As a purpose-driven entrepreneur and a father to three children, I’m proud to have played a part in several movements to drive positive, sustainable changes within communities.
First and foremost, my experience in the education sector has left me with a firm belief in the importance of reflective practice and in sharing knowledge; progress happens more quickly when we collaborate and learn from each others’ experiences. Below, I’ll endeavour to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learnt over the past 20 years, in the hope that they might inspire or motivate readers.
Lessons from Teach First
I took my first leap into leadership in 2002, when I founded the charity Teach First to help tackle education inequality in the UK. This was a very immediate response to the entrenched problems I was seeing at the time in London’s schools – I started out with just 11 employees and a belief that I could make a difference.
This unshakeable conviction attracted some incredibly talented and committed social innovators and educators, including colleagues, supporters, advisors and, most importantly thousands of fantastic teachers and school leaders. Together we transformed Teach First into a national movement. By supporting talented graduates to kick-start an impactful career in education, and through extensive work with schools and students, Teach First has positively impacted the life chances of over a million young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The process of growing my idea from a small London pilot into the nations’ largest graduate recruiter taught me that no problem worth solving is going to be easy. To make a real impact, 9 out of 10 times you are going to need to seriously shake up the status quo – and that’s not always going to make you the most popular person. Staying true to your mission in the face of obstacles and opposition requires bravery and self-belief; two important qualities for leaders.
My experiences with Teach First also reinforced my belief that if we want to see a more equitable, healthier society, we need to empower people with the skills and tools they need to thrive. This is the philosophy that underpins my new initiative, tiney, which focuses on community-level empowerment in the pursuit of an early years education transformation.
Why starting small is the key to huge impact
I launched tiney in 2019 as a solution to the childcare and early years education crisis that I could see first hand is heavily impacting families across the UK and the world.
When you look at the data, it’s shocking how few affordable childcare places exist. Parents are struggling to find a nursery or childminder that suits their needs and their budgets, and even where capacity exists, the quality of education provision is often far below the standard that children ought to be receiving at this crucial life stage.
This current status quo isn’t just holding back the academic and social development of a generation of children, it’s putting a huge strain on parents and often preventing them from reentering the workforce.
Being able to afford excellent care and education for your children should be a right, not a privilege. This is why tiney is empowering hundreds of entrepreneurs to retrain as early years educators and launch their own tiney home nurseries.
Tiney delivers the best-in-class digital training and end-to-end support to every one of our nursery owners – from lesson planning to billing and safeguarding compliance.
We’re already well on our way to establishing a national network of highly skilled local childminders, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see some of the country’s brightest and best talents elevating the quality and status of a career in the childcare sector.
Each of the tiney home nurseries is small in scale, and serving the youngest members of society. But collectively, their impact on their local communities and on children’s lives is huge.
Tiney is enabling the next generation to thrive. Creating the foundations for equal, bright futures for our children is what drives me through the highs and lows of leadership.