Learning Schools

Abstract / Introduction

Today’s schools must prepare students for life and work in a fast-changing world and equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. We live in a ‘knowledge society’ where creativity and collaboration are sought after and where adaptation, innovation and the application of knowledge are essential. Learning organisations (from early work by Peter Senge) consciously transform themselves, taking on new challenges and moving forward.  Schools, as complex and dynamic learning organisations mirror this. Evidence from school improvement literature points to a need for schools to steer a new direction (Gorard, 2019; West-Burnham & Groves, 2013), that is more equitable and puts student and adult learning at the centre of everything they do.

School as learning organisations are places where the beliefs and values of all who work there are brought together in support of learning excellence and improved student outcomes. These schools learn from themselves and are committed to lifelong learning. They look outwards and to the future by examining their present situation. It is now, more than ever, in these times of change and uncertainty that turning schools into learning organisations has much to recommend it.

This MESH Guide is written to support teachers, Headteachers and others with interests or roles in school improvement. It provides readers with short, easy to read summaries of the current evidence on learning schools, illustrative case studies and examples in action, along with resources and practical tools to help you frame your school as a successful and sustainable learning organisation.


Gorard, S. (2009) Serious doubts about school effectiveness. British Educational Research Journal, 36,  pp.745-766.

West-Burnham, J. & Groves, M. (2013) Toward a new understanding of outstanding schools. Schools of Tomorrow. The Beauchamp Papers. Peterborough: Schools of Tomorrow.

Strength of Evidence

There has been a long history of research in this field and this MESHGuide pulls together core information for those interested in the field.

Transferability across countries and settings

We consider this knowledge has significant transferability. The focus is on placing learning at the centre of schooling and this emphasis on the things that matter in schools to advance learning will be applicable worldwide.

Date of publication
8 Oct 2020
Date of revision
7 Oct 2020
Online community link

We know of no national or international network specifically on this topic however, in many countries there are professional associations of head teachers which may have members with similar interests.