Two big questions about becoming a school middle leader


As their Expert Middle Leaders programme comes to a close, seven participants share their reflections on the development journey they’ve been on and how they became the teachers and leaders they are today.

Rachael Paget Key Stage Three Coordinator, English
Kelli Bantok
Teacher, English lead and Early Careers Teachers mentor
Melanie Yeomans – Director of Faculty, English
Mary Leefe
– Assistant Curriculum Leader for Science
Andrew Lyons
– Head of Mathematics
Sian Pike
– Associate SLT 
Lynsey Eaglen
– EYFS, KS1 and English Lead

What do you wish you'd known before starting the programme?

“I wish I had known how challenging but also transformative the process would be,” says Rachel.

Mary agrees: “I wish I’d known how much it was going to change my teaching and leadership practice, and that the more effort and work you put into the programme, the more you get out of it.”

“I wish I had known at the start how valuable it would be,” says Melanie, “and that I did not need to be so worried about being out of my comfort zone.”

Kelli’s wish was solved by the course itself: “I wish I’d known more about the science of learning and the importance of this that has underpinned my teaching. I feel like it would have made me a better teacher sooner and, because of this, I feel I have grown massively in my understanding and confidence as a teacher over the last two years.”

“I didn’t realise I could have this impact (or know how to do it) before the programme.”

- Mary Leefe, Assistant Curriculum Leader for Science

Lynsey has a bigger wish: “I wish I had known there was going to be a global pandemic! Other than that, Ambition informed me of everything I needed to know before the course started. I felt as well-prepared as I could be.”

What has changed most in your practice?

For some, it is the engagement with sector-specific knowledge and evidence. For others, it is confidence and leadership.

“I have always been a reflective practitioner,” says Rachael, “but my understanding of cognitive science and the science of learning has improved greatly. This has allowed me to plan better lessons, train staff more effectively and improve my classroom skills.”

Sian also highlights the value of knowledge as empowering: “My passion for education research has certainly changed, as has the way I plan and teach based on the science of learning. I have greater awareness of myself and others and am much braver and less afraid to have difficult conversations. Understanding how people think is so important as a teacher, teacher educator and a leader.”

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Kelli’s reflections are about her personal development and how this rolls out into her practice. “The thing that has changed the most in my practice since starting is my confidence. Not only my confidence in my teaching in the classroom, but my confidence in myself and in my leadership. It has helped me see my potential and push myself when in the past I wouldn’t have believed I was capable.” Kelli continues: “I have gone on a massive journey these last two years and have become a better teacher, colleague and now leader because of it.”

Mary reflects on the impact on her leadership: “My ability to lead and motivate a team enough to implement a new strategy that has a real impact on pupil progress. I didn’t realise I could have this impact (or know how to do it) before the programme.”

Andrew also feels his leadership skills have improved on the programme: “I am a much more competent leader now as a result of working with the personal tutor. The course has allowed me the opportunity to diversify my talents and shine in all aspects.”

“I have gone on a massive journey these last two years and have become a better teacher, colleague and now leader because of it.”

- Kelli Bantok – Teacher, English lead and Early Careers Teachers mentor

Lynsey brings it all together: “I now have the confidence and knowledge to lead others, and all of my initiatives have firm roots in research. As a school, all of our decisions are now research-based.”


Applications for Expert Middle Leaders are now closed, but Ambition provides a wide range of programmes that are designed to support middle leaders and aspiring middle leaders in their journeys into school leadership:

Or browse all our programmes here.

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