Ambition School Leadership - East of England launch

Jan. 12, 2017

The second stop on our regional roadshow brought CEO James Toop to The Open Academy in Norwich on 11 January 2017.

Norwich is one of the Department for Education’s designated Opportunity Areas, and our delegates were joined by Paul Brooker HMI, Regional Director for Ofsted, to discuss how investment can be leveraged in the region to improve social mobility for students.

In his keynote speech, Paul identified the key challenges facing the region:

  • The mix of urban, rural and coastal areas means that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for schools, even within small distances
  • This geographical disparity is blended with a social disparity across the East of England which informs children’s education and life chances
  • As a result, a child’s education is a lottery depending on where they live, leading to a wide variation of outcomes

The solution in one word is ‘leadership’, Brooker affirmed; and great leadership is needed in the most challenging areas.

He highlighted that when an Ofsted report says ‘This school is well-led’, inspectors are not just referring to the headteacher: great leadership should be embedded at all levels, with every adult at a school leading within their own remit.

Secondly, he emphasised that strong leadership is not just about people, but also process, with the caveat of improving leadership being that there must be a plan in place to sustain it.

One advantage of multi academy trusts, he said, is that great leaders can move around within a system; meaning that, if all schools invest in leadership development, there is an embedded process for succession management across schools, improving student outcomes in the long-term.

In his speech, James Toop re-affirmed Paul’s focus on the importance of leadership in the most challenging schools, citing data from the Social Mobility Foundation which shows only 5% of students in receipt of free school meals achieve five As at GCSE; and only 24% of children on free school meals go on to university, in comparison to 42% of their wealthier peers.

If we are to enable social mobility for all children, we need great leaders working to improve these outcomes in the hardest-to-reach areas.

However, James acknowledged that the leadership landscape is changing, with fewer middle and senior leaders aspiring to headship because of the increasing accountability and ‘fear factor’ around the role.

Ambition School Leadership’s research with McKinsey and Teach First, released in November 2016, showed that not enough leaders want to progress up to headship, and there is a shortage of leaders coming up through the pipeline. New research being undertaken with the NFER is likely to show that leader retention is going to be a big issue in the coming years, particularly at headteacher level.

The role of Ambition School Leadership, therefore, will be to deliver a career development pathway for educators, encouraging them to stay in the profession. The aim is to weave the organisation’s delivery and network into every part of the country to create sustainable leadership in schools in all areas, but also to help make schools in disadvantaged or isolated areas attractive places to work.

Finally, James underlined the organisation’s commitment to working strategically with schools and school systems to identify their bespoke leadership needs and deliver the solutions needed to support schools to improve students’ outcomes and life chances into the future.

Applications for our flagship Teaching Leaders programme are now open. Find out more here.

Find out more about our full suite of programmes here.