Ambition programmes improve pupil outcomes and retention

Sept. 15, 2017

Ambition School Leadership’s flagship programmes are working and leading to improved pupil outcomes and improved retention, according to new independent research. The Department for Education and the National College for Teaching and Leadership commissioned researchers to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of Ambition’s Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders programmes.

Ipsos Mori and Education Datalab, who evaluated the Teaching Leaders programme, found pupils in our participants’ subject area or area of responsibility showed a small but statistically significant impact on pupil attainment.  On average, and across all the programme’s cohorts, Teaching Leaders are improving attainment and supporting better outcomes for children. Until now, there was little evidence of any leadership development programme anywhere nationally having this kind of impact on pupil outcomes. Researchers used HPML Management Data and School Workforce Census to reach their conclusions.

Rebecca Allen, Director of Education Datalab and co-author of the Teaching Leaders research, said: “It is unusual to find a leadership training programme that improves pupil attainment, as this one appears to. Our research shows that when a Head of Department took part in the Teaching Leaders course, approximately one in twelve pupils in their department made an extra grade of progress.”

BMG Research, Daniel Muijs and Hamis Mugendawala evaluated the effectiveness of the Future Leaders programme. They discovered that leaders who are part of the programme are more likely to move into a senior leadership role and more quickly than similar teachers who don’t join.

Ambition’s mission is not only to develop leaders working in schools in challenging contexts, but for those leaders to remain working with those schools – or similarly challenging ones – once they’ve finished the programme. The researchers also found that participants who move into senior leadership roles are more likely to remain working in a challenging school to continue that work. A recent report published by the National Audit Office found that more teachers are leaving the sector before retirement than five years ago. This underlines just how important it is to invest in leadership development, as this helps to retain more school leaders.

Both Teaching Leaders and Future Leaders develop high potential individuals to become strong and capable leaders in their schools. The programmes are selective and are open to primary and secondary teachers.

Teaching Leaders is a two-year programme which helps schools to retain and develop high-potential staff participants. As a result, when participants return to their schools they are able to help improve pupil outcomes in the key areas of reading, writing and maths and close achievement gaps for disadvantaged children. Participants learn through coaching, mentoring and online lessons. Critically, they are able to put their new skills and learning into practice through an impact initiative. This project sets out how the participant proposed to increase pupil attainment across their area of responsibility. Researchers looked at 100 impact initiatives while carrying out the evaluation.

Future Leaders is an intensive two-year leadership development programme for talented individuals who are committed to becoming a headteacher of a school in challenging contexts within two to three years. Participants are supported at every step of this accelerated programme and receive tailored career guidance. Those participating in Future Leaders learn through ongoing mentoring and coaching, and have the opportunity to visit exemplary schools across England. Participants harness the power of Ambition’s network of experienced coaches, facilitators and alumnus to put their new skills and learning into practice.

Researcher used a wide range of methods to gather their findings, including telephone interviews, online surveys, analysis of school performance, participants’ progress and information from the School Workforce Census and the National Pupil Database.

Other key findings in the evaluations include:

  • 86% of Teaching Leaders participants remained in teaching after completing the programme, compared to 77% of similar teacher
  •  76% of Teaching Leaders participants scored their likelihood to recommend the programme to other teachers at eight out of 10 or higher
  •  Future Leaders participants are more likely to move into a senior leadership role and more quickly than similar teachers that don’t join the programme
  • Analysis of 100 impact initiative forms provides some evidence that Future Leaders’ leadership in schools is contributing to the achievement of better outcomes for pupils.

Since 2008, Ambition School Leadership and its legacy charities have trained more than 600 Future Leaders and 2,600 middle leaders working in schools in challenging contexts. Our latest cohort of participants will begin their leadership journeys this month.


The evaluations are available in full on the National College for Teaching and Leadership’s website:

Teaching Leaders: High Potential Middle Leader programmes evaluation

Future Leaders: High Potential Senior Leaders programme evaluation