Ambition School Leadership - East Midlands launch

Jan. 18, 2017

Continuing on our regional launch tour, Ambition School Leadership stopped in Nottingham on 17th January at The Nottingham Emmanuel School.

Along with our CEO James Toop we were joined by Jonathan Simons, Head of Education at Policy Exchange, and Wayne Norrie, Chief Executive of Greenwood Dale Academies Trust. Through a mixture of keynote speeches and interactive discussions, delegates discussed how education could help tackle social mobility in the East Midlands. 

Jonathan Simons kicked off the discussion looking at the social mobility policy landscape, which he described as ‘the greatest challenge facing domestic policy’. He explored how the current government both defines the term and what they see the role of education being in breaking the cycle of disadvantage. 

He discussed how this government has focused its attentions on those that are ‘Just About Managing’, or in educational terms, those families just above the Pupil Premium (PP) threshold, who the Prime Minister believes are not getting enough help and who have the hardest journey to make a success of their lives.

With this in mind Simons noted that the education policy has shifted to tackle this problem. He explained the three distinctive changes:

  • A shift in policy which no longer solely focuses on defining and implementing structure but looks more at what goes in to schools, such as teaching and learning and leadership practice
  • A focus on social mobility cold spots known also as ‘Opportunity Areas’. These are not  necessarily areas of low attainment, but where there are localised challenges such as lack of post-16 choices or access to jobs. This alters the focus of how we identify successful schools
  • An emphasis on a school-led system which holds teachers and leaders to account to create impact for students

This last point, Simons noted, was a challenge that required innovative solutions - segueing neatly on to our next speaker Wayne Norrie, Chief Executive of Greenwood Academies.

Norrie echoed Simons remarks, saying that confident leaders who are unafraid to be ambitious are what the system needs. He went on to note how Ambition School Leadership is able to facilitate this by developing leaders at all levels who are not “clones” but people who are brave enough to make their own decisions.

Speaking of his own Trust, where of the 17,587 students 65% are eligible for PP (the national average is 29%), Norrie explained how they are attempting to reduce the attainment gap:

  • Teaching children academic resilience and giving them the skills that are going to help prepare them for the outside world
  • Providing them with an education that gives them choices and enables them to decide their own future

Norrie spoke candidly of his own experience as a child having growing up in a council estate in the East Midlands, having to deal with debt collectors whilst trying to complete his GCSEs; as well as some of the challenges he has faced and hard lessons he has learned as a MAT CEO.

He emphasised that every student and every school is different, saying, ‘what will work in one school will not always work in another’ and that it was through good school leadership that you the biggest impact can be made.

Currently thirty-five leaders in Norrie’s Trust are on our Teaching Leaders programme for high-potential middle leaders, and these leaders are making great strides towards achieving the Trust’s goals of reducing the employability and attainment gap. Next year, Norrie hopes to have seventy.

To find out more about our programmes please click here.

To read our new paper 'Effective leadership at all levels' click here.