The inspirational women making waves in education

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Date published 08 March 2021

Last updated 21 March 2024

It’s International Women’s Day 2021.

As pupils make their way back to the classroom en masse, let’s take a moment to celebrate the incredible women who are supporting them.

As the 2019 School Workforce Census shows, three out of every four teachers are women. Here, two of the participants on our Teacher Educator Fellows programme share their incredible stories with us.


Jo Riley


Jo Riley is headteacher at Randal Cremer Primary School in Hackney.

“Before becoming a teacher, I worked for a small business as a sales and purchasing manager, selling accessories for radio towers and masts.

“After having my son in 1991, I decided to become a primary school teacher. I wanted a job that meant I could also be a mum to my son. I have always been passionate about learning and particularly reading so when I became a single mum I decided to retrain as a teacher and started the BED, which was a four year programme.

“I qualified in 1998 and then moved with my son from Gloucestershire to Hackney in London for my first teaching role.

“It was only meant to be for a couple of years, but I fell in love with my complicated, challenging but joyful children, and 22 years later, I still work in Hackney.

“I became a special educational needs coordinator in my third year and then moved to a school in Tower Hamlets where I was Inclusion Leader. I have always been driven by a sense that a child’s postcode should not dictate their life chances. I gained my NPQH in 2008 before then taking part in the Primary Pilot (2012) for Future Leaders (Ambition Institute) which gave me the confidence to apply for headship.

I began my first headship in September 2013 in my wonderful primary school in Hackney. We are a school community that is full of love, laughter and challenge. I joined the Teacher Education Fellows programme through Ambition last year, and have really learnt a huge amount which is helping me shape how we develop staff at all levels, whilst becoming a better teacher myself. I am a qualified leadership coach and a local leader of education, but first and foremost, I am a teacher.


“The central belief that we can only narrow the disadvantage gap through high quality teaching underpins everything that I try to do. The network you develop through the programmes is one of the most important things – without my core network of fantastic leaders from across the country that I have met through the various programmes, the last years would have been much more difficult.

"What I love most are the relationships that develop with children, staff and families. Being a head can be tough but my community knows that our core values, especially love, drive everything we do.

Although I never met her, Rita Pierson has always inspired me. She was an educator who seemed to be able to articulate what I instinctively believed. Her famous quote, “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like” might appear simplistic but it underpins my approach to children. More importantly, she recognised that children don’t learn from teachers who don’t like them. Her absolute dedication to children shines through in all her talks, writing and videos. Even though she sadly passed away in 2013, I still think her words have resonance.

“The central belief that we can only narrow the disadvantage gap through high quality teaching underpins everything that I try to do"

Anna Carter Photo.jpg

Anna Carter

Professional Learning and Curriculum lead

Anna Carter is Leading on Professional Learning and Curriculum at Northampton Primary Academy Trust, and co-leads the Education Team at the trust. She is the co-author of Protective Behaviours Activities for Teaching Protective Behaviours in Schools (Speechmark Publishing) and Drama for Writing 1, 2 and KS3 (Northampton Area Improvement Partnership).

"For me, teaching is in the blood. My mum was a secondary maths teacher. I fought against it for a while but it was inevitable, I think.

"I started my career in education as a primary school teacher, moving on to become drama adviser for Northamptonshire County Council, followed by a long stint as a drama and English consultant.

"I have worked at the trust for the past four years and enjoy working with leaders and teachers from its eleven schools.

"The thing I love most about my job is working with such a wide range of teachers from across the trust – from early career right through to headteacher. I also love strategy – it is complex, but exciting.

"The Fellowship was absolutely what I needed to help me develop further as an educator. It has broadened my understanding of professional development and research, and has given me access to a hugely inspiring group of professionals from across the country.

"My boss, Julia Kedwards, is the CEO of the trust and she inspires me. When I grow up, I want to be just like her!"

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