Manchester schools rise to the challenge to improve

We used our extensive educational research to design the Greater Manchester Challenge (GMC). Based on the proven success of our research to improve teaching and learning in a variety settings, we were invited by government to design and deliver this £50 million three-year programme, to raise educational standards across the city's schools.

The Greater Manchester Challenge drives collaboration and research to raise school performance across the city.

School crossings sign with the number 1,150 overlaid in black text.
1,150 Manchester schools are involved in the Greater Manchester Challenge.

The GMC followed the 'learning through enquiry' approach advocated by our research team. This introduced new approaches within the framework of research and development; analysis of interventions highlights workable solutions along with further improvements and refinements. It encourages a culture of continuous improvement.

Key benefits

  • 1,000 teachers took part in professional development programmes run by 'teaching schools' with a positive impact on the quality of classroom practice
  • 170 headteachers given responsibility for supporting improvement in other schools
  • Greater Manchester primary schools now outperform national testing averages
  • In 2011, secondary schools in Greater Manchester improved faster in Key Stage 4 examinations than schools nationally
  • Schools serving the most disadvantaged communities made three times more improvement than schools across the country
  • The proportion of schools rated 'good' and 'outstanding' in inspections increased, despite the introduction of a more challenging assessment framework
  • An agency led by 25 outstanding headteachers is now responsible for building on the research evidence to develop a self-improving system

The success of GMC and its approach has directly influenced national policy. The Coalition Government's 2011 White Paper make explicit reference to numerous GMC initiatives: 'school-to-school partnerships', 'teaching schools', 'system leaders' and 'families of schools'. The benefits of collaboration seen in Manchester – not least the evidence that leading schools also improved their own performance – have also been highlighted by several politicians in key speeches on education.

Our research

Pile of multi-coloured chalks lying along the base of a blackboard. The text £50 million is overlaid in white text.
There was a £50 million investment in the three-year Greater Manchester Challenge.

The design of the GMC was based on our experience in trialling the 'learning through enquiry' methodology through several projects, including:

  • Government funded evaluation of an initiative to transform secondary education in Nottingham
  • A project commissioned by Blackburn with Darwen Local Education Authority
  • An ESRC study 'Understanding and Developing Inclusive Practices in Schools'
  • A government funded leadership development project within Excellence in Cities
  • National College for School Leadership (NCSL) funded research on leadership and social inclusion

Key findings

  • Collaboration between schools can strengthen the capacity of education systems to make more effective use of available expertise
  • Under certain conditions, such approaches can bring about improvements in school performance, particularly in relation to learners from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • These approaches can be made more sustainable by encouraging local school leadership

Key people

Further information