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Prof Kathryn Riley
  • Professor of Urban Education
  • IOE - Learning & Leadership
  • UCL Institute of Education

Kathryn Riley is Professor of Urban Education and an international scholar whose work bridges policy and practice. Born in Manchester, she began her work in education as a volunteer teacher in Eritrea. She has taught in inner-city schools, held political office in London - as an elected member of the Inner London Education Authority (the ILEA) - and been a local authority Chief Officer. She was first appointed as a Professor in 1993.

Kathryn’s International work has included two years with the World Bank, heading its Effective Schools and Teachers Group and contributing to the development of the World Bank’s leadership programme for national leaders.  She has carried out reviews for the World Bank, the OECD and UNICEF - on teacher quality, teacher education and accreditation, educational reform and school leadership – and has worked in many countries including: Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Chile, Denmark, France, Guinea, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Macedonia, Senegal, Singapore, the Soviet Union,  South Africa, Sweden, the USA and Vietnam. 

Research Summary

Professor Riley's  innovative research on place and belonging addresses concerns about the influence of global and extreme events on young peoples’ lives.  Her research – carried out in a number of countries - has largely been undertaken in schools in ethnically diverse and socio-economically deprived neighbourhood. It throws a spotlight on schools as places of belonging; leadership as a place-making activity; and research engagement as a powerful place-making tool.

The notion of leadership of place which emerges from her work responds to the complexities of schooling in our volatile times. It signals the duality of the leadership role: the importance of reaching out beyond the school gates to connect to communities, and seeking to create the kinds of social spaces within school where young people and adults feel they belong. Kathryn is now exploring new forms of community collaboration around place and belonging which harness the creativity and energy of stakeholders around common purpose.

Kathryn’s books include:

(1994). Quality & Equality: Promoting Opportunities in School. London: Cassell.
(1994). Measuring Quality: Education Indicators - United Kingdom and International
           Perspectives (with Desmond Nuttall).  London  & Washington: Falmer Press. 
       Re-printed 2017: Routledge Distinguished Authors Series.
(1998). Whose school is it Anyway? (Falmer Press).
(2000). Leadership for Change and School Reform (with Karen Seashore Louis). London:    
(2002) Working with Disaffected Students: Why children lose interest in schools and what we
          can do about it (with Elle Rustique-Forester). Chapman-Sage.
(2013). Leadership of Place: Stories from the US, UK & South Africa. London: Bloomsbury.
(2017). Place, belonging and School Leadership: Researching to make the difference. London:

Recent  Videos can be accessed at: 


Teaching Summary

Kathryn supports a wide range of international and UK-based Doctoral and EdD students; teaches on the MA in leadership programme, where she developed the module Leading in Diverse Cultures and Communities; and contributes to a range of professional development programmes across the Globe.  She is interested in how educational change takes place and the contribution of schools, communities, staff and students to the change process.
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