SEMINAR: Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington
Monday 29 June
Room PA0101
Moving knowledge around
A strategy for fostering equity in education
Professor Mel Ainscow CBE
Equity within educational systems is the aim of most governments, but how to achieve this is the
challenge. National education policies in more and more countries are encouraging schools to become
autonomous. Such developments have the potential to open up possibilities to inject new energy into
the improvement of education systems. On the other hand, these developments can also lead to a
dangerous fragmentation that further disadvantages learners from poorer backgrounds.
Building on ideas from his new book, Towards self-improving school systems: lessons from a city
challenge, Mel Ainscow will present a different way of thinking about how to address the challenge of
equity in education. The approach he recommends starts from an assumption that schools have the
capacity to improve themselves, particularly if they do it together. With this in mind, a strategy will be
explained that sets out to ‘move knowledge around’. Practical examples will illustrate how school
communities using this strategy have fostered new, more fruitful working relationships: within and
between schools; between schools and their local communities; and between national and local
Professor Ainscow will outline how this strategy emerged from the Greater Manchester Challenge, a
50 million pound initiative to improve the quality of education provided for children and young people
in over 1,100 schools, across ten English local authorities. He will explain how this led to many new
pathways through which energy, expertise and lessons within and across schools allowed innovations
to spread. The seminar highlights that a greater awareness of what was happening in other schools
often challenged teachers’ expectations as to what would be possible in their own school, particularly
amongst students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Consideration will be given to the
implication of all of this for teachers, school leadership teams, local and national administrators, and
Mel Ainscow is Professor of Education and Co-director of the Centre for Equity in Education at the
University of Manchester, UK. He is also Adjunct Professor at Queensland University of Technology,
Australia. Previously a head teacher, local education authority inspector and lecturer at the University
of Cambridge, his work focuses on ways of making school systems effective for all children and young
people. Currently Mel is leading Schools Challenge Cymru, the Welsh Government’s multi-million
pound flagship programme to accelerate the rate of improvement across the country’s schools. In the
Queen’s 2012 New Year honours list he was made a CBE for services to education. Mel’s new book,
‘Towards self-improving school systems: lessons from a city challenge’, was published by Routledge in
April 2015. Another book, Struggles for equity in education: The selected works of Mel Ainscow, will be
published in the Routledge World Library of Educationalists series in July.
Comments from international educational change experts on ‘Towards Self-Improving School
Professor Michael Fullan, of the University of Toronto:
“Mel Ainscow does a masterful job in capturing with great clarity how to lead change in complex whole
systems. He led the Greater Manchester Challenge and was clearly immersed in it, but as an author he
has the uncanny ability to write as if he was an observer. A great book.’
Professor Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education, at Boston College:
“This is one of the most extraordinarily powerful books on school improvement and positive systemic
change I have ever read. And it bears a message that the world needs to acknowledge: working with
the community, not against it; investing in professional and community capital; reviving rather than
removing local community and democracy; collaborating with competitors; and being pragmatic about
means in the pursuit of ideologically unshakeable ends.”

seminar flyer - Victoria University of Wellington