How we’re working towards joining the higher education community

March 22, 2019
Matt Hood

Matt Hood

Chief Education Officer, Ambition Institute

Last week was an exciting week for the me and the Ambition Institute team. Following our legal merger back in September we launched our new organisation and set out what we’re hoping to contribute to the education sector as a whole.

I thought I’d take the time to say a little more about who we are, what we do, and crucially, how we intend to live up to our value of ‘keep getting better’.

When the boards of the legacy organisations began conversations about a merger last year, they were clear that this had to be about creating something new. More of the same wouldn’t work for either organisation or the schools, educators and ultimately pupils that we serve.

So out we went, listening and speaking to educators up and down the country asking them what they want from us. The gauntlet that these educators threw down was quite something. They wanted the mission focus of a charity, the classroom connection of a teaching school and the academic rigour of a traditional university. So, as a ‘graduate school’, we’re offering – and working on – all three of these qualities, because teachers and school leaders deserve the best professional development.

When it comes to our charitable mission we’re furthest ahead. All of our legacy organisations were charities, and we remain one. We all shared a vision of an education system where every child can thrive no matter what their background and that still stands today. It’s this challenge that gets our team out of bed in the morning.

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That said, there’s always more we can do. We’ve improved our targeting so more of our energy goes into supporting educators who serve children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. We’re also working to support more diverse cohorts of educators so that schools better reflect the communities they serve. We have an increased focus on fundraising so more philanthropy is focused on the thing that we know makes the biggest difference – helping educators to keep getting better. 

On classroom connection, we’re building on solid foundations. Our team is packed with former teachers, school leaders and system leaders who know what it’s like on the front line – both from their own time in schools and from the work they do with around 5,000 educators, often in their schools, each year. They are supported and challenged by our School Leadership and System Leadership Advisory Groups which (if you look at the full list here) are packed with leading individuals from right across the system.

We plan to build on these foundations by making the boundary between our faculty and classroom teachers more flexible (want to teach maths days one to four, and teach maths teachers on day five?) and by locating more of our face-to-face delivery in schools rather than the wide array of venues that we use at the moment. We’re also going to continue strengthening our partnership with our fantastic alliance of teaching schools, supporting them to deliver more great development within their local area.

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Developing the academic rigour of a traditional university is a priority for us – one that will take time and collaboration to fully realise. Again, our foundations are solid – we have a fantastic group of experts who think and write about educator development, and who are pushed hard by our Academic Advisory Group chaired by Professor Sam Twiselton OBE.

We have an in-house research team who have partnered with a range of higher education institutions and think tanks to help us to better understand the system in which we work. And we enjoy a fantastic partnership with Plymouth Marjon University who award our Masters in Expert Teaching and a strong working relationship with the University Council for the Education of Teachers.

With that in place our focus is now on the long hard yards needed to become a fully-fledged member of the higher education institutions community. We’re investing in the academic credentials of our team and begun the long (rightly) challenging process of securing our own degree awarding powers so that we can, in time, award academic qualifications alongside the other awarding powers we currently hold.

We’re looking not only at the rigour of our content, but also that of our processes – from exploring the quality assurance and external examination standards we must follow, to reviewing the resources and services we provide to support our diverse cohorts of students from admission to completion.

When we get there, we’ll continue to work with our partners and allies in the higher education community, because everyone benefits when we share and debate ideas. We want to challenge thinking about teacher and school leader development and be challenged in return. I’m looking forward to working with you all along the way.

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