Developing teachers and leaders with Ambition Institute


I’m really excited to introduce a new organisation to the Fair Education Alliance: Ambition Institute.

We brought together Ambition School Leadership – a long-standing member of the FEA – and the Institute for Teaching back in September 2018, forming a new organisation dedicated to helping educators serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds to keep getting better.

I am so proud to be leading this brand new organisation and I’m excited to start addressing the biggest challenge (and opportunity) in the sector: educator development.

The school community has played an important part in the development of Ambition Institute and their insight into what they want when developing teachers and leaders has been invaluable. We’ve listened to their needs, reflected on our own experience from years of educator development, and drawn on the best evidence to make sure that our organisation can have the impact we need it to have.

That’s why we created a graduate school for teachers, school leaders and system leaders.

We are combining the academic rigour of a traditional university with the essential classroom connection of a teaching school, all underpinned by the social purpose of a charity. And this social purpose – our mission and vision – is the bedrock on which Ambition Institute has been built.

In common with every member of the FEA, we want an education system where every child can thrive, no matter what their background. Our own programmes are our principal route to delivering this – supporting educators at every level to keep getting better – but our membership of the FEA is also crucial.

By working in partnership with like-minded charities, businesses and government bodies, we can reach our goal sooner. That’s why we’re proud to be leading on one of the FEA’s priorities for this year: world class teachers and transformative leaders for all UK schools, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas.

we’re proud to be leading on one of the FEA’s priorities for this year: world class teachers and transformative leaders for all UK schools, particularly in the most disadvantaged areas

We know that recruiting and retaining great teachers and leaders is huge challenge for schools, especially those in challenging contexts. Educator development is the key lever to addressing this.

The Department for Education’s Recruitment and Retention Strategy adopted this approach this with the introduction of the early career framework; directly responding to the high attrition rates of teachers in the first five years of their careers with more strategic support and development to keep them in the classroom – and to keep getting better.

As a coalition, we can help to mobilise the reforms in the DfE’s strategy, and take them further; reaching into our extensive networks of frontline educators to support the development of a world-class teaching workforce.

This is no mean feat in the current climate. I have spoken about the need for development providers to recognise the tough budget decisions school leaders need to make every day. CPD and investment in staff, including their wellbeing, can be the first casualty of this financial climate.

I believe one important role this coalition can play is to build the business case for educator development, giving schools the evidence they need to protect, and prioritise, funding for continually developing their staff.

We can also use our collective voice to influence the quality standards of development provision: using our view across the sector to identify the programmes and providers which evidence the greatest impact on pupil outcomes, and signposting these to schools in our networks.

Finally, we can use our reach to fly the flag for educator development, and celebrate the schools and systems which are leading the way in this area to the benefit of the pupils they serve.

Schools that prioritise professional development are beacons for educators at all levels, attracting and retaining talented teachers and leaders who are passionate about giving pupils the best. We need to make sure that these beacons can be found across the country, in all communities, reaching pupils from all backgrounds. This is what Ambition Institute has set out to achieve, and it is a goal we will reach more quickly in coalition with our fellow FEA members.


Melanie Renowden is Interim CEO of Ambition Institute.

She has worked for nearly 25 years in education in the public and voluntary sectors. Before joining Ambition in 2011, she was Education Director at Business in the Community and Head of ‘Science Year’, a DfE STEM programme for schools. She is a former trustee of Teach First and is currently trustee of a primary multi academy trust.



FEA response to Selective Schools Expansion Fund

The Fair Education Alliance condemns the Government’s decision to launch another round of the Selective Schools Expansion Fund and argues the £50 million would be better invested in comprehensive education and teacher training.

Sam Butters CEO of Fair Education Alliance said:

It is deeply disappointing to see that the Government is yet again pushing for the expansion of selective schools, which have been shown and time again to have a negative impact on social mobility.

We need to be investing in the education of all young people, not siphoning off a select few. If we invested the same time and resources into comprehensive education we could improve outcomes for all children.

Research by the Education Policy Institute, the Sutton Trust and other has shown that selective education has a negative impact on social mobility, and that pupils who attend grammar schools do no better than similar pupils in high performing comprehensives.

The Alliance calls for the £50 million fund to be invested in comprehensive education and programmes that are proven to have an impact on the lives of the most disadvantaged young people. Its coalition of over 100 leading education organisations identified three priorities for investment, including developing teachers and leaders serving disadvantaged communities, and providing disadvantaged children with a rounded education that focuses on character and social and emotional skills as well as academic attainment.

FEA response to SoS's speech on character education

The Fair Education Alliance urges DfE to tackle financial and accountability barriers to character education.

Schools in disadvantaged areas must have the resources they need to provide their students with a rounded education.

Sam Butters CEO of Fair Education Alliance said:

We warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s speech today on character education, particularly the emphasis on access for disadvantaged pupils inside and outside the school walls, but the DfE must tackle the financial and accountability barriers schools face in providing character-building opportunities to their students.

We have campaigned strongly on the benefits of rounded education and an education system that develops the whole child, and I invite the DfE to work with our coalition of organisations representing all five of the Minister’s foundations of character, including the Youth Sports Trust, Children’s University, Voice21, Step Up To Serve, and Young Enterprise in developing these plans further.

The Fair Education Alliance welcomes the Secretary of State’s speech on the value of education beyond academic attainment, but urges the DfE to also ensure they are tackling the financial and accountability barriers which are preventing schools offering this.

Social and emotional skills like character and resilience are vital for succeeding in school and in life, and the Fair Education Alliance is committed to ensuring disadvantaged students get the same life chances as their peers.

Many schools want to provide access to sport, creativity, performing, and volunteering opportunities for their pupils, but budget cuts in schools and communities coupled with high stakes accountability focused on exam results have led to tough decisions about what they can offer.

Many of the FEA’s member organisations are the providers of the types of activity that the Minister has outlined; sport, creativity, performing, volunteering and membership. Sam says “The more young people who can access this type of provision the more we can close gaps in outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, but this will only be possible if there is the funding and incentives to make this a reality.”

The FEA’s coalition of school leaders, parents, wellbeing experts, and skills organisations  is gathering case studies and evidence of effective interventions and will develop toolkits of resources with practical advice for schools on how to implement best practice and information about organisations that can offer them support.

FEA response to latest UCAS data

UCAS’ latest data, released today, shows that disadvantaged students are 15 times less likely to go to a top university than their more advantaged peers, and nearly half as likely to go to university at all.

Fair Education Alliance CEO, Sam Butters, said:

These are shocking statistics. University education continues to be a requirement for many jobs, so it is incredibly disappointing that disadvantaged students are still not getting the same life chances as their more privileged peers.

The Fair Education Alliance is committed to closing this gap and ensuring no student’s success is limited by their background. Ensuring disadvantaged students have the information and opportunities they need to make post-16 decisions that are right for them is one of our three priorities, and we are pleased to be working with UCAS and others in achieving this.

Technical Note

This year’s data uses different equality characteristics than those used in previous years. Under the old measurements, included in the FEA’s 2018 Report Card, disadvantaged students were 10 times less likely to attend higher tariff universities in 2017. Under the new measure the equivalent figure for 2017 is 14.6 times.

FEA recommendations included in DfE Recruitment and Retention Strategy

The strategy is a welcome step and success will come from collaboration beyond government.

The Fair Education Alliance’s recommendations to improve teacher recruitment and retention through measures on accountability, school culture, and teacher career development have been included in the Department for Education’s new Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy and Early Career Framework. The strategy was developed in collaboration with FEA members including NAHT, the Chartered College of Teaching, Ambition School Leadership, and Teach First.

The DfE’s strategy, published today, outlines plans to reduce teacher workloads, simplify accountability measures, and provide more support for early stage teachers to make teaching a more attractive career path.

Sam Butters, CEO of Fair Education Alliance, said:

Recruiting and retaining teachers, particularly in disadvantaged communities is one of our three Fair Education Alliance priorities to improve education for disadvantaged young people so we are thrilled to see the Department for Education strategy today. More importantly, the commitment to working in partnership with organisations from the FEA and beyond to make the changes is critical. No government, organisation or even sector can achieve these ambitious changes alone. Previous attempts at this have failed and we are now at crisis point so we need everyone on board and working together, not against each other to finally make the changes needed. Our members look forward to continuing to work with the Department to implement its strategy.

In its report in September last year, the FEA pushed for renewed focus and investment and commitment on leadership, CPD, and wellbeing in schools in order to address the crisis in recruitment and retention, specifically calling for the government to support and empower teachers and leaders to reduce and manage workloads, remove high-stakes accountability measures, and ensure that teaching is a rewarding and attractive career pathway.

The FEA is spreading best practice in training and retention, developing resources with practical advice on how to implement best practice, and signposting organisations that can offer support to schools.

The new strategy was developed in partnership with Ambition School Leadership and the Institute for Teaching, Teach First, the Chartered College of Teaching, and the Teacher Development Trust, all leading members of the FEA’s working group on teacher leadership, CPD, and wellbeing. The working group will continue to collaborate with the DfE as the strategy begins to be rolled out.

Great teaching is one of the most well-evidenced interventions that can be made to improve educational outcomes, but teachers are leaving schools at the same rate they join, whilst pupil numbers are rising significantly. Research by the Nuffield Foundation has found that schools in areas with higher levels of deprivation are more likely to struggle to attract teachers.