Kathryn Riley

My work today is all about place and belonging, and the kinds of compassionate leadership needed to create the conditions for school belonging.

Looking back, its perhaps unsurprising that I look at life through the prism of place and belonging. I was born and brought up in Manchester. My origins are Lancashire Irish, Lithuanian Jewish.  My first teaching job was in Asmara, Eritrea.  I was bilocated in London/Havana for some time and now divide my life between London and Lovina (North Bali).  

I’ve also had many ‘lives’: as a teacher in inner-city London schools, elected member of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA), local authority chief officer. My international work has included heading up the World Bank’s Effective Schools and Teachers Group and projects for the OECD and UNICEF. I’ve been a Professor at IOE, UCL for many years and have just been appointed Emeritus Professor of Urban Education at UCL – although I did apply to be Emerita!

Evidence tells us that in schools where belonging works, more young people experience a sense of connectedness and friendship, perform better academically and come to believe in themselves. Their teachers feel more professionally fulfilled and their families more accepted.  

A sense of belonging is as important for staff, as for children and young people. Working as a College  Associate– and in partnership with colleagues such as Heather Loveridge and Anton Florek – gives me a rich opportunity to bring together school and system-related issues about place and belonging.

I’ve long come to conclude that one of the greatest gifts we can give to our young people is to help them find their own sense of place and belonging, in this uncertain world. Recognising that what they think, say and do matters takes them through life. Compassionate leaders are those who enable both adults and young people to develop their own sense of self and agency.

My most recent book Compassionate Leadership for School Belonging is available free online.

Have a look at the Art of Possibilities website which I set up with my late partner DancePoet TioMolina. You’ll find videos and materials including a Podcast Series on School Belonging, with great RAPPs by Jamie Pyke.