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Les Walton CBE
Founding Director
Northern Education

The thinking behind the concept of an Institute of Education Advisers (IoEA) has been developing since the late 1990s. In 1996 Les took on the role of Director of Education within a Metropolitan Authority after headship within one of the first specialist technology colleges. During this period the Local Authority received Beacon Status for ‘tackling school failure’.

Following a request from the DfE to lead an intervention into a failing Local Authority after developing the concept of involving headteachers as advisers for the Authority Northern Education Associates (Northern Education) was established. Northern Education eventually became involved in leading a pilot for the national implementation of the ‘School Improvement Partner’. Subsequently, Northern Education began providing advisers to schools, academies and local authorities as well as the DfE and BIS with regard to school improvement, governance development, change management and organisational development. A core belief of Northern Education is the need for a total quality approach to school improvement.

Since 2000 Northern Education advisers have been brought in to address some of the most intractable issues in education, including supporting significant structural change within Local Authorities, FE Colleges and schools. Northern Education was one of the biggest UK providers for national contracts in relation to School Improvement Partners and National Challenge Advisers. Northern Education continues to be involved in innovating and challenging education initiatives. Northern Education instigated the establishment of Schools NorthEast and, most recently, was asked to lead the review of the ‘Trojan Horse Affair’ on behalf of Birmingham Council.

It is therefore understandable that Northern Education should support the development of an Institute of Education Advisers.  Since 2015 the thinking behind the IoEA has benefited from Northern Education’s extensive experience in assessing and recruiting experienced improvement specialists and matching them to the schools to achieve significant improvement. The concept has been refined and developed to the point when a pilot programme began in Autumn 2016.

In July 2009, Les was appointed by the Secretary of State for Education, as Chair of the Young People’s Committee within the Learning and Skills Council and Chair of the Young People’s Learning Agency which he held until 2012. Les currently chairs the National Chairs Advisory Group, the Advisory Group for the Education Funding Agency and the Northern Education Trust. He is a member of the Skills Funding Agency Board and the North East Council for the Chamber of Commerce.

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