Leading Thinkers

The National Education Trust’s group of Leading Thinkers is drawn from a variety of educational contexts. They offer the Trust a broad range of opinion, challenge and support, helping the Director and Trustees to develop the NET mission. Leading Thinkers comment regularly for this website on national policy and practice, and collectively make an important contribution to our activities, nationally and internationally. Their written contributions can be found within the NET Blog, or the Blog Archive.

Learn Who Our Leading Thinkers Are

Kate Atkins has been teaching in Lambeth for nearly 20 years. She is an Early Years expert and has worked at Rosendale Primary School, a three form entry school with a Children’s Centre, for 9 years, the last 2 years as Head of School. The school is bursting with innovation – housing its library in a double decker London bus, broadcasting a weekly radio show and developing a system of learning that sees children working independently assessing their own learning and publishing to a world-wide audience.

Dr Maggie Atkinson is Chair of ‘A New Direction’. She was Children’s Commissioner for England 2010 – 2015 and had a 30-year career working with and in the interests of children and young people. Maggie graduated from Cambridge with a degree in History in 1978 and went on to get her PGCE from the University of Sheffield. In 2008 she gained a Doctorate in Education from the University of Keele and in 2010 received an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Laws from Northumbria University. She was Director of Children’s Services in Gateshead, leading multiple professions and disciplines and 88 partner schools. On the national stage Maggie has been: President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services; Chair of the multi-agency Centre for Excellence in Outcomes; Chair of the Children and Young People’s Workforce National Partnership; Member of the Cultural Learning Alliance’s Advisory Group on Creative Education.

Keith Bartley was recently Chief Executive, Department of Education and Children’s Services, South Australia. He was formerly Chief Executive of the General Teaching Council for England. He taught for 13 years before taking responsibility for In-Service Education and Training in Northamptonshire. After a spell as Director of Education in Rutland, he became an HMI and, subsequently, a manager in the LEA Inspection division of Ofsted. From there he joined Oxfordshire County Council, initially as Director for Learning & Culture and then as Director for Children, Young People & Families.

Geoff Barton has worked in a number of comprehensive schools in different parts of the country, and is Headteacher of King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds. He writes and speaks on leadership, literacy and self-evaluation. He has written more than 50 textbooks and numerous articles in the education press. www.geoffbarton.co.uk

Professor Derek Bell was formerly Head of Education at the Wellcome Trust, having been Chief Executive of the Association for Science Education for seven years. He has extensive experience of teaching and learning in schools and higher education, science education research and curriculum development. He has carried out a wide range of consultancies in the UK and overseas and been a member of advisory / expert panels.

Mervyn Benford has worked for more than 45 years in education as teacher, small school headteacher, LEA and OFSTED inspector, and most recently advising Swedish schools on school-based self-evaluation using lesson observation and feedback. He served for eight years on Oxfordshire’s Education Committee and many years working for his professional association. By profession a primary teacher, he works in Sweden across the 1 to 19 age range. His work has consistently involved being in schools and classrooms..

Liz Bramley has worked in Stockton since 2007 when she became the Head Teacher of Oakdene Primary School. She has led Oakdene on a very successful pathway and as a result has achieved many awards to evidence this success including Artsmark Gold, Investors In People Gold and Inclusion Quality Mark Gold. Oakdene was judged as outstanding in all areas by OFSTED in March 2013. Liz is absolutely committed to partnership working believing that it is through such ways of working that children benefit. She is a great believer in sharing good practice and developing good practice networks. Oakdene has a ‘first class curriculum’ and shares practice nationally as a Curriculum Advocate School for the National College and a National Education Trust Advocacy School. Liz is also a National Leader of Education.

Peter Callow works with schools internationally and was previously Director of Inspections for Tribal. He has a very wide range of experience in education including as a teacher, headteacher, local authority adviser, consultant for the National College and as an inspector working for Tribal. He has held senior posts as School Improvement Leader and Interim Head of Service within a Children, Young People and Families Directorate.

Mike Cladingbowl is the Executive Principal of Knutsford Multi-Academy Trust, joining in early 2015. He began teaching in 1987 and was the head teacher of a successful secondary school in Cheshire before being appointed as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors in 2002. His senior posts at Ofsted included Regional Director North, National Director, Schools, and National Director, Education Inspection Reform. He is known nationally for his work in Ofsted and has worked with the most senior figures in English education.

Rebecca Clark is Oasis National Director. She was just 31 and the youngest secondary headteacher in the country when she became Principal of Oasis Academy John Williams in January 2009. Under her leadership both standards and culture were transformed. Part of the Oasis family of schools, Rebecca was then appointed as the Regional Academy Director for Oasis Academies in the Bristol and West region. Rebecca has a keen interest in the application of systems thinking to education, and is engaged in current research as a member of the Centre for Systems Learning and Leadership at the University of Bristol. She is a regional leader for PiXL.

Dame Sally Coates is Director of Academies (South) for United Learning. She was recently Principal of Burlington Danes Academy, an outstanding 11 – 18 Ark Academy in Hammersmith & Fulham. She was acting as Executive Principal at Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton until July 2012. Sally was previously Head of Sacred Heart School, an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ VA school in Camberwell. Sally chaired The Review of the ‘Teaching Standards’ and the Skills Test Review. She also served as a member of the Key Stage 2 Test Review Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Bew. Sally was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2012 New Years’ Honours List.

Dr Kevan Collins has worked in public service for thirty years and became the first Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) Chief Executive in October 2011, having previously been Chief Executive in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The EEF is a grant-making education charity dedicated to challenging educational disadvantage, sharing evidence and finding out what works in education. Prior to this role he led a distinguished career in education – starting off as a primary school teacher, leading the National Primary Strategy as National Director, and then serving as Director of Children’s Services at Tower Hamlets. Kevan also gained international experience working in Mozambique and supporting the development of a national literacy initiative in the USA. He completed his doctorate focusing on literacy development at Leeds University in 2005.

Colm Cregan is a Principal Inspector with Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau in the UAE, with core responsibility for underperforming schools. He leads inspections across all curricula in Dubai. Having taught and led in Irish primary schools, he was appointed National Coordinator for Leadership Development for Schools for the Irish Government. He became a School Inspector in 2000. He has inspected over 300 schools internationally and advised education ministries in several countries. A qualified teacher and principal, he has qualifications in languages and educational management.

Dr John Dunford is chair of Whole Education, having served as general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (formerly the Secondary Heads Association). He taught mathematics in secondary schools in Nottingham, Sunderland and Durham, before becoming head of Durham Johnston Comprehensive School in 1982. He is a trustee of Teach First and on the boards of Future Leaders and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

Dr Tony Eaude was headteacher of a multi-cultural Church-Aided first school from 1989-1998 before completing a doctorate. Details of his current work as an independent research consultant can be seen on www.edperspectives.org.uk. Among his areas of interest and expertise are action-research, minority ethnic achievement and young children’s learning, especially their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. He has published widely for academic and teacher audiences and continues to teach at different levels from primary school to MA students. His book ‘Children’s Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development – Primary and Early Years’ is now in its second edition and ‘Thinking Through Pedagogy: Primary and Early Years’ was published in 2011.

Roy Evans is Chair of Slough & Eton CofE School governors. As a consultant he is engaged by Local Authorities to support governor development programmes and bring about rapid improvement in governing bodies that are judged to be unsatisfactory or simply ‘coasting’. He is the author of the NET publication ‘Who Governs Our Schools’, and is a regular speaker at NET events and at national and regional conferences of governors and others directly involved in education. His early career was in manufacturing management, including posts at Board level. He subsequently spent 19 years in the consultancy practice of Price Waterhouse, including 12 years as a partner. His experience in industry and commerce helps him to form a critical and constructive view on leadership and management in schools and to advise on tailored and innovative structures and procedures to ensure that governors fulfil their strategic role in challenge, probity and school improvement.

Professor Deborah Eyre was recently Education Director for Nord Anglia. She was a Professor of Education at the University of Warwick and was the Director of the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth. She is a world renowned expert in the education of very able pupils, and has a long standing interest helping children and young people of all abilities to maximise their educational potential. She has extensive educational interests in the Middle East. Deborah is Vice President of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, an Advisory Board Member of the Centre for Talented Youth, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, a Director of the Inspiring Futures Foundation, Governor of Kingshurst City Technology College, Birmingham and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. She is founding co-director of www.internationaleducationtrust.net

High Performance Learning18 January 2016 NET Leading Thinker Professor Deborah Eyre launches High Performance Learning. High Performance Learning helps schools move from good to world class by focusing on pedagogy and helping students develop the competencies they need for academic, workplace and lifetime success. www.highperformancelearning.co.uk

Malcolm Groves is a founder and joint Managing Director of Schools of Tomorrow, a new organisation of school leaders committed to ‘redefining outstanding’. His own established consultancy specialises in research, evaluation and quality assurance, particularly in areas bridging the divide between formal and informal education. He was previously Senior Adviser to the Specialist Schools Trust, OFSTED inspector, LA inspector for community education, deputy head, youth worker and adult educator. He is currently a part-time doctorate researcher in school leadership at Warwick University.

Dr Neil Hawkes is transforming education through his focus on Values-based Education. His engaging philosophy and practice can now be seen in numerous countries. For instance, Australia has embraced many of Neil’s ideas as have Sweden, Holland, Iceland, Norway, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK. Values Education has been the focus of a comprehensive research project at Newcastle University (NSW), which has concluded that values-based schools improve academic diligence, nurture relational trust, pupil agency, values awareness and make schools great places to be. Neil is Founder of the International Values Education Trust. As an inspiring speaker, Neil is in great demand worldwide. The range of his quality work and contact details are on  www.valuesbasededucation.com. Read a Values Education Newsletter

Steve Higgins is Professor of Education at Durham University. A former primary school teacher, he has a particular interest in the use of research evidence by teachers in schools. He developed the ‘Teaching and Learning Toolkit’ with colleagues at Durham and with the support of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation. He also researches the use of digital technologies in schools and other approaches to developing pupils thinking and learning.

Sue Higgins has worked for 30 years in London comprehensive schools, including a secondment as a teacher trainer. She is in her second headship at Parliament Hill School, Camden. The school has won many awards and accolades especially its collaborative CPD work. She is a National Leader in Education, Programme Leader for London Leadership Strategy, Senior Partner for Challenge Partners, AMGS Committee member.

Russell Hobby is general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers. NAHT is the largest union for school leaders in the UK, representing over 28,500 members in every phase of education. Before taking up this post in 2010, Russell worked as a management consultant and in the software industry. Russell is also a trustee of the Brilliant Club, Teaching Leaders and the Teacher Development Trust. He is a member of the advisory board of Future Leaders, the management board for NAHT Edge and the Independent State School Partnership forum.

Guy Holloway is the co-founder and headmaster of Hampton Court House, an independent school for 3 to 18 year olds. HCH is a UNESCO associate school and the only school in the UK to be granted ‘Institut Français’ status by the French government for its commitment to French language and culture. Guy is a lecturer at the Institute of Education’s London Centre for Leadership in Learning, a Fellow of the RSA, and a regular contributor to education debate in the media. Guy is a patron of the children’s charity Their Future Today.

Peter Hyman is co-founder and Executive Headteacher of School 21, a 4 to 18 school which opened in Stratford, East London in September 2012. The school provides an innovative curriculum and pedagogy to prepare children for success in the 21st century. Peter was Deputy Headteacher at Greenford High School in Southall, West London where as Head of Teaching and Learning he helped secure a 19% rise in GCSE results and an outstanding Ofsted report in a school where the majority of children have English as a Second Language and nearly 30% are on Free School Meals. In 2003, following nine years as a strategist to Tony Blair, he left to become a teaching assistant in a challenging Islington school and wrote 1 out of 10, a book about the contrast between vision and reality.

Kevin Jones has been Head of St John’s College School, a leading independent Prep and Choir school, since 1990. Before that, he was Deputy Head of the Yehudi Menuhin School, having previously taught the English Tripos at Cambridge University as a postgraduate after taking a First in English at Caius College, Cambridge.

Brian Lightman was General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders from 2010 -2016. Brian was headteacher of St Cyres School – a large, mixed 11-18 comprehensive in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan from 1999-2010. He taught modern foreign languages for 16 years in three comprehensive schools in the South East of England before becoming headteacher of Llantwit Major School in 1995. Brian’s broad experience within the English and Welsh education systems includes extensive representation on UK and Welsh Assembly Government Committees, being an external examiner and an Estyn inspector. www.lightmanconsulting.co.uk

Ali Mawle is Director of Education at Cheltenham Festivals. Previously she worked as Head of Schools at the National Gallery in London, with responsibility for the on-site, outreach and on-line programme for primary and secondary pupils and their teachers. This included national programmes such as Take One Picture and its new sister programme, Take One…, which is delivered by regional museums, galleries and archives. Ali has also previously worked in primary schools as a teacher, literacy consultant and deputy Head Teacher, and in Initial Teacher Education. Before that she was Schools Officer at Dulwich Picture Gallery. She is passionate about creative teaching and learning, and the crucial role of the arts in education.

Paul McAteer is Headteacher of Slough and Eton Church of England Business and Enterprise College in Slough. Prior to this Paul was Headteacher of Langleywood School in Slough which he helped to take out of Special Measures before it was closed to become an Academy. Paul’s career has been spent in eight schools in London, Surrey and Slough all of which have had very challenging communities. He strongly believes that schools working in collaboration can have a very positive impact in helping to close the achievement gap. Paul’s background in school improvement, grounded in the day to day experiences of the challenges that young people and school’s face, can provide sound advice for others.

Helena Mills joined Burnt Mill School as Headteacher in January 2010 having taught and led in East London where she lives, and has led the rapid improvement of the school, judged in November 2012 to be outstanding in all categories. Helena led Burnt Mill through its conversion to an Academy in December 2011. Since September 2013 she has also been the CEO of BMAT, a small academy co-operative trust of 6 schools. In July 2013 Helena became a National Leader of Education, supporting a range of Headteachers both nationally and locally. Helena is also a qualified additional inspector for Ofsted, trained to inspect both primary and secondary. In November 2014 Helena became a DfE designated pupil premium reviewer.

Estelle Morris, Baroness Morris of Yardley started her career in education as a teacher in an inner city multi racial comprehensive school where she taught for 18 years. In 1992 she entered Parliament and in 2001 became the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. She followed this with 2 years as a Minister at the Department of Culture Media and Sport and left Parliament in 2005. Since then she has combined a career that includes senior posts both in education and the arts as well as being a member of the House of Lords. She is a trustee of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and The Roundhouse and Chair of the National Coal Mining Museum. Estelle’s roles in education have allowed her to see the education landscape from classroom teacher to senior policy maker and it is this breadth of experience that is now reflected in her comments and analysis of education. Amongst other posts she now works at the Institute of Effective Education at the University of York which aims to transform the relationship between education research and practice so that policy making and teaching can become more evidence based. She is a regular contributor to Guardian Education.

Anne Nelson is an Early Years Specialist. She has a wide range of experience as an early years teacher, a primary head and as a local authority adviser. She worked as a school improvement adviser in primary, secondary and special schools. She became head of Early Years and childcare in Coventry. She was Chief Executive of the British Association for Early Childhood Education (Early Education) until March 2009. Anne is currently involved in working with local authorities on projects to improve quality in the Early Years; mentoring senior staff in Children’s Centres and chairing Oxfordshire’s EYDCP and Parenting Strategy Group. She is a trustee of the Centre for Research in Early Childhood in Birmingham and a director of WEAVE, a company promoting the reuse and recycling of discarded materials from local businesses involving artists and educators exploring opportunities for creative learning.

Jarlath O’Brien is Headteacher of Carwarden House Community School, an 11-19 special academy in Surrey. Jarlath has worked in a comprehensive school, a selective independent school and in special schools for students with needs ranging from social, emotional and behavioural difficulties to profound and multiple learning difficulties. Jarlath and his colleagues are pioneering a collaboration between Carwarden House and the internationally renowned independent school Wellington College.

John Retallack is a writer and theatre director – he was Artistic Director of Oxford Stage Company from 1989-1999. From 2001-11, he was the founding director of the London-based Company of Angels which continues to produce new and experimental work for young audiences. Five of his plays for Company of Angels are published by Oberon Books. He is now Tutor in Writing for Performance at Ruskin College, Oxford. Current work includes a new adaptation of Albert Camus’ The Outsider for Radio 3, and his new play Arlo for Radio 4. 

Marva Rollins is the Headteacher of Raynham Primary School, a large Primary School and Children’s Centre in North London. She is in her 15th year of headship. Her main focus is ensuring her pupils are excited about learning in a secure, safe environment. Raynham Primary school was mentioned by Beverly Hughes MP, Minister for Children and Young Families in July 2008 as one that was making a huge difference in the lives of young people. Marva is an experienced trainer and conference presenter. She is a firm believer in succession preparation and is one of the lead facilitators on LCLL Investing in Diversity and Equal Access to promotion. Marva was the recipient of The Windrush Award in 2004 for her contribution to Education and the Community, and featured in the Evening Standard’s 1000 most influential People in London in 2008.

Julie Slater is Chief Executive of Outwood Institute of Education (OIE), Executive Principal for Outwood Grange Academies Trust, and a National Leader of Education. She has a proven track record of leading an ‘Outstanding’ school as Principal at Outwood Grange Academy and has considerable experience of working in schools placed in Ofsted categories across both primary and secondary phases. Julie has recently been co-opted onto the National Teaching School Council to drive forward the school-led system.

Kathryn Solly began as a secondary school teacher on Voluntary Service Overseas in Papua New Guinea. Having taught all phases, she has a special needs qualification and an M.A. in Early Education and Care. She was the Headteacher of Chelsea Open Air Nursery School and Children’s Centre for nearly 17 years, and is a passionate early years specialist. Having been awarded the Unilever Fellowship in 2003 to research aspects of Early Years Leadership and Management, she also enjoyed a Best Practice Research Scholarship 2004 about the more able child. She recently retired in order to complete her first book Risk, Challenge and Adventure in the Early Years. Kathryn is a Fellow of the RSA and an experienced trainer and public speaker.

Rob Stokoe is Director of Jumeirah English Speaking Schools, Dubai. With 25 years leadership experience including Primary, Secondary and a five year spell with the University of Sunderland it’s fair to say that Rob’s career has been varied. He has had the privilege of working with and alongside many gifted and dedicated educationalists. Adding in inspection and evaluation work with OFSTED and the International Baccalaureate, as well as 13 years leading a highly regarded International School. Writing and working alongside the government authorities within Dubai and the UAE is adding another context for positive influence at this point in his career.

Dr Tessa Stone is the Chief Executive of Farms for City Children, the education charity founded in 1976 by Michael Morpurgo and his wife Clare to offer urban children from all over the country a unique opportunity to live and work together for a week at a time on a real farm in the heart of the countryside. This is the first time she has had the opportunity to team farming with education, having previously spent six years as Chief Exec of the mentoring charity Brightside, and six years as the Director of the Sutton Trust. Before moving to Devon last September she was a governor of several schools and trustee of several charities, and remains the founding Chair of the Bridge Group, a charity focusing on social mobility policy.

Dr Nick Tate was recently Chairman of International Education Systems (IES). He taught in schools and colleges of education in England and Scotland, and with the Open University, before joining the National Curriculum Council in 1989. From 1989 to 2000 he worked for a succession of national educational bodies, finishing as chief executive successively of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (1994-1997) and of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (1997-2000). From 2000-2003 he was Headmaster of Winchester College. From 2003 t0 2011 he was Director-General of the International School of Geneva, the world’s largest international school. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of civil law by the University of Huddersfield in 1999, and appointed CBE in 2001.

Dr Bernard Trafford took over the headship of the independent Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, in September 2008 following 18 years as Head of Wolverhampton Grammar School. He was Chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) in 2007-9. Bernard is an advocate of school democracy (the focus of his doctoral research carried out while a head): he writes, speaks widely and has advised government on that, and on school/ student councils, participation and broader educational and leadership issues. In 2007 he co-authored a manual on Democratic Governance of Schools for the Council of Europe.

James Turner, Director, Programmes and Partnerships, Sutton Trust, leads on the delivery of the Sutton Trust’s programmes, which range from the early years through primary and secondary schooling, to access to university and the professions. James led the Trust’s bid to government for the £135m Education Endowment Foundation, and undertook the role of interim Chief Executive, overseeing the set up of the new EEF charity, its infrastructure and grant-making processes. James is now a trustee of the EEF, and also sits on the board of educational charities PRIME, The Brilliant Club and accessprofessions.com. He is also one of the founder directors of The Children’s University which aims to raise aspirations for 7-14 year olds from low income homes. James read English at Cambridge.

Spokey Wheeler’s international school leadership career includes three secondary headships, taking an inner London school out of special measures, and setting up the first English fast-track Academy. Beyond school he was the architect of Youth at Risk’s flagship programme, ‘Coaching for Success’ and was ARK’s International Education Advisor, for ‘School Leaders India’. For three years he was the CEO of UM Gurukul, an Indian Education Company. He is based in Mumbai and is the Managing Partner of Bespoke Solutions, an international consultancy working with www.adhyayan.asia

Geoff Whitty is Director Emeritus at the London Institute of Education and Professor in the School of Management, Bath University. He was Director of the Institute of Education, University of London from 2000 – 2011. He taught in primary and secondary schools before lecturing in education at Bath University and King’s College London. He then held Chairs and senior management posts at Bristol Polytechnic and Goldsmiths College before joining the Institute as the Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education in 1992. Geoff Whitty was a specialist advisor to the House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee from 2005-10. In 2009, he was awarded the Lady Plowden Memorial Medal for outstanding services to education.

Kathy Wood MBE has successful experience as a teacher, headteacher, initial teacher trainer, OfSTED Inspector working in the UK and abroad, and as an external examiner for GTP initial teacher education programmes. From 1992 to 1998 she worked regularly as a consultant, leading education reform projects for UNICEF in Eastern Europe. Her extensive and successful experience of improving schools as a Headteacher has led to her designation as a National Leader in Education and an Additional Inspector; her school a National Support School. Kathy’s expertise in leading and managing change means she is actively involved in school improvement and coaching on a range of leadership programmes. Since 2004 she has been Headteacher of Hornbill School SCE in Brunei: the school follows the National Curriculum for England and serves children of Gurkha soldiers and other British military and civilian MOD personnel based in Brunei. In 2008, Kathy Wood received the MBE for services to education. Click to visit the Hornbill School web site.

Chris Yapp has 30 years experience in the IT industry, with over 20 years interest in IT and Learning. He writes, blogs and consults around technology futures and their social and economic impacts. He wrote and co-edited “Personalizing Learning in the 21st Century”. He is a patron of NACE. Click to visit Chris Yapp’s blog