. Lieberman, M. Fullan, & D. Hopkins (Eds.), Second international of educational change. Dordrecht: Springer.
Hargreaves, D. H. (2003). Leadership for transformation within the London Challenge. Annual lecture at the London Leadership Centre, 19 May 2003.
Hargreaves, D. H. (2010). Creating a self-improving school system. Nottingham: National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s services.
Hopkins, D. (2007). Every school a great school: Realizing the potential of system leadership. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Hopkins, D., Reynolds, D., & Gray, J. (2005). School improvement lessons from research. London: DfES.
Kerr, K., & West, M. (Eds.) (2010). Social inequality: Can schools narrow the gap? Macclesfield: British Education Research Association, Insight 2.
Levin, B. (2005). Thinking about improvements in schools in challenging circumstances. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, April.
Lima, J. A. (2008). Thinking more deeply about networks in education. Journal of Educational Change, 11(1), 1–21.
Lipman, P. (2004). High stakes education: Inequality, globalisation and urban school reform. New York: Routledge.
Meadows, S., Herrick, D., & Feiler, A. (2007). Improvements in national test reading scores at Key Stage 1: Grade inflation or better achievement? British Educational Research Journal, 33(1), 47–59.
Mourshed, M., Chijioke, C., & Barber, M. (2010). How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better. London: McKinsey & Company.
Mulford, B. (2007). Building social capital in professional learning communities: Importance, challenges and a way forward. In L. Stoll & K. Seashore Louis (Eds.), Professional learning communities: Divergence, depth and dilemmas. London: Open University Press.
OECD. (2007). No more failures: Ten steps to equity in education. Paris: OECD.
OECD. (2010). PISA 2009 results: Overcoming social background—equity in learning opportunities and outcomes (Vol. II). Paris: OECD.
Phillips, M., Crouse, J., & Ralph, J. (1998). Does the black-white test score gap widen after children enter school? In Christopher. Jencks & Meredith. Phillips (Eds.), The black-white test score gap. Washington, DC: The Brookings Institute.
Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Robson, B., Deas, I., & Lymperopoulou, K. (2009). Schools and pupil performance in Greater Manchester: A key driver of social polarization. University of Manchester report.
Sammons, P. (2007). School effectiveness and equity: Making connections. Reading: CfBT.
Sammons, P. (2008). Zero tolerance of failure and New Labour approsches to school improvement in England. Oxford Review of Education, 34(6), 651–664.
Simon, H. (1978). Rationality as process and as product of thought. The American Economic Review, 68(2), 1–16.
Springfield, S. (1995). Attempting to improve students’ learning through innovative programs—the case for schools evolving into high reliability organizations. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 6(1), 67–96.
Tymms, P. (2004). Are standards rising in British primary schools? British Educational Research Journal, 30(4), 477–494.
UNESCO. (2010). EFA global monitoring report: Reaching the marginalized. Paris: UNESCO/Oxford University Press.
West, M., Ainscow, M., & Stanford, J. (2005). Sustaining improvement in schools in challenging circumstances: a study of successful practice. School Leadership and Management, 25(1), 77–93.
Whitehurst, G. J., & Croft, M. (2010). The Harlem children’s zone, promise neighborhoods, and the broader, bolder approach to education. Washington: The Brookings Institution.
Whitty, G. (2010). Marketization and post-markeyization in education. In A. Hargreaves, A. Lieberman, M. Fullan, & D. Hopkins (Eds.), Second international of educational change. Dordrecht: Springer.
Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2009). The spirit level. London: Allen Lane.
The work described in this paper is the product of the efforts and creativity of many colleagues in the schools, local authorities and communities of Greater Manchester. Particular thanks must go to the splendid team of advisers and civil servants who worked with me on the project. Their efforts were in themselves a demonstration of the power of collaboration. I would also like to acknowledge the contributions of my colleagues Chris Chapman, Alan Dyson, Peter Farrell, Denis Mongon and Mel West who acted as critical friends throughout the project and, in so doing, contributed many ideas to the analysis presented in the paper.
About this article
Cite this article
Ainscow, M. Moving knowledge around: Strategies for fostering equity within educational systems. J Educ Change 13, 289–310 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-012-9182-5
- Educational equity
- Contextual analysis
- Networking and collaboration
- Social capital