How our staff and leaders keep getting better: stories from inside Ambition Institute

July 23, 2019

Four months ago we introduced our new brand to the world.

Ambition Institute is the culmination of over a decade’s worth of work across three different organisations, and the work of a large group of over 200 passionate staff with a wide range of experience and expertise spanning decades. 

We re-launched with a renewed mission to enable educators at every level to keep getting better. To mark this new chapter of our story, we asked valued members of our network how they use the skills learned on our programmes to deliver positive change in their contexts, and challenge themselves to keep improving. But we don’t just ask this of our programme participants and alumni, it’s also a value we apply to everything we do internally as an organisation.

As the 2018-19 academic year draws to a close, we asked the leaders of our organisation what they’ve done over the past 10 months to learn, change and improve. Hear from our interim CEO, Melanie Renowden about her exciting and transformative professional path, and from our Chief Education Officer, Matt Hood, about how he has focused on continuing to expand his sector expertise. 

We hope you enjoy these insights into what Ambition Institute’s staff have been doing to #keepgettingbetter

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Melanie Renowden, Interim Chief Executive Officer

The last six months have been a period of rapid learning for me as I’ve stepped into the Interim CEO role at Ambition.  Although I’ve worked in education for almost 25 years, and at our predecessor charities for the last eight, there have still been aspects of the role that have been new and challenging to me.

Fortunately, I’ve been surrounded by sources of support, encouragement and advice; I’ve drawn on my network of fellow charity CEOs, who have been incredibly generous with their time. I’ve been lucky to have an expert coach who’s offered impartial guidance and judicious questioning, and I’ve had valuable feedback along the way from my brilliant senior team. 

On top of all that, I’ve also continued to tap into two important sources of personal motivation – our staff and the educators on our programmes.  Spending time with them always gives me a mission-recharge, gearing me up to tackle whatever the role throws at me and reminding me what a privilege it is to lead Ambition.

Matt Hood, Chief Education Officer

This year, for me, has been about understanding expertise in school leadership. 

I started the year with a hypothesis that the rigour in our thinking around developing school leaders was falling behind the rigour in our thinking around developing teachers. Were the principles that underpin ‘transformational leadership’ – the dominant theory – sufficiently robust for us to build our programmes on them?

To test that hypothesis we have read the literature on school leadership – things like the updated paper from Leithwood et al (2019), who have revised their earlier paper to put knowledge of teaching more central to the success of school leadership. We have spoken with the academics behind the literature – people like Dr. Amanda Goodall, whose research shows that organisations led by expert performers from the same domain (for example, great doctors running hospitals) perform better. And we have spoken to the teachers and school leaders themselves: at our school and system leadership advisory boards, at events from Carlisle to Ipswich, and to those educators we already work with on our programmes.

You can read a bit more about what we’ve found out from my colleague Tom Rees here.


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