Ambitious for every child | Addressing the leadership challenge.

Nov. 22, 2016

James Toop

CEO, Ambition School Leadership

When a child from a disadvantaged home starts school, their development can be 19 months behind that of their peers. As CEO of Ambition School Leadership, my determination that all children have access to an outstanding education is as strong as ever.

The research in our report, ‘Ambitious for Every Child’, with analysis from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), finds that children who are persistently disadvantaged are most likely to fall behind at school. Outcomes for children who experienced sustained poverty are disproportionately worse in areas 5 and 6. Persistently disadvantaged students in these areas make 17.9 months less progress than non-disadvantaged children nationally.

Our report and our research findings on the progress gap in England can only have one conclusion: this must change. However, the case studies in our report show how schools in the most challenging contexts are being transformed by Ambition School Leadership participants. Great middle and senior leaders - the engine room of our schools - can drive excellence for all. Working alongside heads and executive leaders - the strategy and culture experts - they can close the gap between disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers.


Combining the middle leadership expertise of Teaching Leaders with the headship and executive leadership specialism of The Future Leaders Trust, we are creating a seamless leadership development journey for teachers in our education system. Our new organisation - Ambition School Leadership - now offers participants end-to-end development pathways covering all levels of leadership. Our professional networks have become stronger and more diverse, delivering more peer-to-peer support. We are excited to start our new journey together, and are set to continue improving the education system for disadvantaged children, becoming the UK’s school leadership development experts.

"In the twenty-first century it is not acceptable that family background and geography have such an effect on a child’s educational outcomes."

Fourteen years ago I became swept up in the mission to end educational disadvantage. I joined the first Teach First cohort and in 2008 was a founding staff member at Teaching Leaders, becoming Chief Executive in 2011. 

Now, as CEO of Ambition School Leadership, my determination that all children have access to an outstanding education is as strong as ever. In the twenty-first century it is not acceptable that family background and geography have such an effect on a child’s educational outcomes. Together, we have a renewed drive to fulfil our mission to build a network of exceptional school leaders at all levels to transform the lives of the children who need it most.

Read the school case studies, research analysis and leading opinion pieces from our report 'Ambitious for Every Child':

Download the full report 'Ambitious for Every Child' and the full methodology with statistical analysis 'Progress in priority areas'.

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

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