Our reflections on 2018

Dec. 7, 2018
James Toop

James Toop

CEO, Ambition School Leadership and Institute for Teaching

A lot has happened in 2018 for Ambition School Leadership and the Institute for Teaching, and indeed for the education sector as a whole.

At the beginning of the year, we were two separate organisations driving towards a shared goal of improving outcomes for disadvantaged children through expert teaching and leadership. That has remained our north star as we navigate the new waters of our merger.  

Over the last year alone, we’ve worked with 2,200 educators serving in 450 schools up and down the country. We’ve also supported 31 leaders to reach their first headship; meaning in total we have now supported 350 leaders to headship.  

With the merger we are now working with educators at every level, from early career teachers to governors and trustees. Some of our programme highlights for this year include:  

  • Launching our Masters in Expert Teaching programme in April, which is designed to set teachers on a path towards expertise through engagement with research literature, supporting them through coaching to implement this effectively in their classrooms
  • Being awarded a grant from the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund (TLIF) to re-invigorate our Teaching Leaders programme for the next generation of middle leaders, zooming in on the leadership of teaching
  • Launching the new Governance Leadership Programme in partnership with the Confederation of School Trusts so that we can support the decision-makers at the top of the school system to set positive climates in which staff and pupils can thrive

All of this in the context of an ever-evolving education debate. In May, we heard from Education Secretary Damian Hinds on his plans to simplify accountability frameworks; Amanda Spielman has outlined her proposal to shift the scope of Ofsted inspections; and the geographical prism of school improvement is clearer than ever, with the DfE channelling investment in educator development into priority areas that have fallen behind.  

These changes to policy and accountability swing the spotlight back on to educators’ skills, expertise and passion for their work; as opposed to determining success in terms of books marked or spreadsheets updated. They bring the focus on to the people in our schools, rather than the systems that frame them. 


I firmly believe that by tapping into the potential of teachers and leaders – by showing the same level of attention and care to their learning as to pupils' – we will unlock a wealth of talent, ideas and motivation. This belief has been at the centre of both Ambition School Leadership and Institute for Teaching’s work, and it will continue to be so in our new organisation.  

We have always broken new ground in the effort to achieve our mission. For me, one story from this year particularly shows how we do that, as well as highlighting the type of educator we develop.  

Matt Jones was one of our early Future Leaders headteachers. He is one of only 30 black male headteachers in the country, having been Principal of Ark Globe Academy since 2012. Since then, he has led the school to ‘good’, with Ofsted recently judging that the academy was on the road to ‘outstanding.’  

Having worked with his team to support the first pupils from the school to reach Oxbridge, Matt now wants to double down on the mission by using his expertise to galvanise more leaders to encourage their pupils into elite universities.  

It has been a privilege to support Matt in setting up the Elephant Group, a coalition of headteachers and CEOs committed to increasing the number of disadvantaged pupils reaching top universities. It is a great example of what educators can do when they are enabled to address the real issues, and of the impact of Ambition & IfT’s work – not just on short-term pupil outcomes, but on long-term educational equality.  

As we move towards the public launch of our new organisation and strategy in spring 2019, I am excited about the new opportunities we’ll be bringing the schools and educators we work with, and the potential these will bring to make a real difference for their pupils. I look forward to sharing more information with you about this in the New Year. 

For now, I would like to thank for your continued support throughout the last twelve months and wish you a very happy holiday!

This article originally appeared on the website of Ambition School Leadership. In March 2019, the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute.

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