Celebrating 10 years of school improvement


B11 Education has now been delivering exceptional quality school improvement support for 10 years and, to celebrate this milestone, our Managing Director spoke to Anthony Briggs, the founder of B11 Education, to find out how and why the company was established.


Q: What were the circumstances that inspired you to establish B11 Education 10 years ago?

A: I was in charge of the school improvement team of senior inspectors and we all felt very strongly that we could do more to support schools rather than merely judge them through Ofsted inspections. We each had years of experience of school improvement work as LA Advisers, consultants and of course as Ofsted Lead Inspectors. One afternoon in a hotel in Huddersfield we made the decision to leave our full-time inspection jobs and become school improvement consultants. I wanted to set up a company that could utilise the expertise of my team and other school improvement colleagues and support schools with all their school improvement work. This passion continues to this day. Over the first few years B11 grew exponentially. As our client base increased significantly, we expanded the size of the consultant team to over 35 specialist education consultants.


Q: What key issues did schools face at the time that were the foundation of the services B11 provides?

A: At that time, the Labour Government Academy Programme had focused mainly on converting underperforming schools with only a couple of high performing ‘outstanding’ academies. B11 set out to work with two of those outstanding schools: Greensward Academy and Outwood Grange Academy. Through their respective CEOs David Triggs (AET) and Michael Wilkins (Now Sir Michael) (OGAT), B11 fostered a partnership that developed as the two Academy Trusts grew in size and success.  B11 have enjoyed partnerships with these Trusts throughout the last 10 years. In 2010, the new Conservative led Government wanted to refocus the academy initiative so that it celebrated the most successful schools. Consequently, the support offered by B11 shifted to helping schools achieve the highest Ofsted ratings so that they could become an academy. School leaders were under incredible pressure to achieve the highest possible Ofsted outcomes. Very quickly B11 became a leading figure in school improvement nationwide. Our success at improving schools, so that they achieved positive inspection outcomes, became widely known across the country.


Q: How have those services developed and why?

A: Local authorities and academy trusts wanted to improve their quality assurance systems so that they knew exactly how well their schools were performing on all levels. B11 created a bespoke peer review model that combined the expertise of the B11 consultant with the skills of serving headteachers. This was before Ofsted encouraged serving teachers to become Ofsted inspectors. B11 trained headteachers in inspection skills and they joined review teams to produce developmental reviews of their partner schools within the trust or LA. The B11 developmental review model was so successful that several Academy Trusts and many Local Authorities engaged us to become the quality assurance arm of their service. Forward thinking Local Authorities such as: Rochdale, Bradford, Calderdale and Leeds saw the benefit of external partners and strong links between them and B11 were created. This had a significantly positive impact on school to school support. The training provided by B11 enabled school leaders to develop their inspection skills and become adept external evaluators.

As the academy initiative grew, B11 consultants became Education Advisers to the DfE. B11 secured a key contract with the DfE to provide expert advice and guidance through a team of Education Advisers. This meant that the skill set within B11 now benefited from Ofsted inspectors, recent HMI and current DfE Education Advisers. With the introduction of the Free Schools initiative, B11 consultants have also supported Trusts to ensure that their new schools are at the top of their game. For example, B11 consultants have worked with all of the Dixons Academy Trust Free Schools. CEO Sir Nick Weller has been a staunch supporter of B11 and we have enjoyed a partnership for the last 10 years.


Q: In the 10 years of B11 there have been many changes to the ways in which schools are supported and inspected. To what extent have these changes made leadership in education easier / more challenging?

A: School leadership could never be described as easy. On the plus side, it is also never boring! The teaching profession is probably the most adaptable profession there is. Every new Education Minister, Chief Inspector and Academy Trust CEO brings with them a range of significant changes, that they want implementing with haste. The one thing that remains constant is the passion of school leaders to ensure that every child in their charge is given the best possible opportunity to maximise their potential. As schools gained more experience of Ofsted, they needed a different type of support. The full scale ‘mocksted’ died years ago. Academy Improvement Partners, inspection skills training and quality assurance techniques have become more of the norm. School to school support has been a welcome development. Partnerships with several Teaching School Alliances, in order to provide the quality assurance arm of their work, is a new way in which B11 continues to provide high quality external support.


Q: Has anything since 2010, or indeed in your many years working in and with schools before then, been remotely as challenging as Covid-19 and the closure of schools?

A: There is no doubt that over my 40 years of work in education, school leaders have never had to face anything as challenging as this international pandemic. The cancellation of national examinations, the internal marking/moderation that had to take place in order for pupils to leave with grades that were a true reflection of their ability challenge teachers beyond anything they have had to deal with. During lockdown, many teachers juggled working from home and caring for families at the same time as completely redefining school curriculum and teaching delivery. Headteachers have become experts in creating socially distanced learning environments and have a much greater understanding of the benefits of perspex than they ever had before! However, for every member of the teaching profession one of the most worrying and challenging aspects of the impact of this pandemic has been ensuring the well-being of disadvantaged pupils. Those pupils who depended on school and see it as an oasis of calm and normality have suffered beyond comprehension. The aftermath of this both in terms of pupils’ wellbeing and their education will take years to recover.


Q: If there was one piece of advice that you would give to a school leader now, that you might also have given in 2010, what would it be?

A: Surround yourself with a team of people that have skills that are better than your own and enable them to flourish shackle-free!



Next time we will be talking to David Batch, CEO of Premier Education Group, who seized the opportunity to bring B11 into the Premier Education Group of companies in 2017.

If you think B11 Education can support your school, academy or MAT with current or future challenges, please contact us now for your free 20-minute no obligation consultation with Principal Consultant, Christine Schofield.




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