“The biggest takeaway for me is recognising that young people want the same things from education that changemaker adults want.”

Published: July 15, 2022

In Greater Manchester, UK, and over the course of one year, 20 headteachers have come together with 20 young people to share best practices and initiate change in their schools. Two headteachers talk about their experiences so far with ashoka and the edge foundation’s new capabilities for a new world programme

“As schools return after a tumultuous two years, they have an imperative to seek out approaches that prepare young people to thrive in an increasingly complex world and address equity in new ways. says Shaun McInerney, Programme Lead for New Capabilities for a New World. “The New Capabilities for a New World programme will support secondary headteachers to explore their own leadership and review whole school strategy through the lenses of changemaking and best practice in real world learning. It is exciting to be able to share Ashoka and Edge’s pioneering work in these areas to inform thinking at this formative time of change and renewal.”

In 2015, Matthew Moss High School in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, was one of 15 schools selected by Ashoka as a changemaker school. The school encourages learner-led classrooms, where students co-construct their learning experiences, and supports social and emotional development alongside academic studies. On 29th April 2016, as part of the New Capabilities for a New World programme, headteachers from other secondary schools in the Greater Manchester region spent a day at Mathew Moss, meeting with colleagues and students to talk about changemaking and what this means in practice.


Assistant Headteacher, The Derby High School

We have been meeting, as school leaders and as teachers, with young people to talk about the sorts of things we’re doing in schools to make a change. It has been an incredible experience to walk through the corridors of this fantastic school, Matthew Moss, and see how engaged their young people are and the difference they’re making. It’s definitely something I want for our young people back at my school.

We work very closely with our young people, but these sessions give us the opportunity to ask big questions and think about how our young people could lead us in school – how we can change the way we interact with and educate our students, take their views into account, and cocreate to make a better school and better education system.

Changemaker education has to be possible because I don’t think I could continue in this profession if it weren’t. We’ve got to take the opportunity to work with our young people, to make sure they’re equipped with skills they need to be successful in their lives, and also because they’re the ones who will make the change happen in the future – that’s our duty as educators.

Lynn (centre) talks to changemaker school leaders at a New Capabilities for a New World session.
© Ashoka

© Ashoka
© Ashoka

Principal, Liverpool Life Sciences UTC and The Studio School

We’ve managed to accomplish so much in these sessions in terms of thinking space. Meeting lots of wonderful people from other schools has made me realise that to really create change, it’s about empowering young people to be the changemakers. We’re there to facilitate that journey, but they’re the ones who are going to change the world.

The biggest takeaway for me so far is recognising that young people want the same thing from education that changemaker adults want. We’re not pulling in different directions. Students are saying, “This is what we want but we don’t know how to make that happen.” As adults, we’re also feeling the same. We’ve got the same priorities, desires, hopes, ambitions, and it’s liberating to know that, together, we’re super strong. This is where the real change will come, I think.

I fully subscribe to the ethos of changemaking. If you don’t subscribe, then why are you in education? We’ve got to be positive, we’ve got to be ‘glass half full’, and we’ve got to leave the education system in a better state than we found it. That’s what these New Capabilities for a New World programme sessions are allowing us to do.


Founded in 1980 by Bill Drayton in Washington DC, USA, Ashoka is an international non-governmental organisation dedicated to supporting social entrepreneurship. The name, Ashoka, was inspired by the Indian Emperor Ashoka one of the world’s earliest great social entrepreneurs. After unifying India in the 3rd Century BC Emperor Ashoka renounced violence and became one of history’s most tolerant, global-minded and creative leaders, pioneering innovations in economic development and social welfare. The Sanskrit_ _word Ashoka means the “active absence of sorrow”.

To learn more, visit www.ashoka.org


Based in the UK, the Edge Foundation aims to give all young people across the UK the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to flourish in their future life and work. It collaborates with non-governmental organisations, government departments and academic establishments to gather evidence through research, trials and projects.

To learn more, visit www.edge.co.uk