Who are we and why do we do things we do?

Ten years ago, someone said, '... you go around lighting up learning'.

It stuck.

Described as catalysts, we seek to support leaders and teachers to make the changes they want and need to ensure the young people of today become the adults of tomorrow: the articulate, confident, free-thinking global leaders they need to become.


Why affect change?

This sounds grand, but the time to rethink education is now. We need to move away from today's revolution against policy and seek to evolve education through cultural change over time. As an organisation, we strive to combine experience, research and theory to enable schools to represent the broad and rich communities they are part of.

As a group of practising teachers and leaders, we work on the ground in classrooms, staff rooms and boardrooms to affect practice and policy both in the UK and overseas. Having worked internationally, we have a unique worldview of education and we seek to bring this learning throughout what we do. It is important to understand that we do not make the change; we are not a SWOT team. We help affect change on the ground by working alongside people in schools, trusts and charities for the long haul. We mark our success when we are no longer needed; evolution takes time.


How do we affect change?

As an organisation, we are relentlessly curious about the people, places and stories relevant to the local communities we work within. It’s about making learning and leadership relevant by looking at how the world is represented throughout time. We regularly work behind the scenes and stand on the sidelines, watching and listening. We have deep discussions with leaders when challenges arise. Our independence and neutrality could be seen as silence on pertinent issues facing our society today; this is not the case. We choose when to be provocateurs by actively staying connected to the agendas that affect the communities we work with. We are active without being activists and this is how we are able to work with schools with 80 to 800 learners, from calm, rural, mixed-aged village schools to large, intense urban academies. We watch, listen, think, review and reflect on how existing and emerging agendas might affect longitudinal cultural change. And we can do this because we don’t force ourselves to take a position on a single agenda. We work globally as well as nationally. Nicholas has worked in over 20 countries and has affected whole country policy from changing the way teachers are trained in Colombia, to writing a coaching framework for leaders in Jamaica, Social Action Projects in Sri Lanka post Tsunami to creating Integrity Councils as part of Bangladesh's Anti-Corruption Act. As individuals, we are members of the British Education and Research Association, Chartered College of Teaching, subject associations and steering groups.

In terms of our public voice, we tend to live vicariously through the voices of others, predominantly through Twitter, by promoting and championing change. We regularly retweet the work of others as a way of demonstrating our support and involvement and avoid championing agendas that can be linked to individuals.

Our work is subtle and considered. We create catalytic frameworks for others to add their own content using research, theory, empirical evidence and experience so leaders and teachers can make informed decisions. Curious-city is a prime example of this with representation, addressing the past, present and future. We weave in opportunities to address some of the most challenging issues of our time, including homelessness, gender and heritage. We do this through the threads of ‘faith, community and culture’ that bind enquiries together, and enable schools to engage in a broad range of issues with added room and space to concentrate on what matters to them. They make the decisions to dial up and down certain agendas to match the needs of their communities, not what we say they should.

We also work with ‘non-schools’. We were commissioned by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to create a nationwide learning programme and are currently working with the newly formed League of Animals (the education arm of the League Against Cruel Sports) to create a new learning space to promote conservation and animal welfare.


Lighting up Learning stands for what our name embodies, and our primary job, our core purpose, is to empower others to interpret the moment, embrace local opportunities and capitalise on the faith, community and culture that they are steeped in. This means that we’re in it for the long haul, because we ‘change the way people think about leading and learning’.