Master Class – Creating the Conditions for School Belonging

Creating the Conditions for School Belonging 

Kathryn Riley and Julia Dobson

“Belonging is that sense of being somewhere you can be confident you will fit in, a feeling of being safe in your identity and at home in a place”.

Working out how to grow school belonging is a compelling activity! It’s compelling because when belonging is a school’s  guiding principle, 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.

In these uncertain times, we all want to be known and seen for who we are. A sense of connectivity and belonging in school sets young people, up for life, yet growing numbers feel marginalised or excluded.

Join us in this mutual learning space, designed to help you:

  • Share your understanding of the bigger picture .. by dipping into the evidence; looking through the ‘Prism of Place and Belonging’; & deciding on ‘first principles’;
  • Make sense of what you see .. through our ‘Belonging’ World Café;
  • Develop your engaged scholarship .. by taking account of the voices of professionals, stakeholders (including young people & their families) & researchers.

Access supporting Materials at

Kathryn Riley is Emeritus Professor of Urban Education at the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education; co-founder of The Art of Possibilities; and an Associate of the Staff College. She began her work in education as a volunteer teacher in Eritrea, later teaching in inner-city schools, before holding political office as an elected member of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) and becoming a local authority chief officer.

As an international scholar whose work bridges policy and practice, Kathryn has been engaged in research, policy and development work on educational reform and school leadership in many countries and contexts. Her international work has included heading up the World Bank’s Effective Schools and Teachers Group and projects for the OECD and UNICEF. Over recent years, Kathryn’s focus has been on place and belonging, community collaboration and partnership, and compassionate leadership. She has published widely and is currently completing Growing School Belonging.

Kathryn’s 2017 book, Compassionate Leadership for School Belonging is available free online:

For videos and materials (including a Podcast Series on School Belonging, enriched by the sounds of Rapper Jamie Pyke) go to:

Julia Dobson is a doctoral student at the Institute of Education (IOE), UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Her PhD research explores barriers to and opportunities for creating caring communities in English secondary schools. She has previously written about developing pupil voice through project-based learning with students as teachers.

Prior to commencing her PhD, Julia taught for seven years in English state schools. During her time as a Head of Year in the pandemic, she developed a keen interest in exploring how to grow school belonging. She is particularly interested in the relationship between school belonging and staff and student agency.  She is passionate about using participatory research methods to develop collaboration and dialogue within school communities.

Alongside her PhD, Julia is a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant in the Centre for Doctoral Education at the IOE and sits on the board of trustees for the charity Enactus UK.