It is with great pleasure that the Board of Directors welcomes Mrs Tegwen Ellis as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Leadership Academy. Tegwen takes over the role from Mr Huw Foster Evans, who has been CEO since the inception of the Leadership Academy. The Board very much looks forward to working with Tegwen, and wishes Huw well as he engages with new challenges.

Reflections from a Principal in China – 10 Lessons from ‘Words of Wisdom Blog’

Lesson number 1: This is serious and it continues to be.

Lesson number 2: Stick to what you know.

Lesson number 3: Don’t forget your key principles of pedagogy.

Lesson number 4: Don’t assume! Plan, plan and plan again.

Lesson number 5: KISS! Keep it Simple Stupid!

Lesson number 6: Keep parents informed.

Lesson number 7: Keep a routine and maintain as much ‘normality’ as possible.

Lesson number 8: Support your teachers with training and anything else they need- on and offline!

Lesson number 9: Make sure you have some online etiquette and rules for message and emails.

Lesson number 10: Look after your own and others’ wellbeing!

Andrea is currently the Vice Principal of Jiahui Oak Middle School and Academic Principal in Dalian Royal School, the affiliated High School of the Campus. Read her full blog here

A statement from the Chair of the Board

Our decision to postpone all our activities due to COVID-19 has been a response to essential social distancing and isolation. We are aware that our associates and stakeholders will now be facing unusual school-based challenges in caring for staff, vulnerable pupils and those pupils whose parents/carers are on the frontline in tackling the Pandemic. During this time we remain committed to supporting leaders in the education sector. 

The Leadership Academy team has moved to work from home, but they are still active by email or phone 07784 237121. If you would like to share your experiences, seek comment and advice a others, or generally share your own advice through the Leadership Academy’s networks, please get in touch.

Our thoughts are with you all at this difficult time.

Stay safe

Dr Sue Davies

Why the Basque country?

I was asked variations of this question when I explained that I would be away from my two schools for a week in January to visit the Basque country with the Leadership Academy.  My staff and governors asked ‘why go to the Basque country?’ The pupils in assembly wanted to know ‘what’s in the Basque country?’ and I have to admit I found myself asking ‘where exactly is the Basque country?!’ Being a place I knew very little about I logged on to my Mac to do some quick research.


The headlines

  • The Basque government, has invested heavily in education.  If the Basque region were ranked as a country, only Denmark and Austria would have higher levels of per-pupil spending in Europe.
  • About half of the Basque schools are a mixture of public and private, where the state pays most of the funding, but parents are also expected to contribute.
  • The Basque government’s education minister says the commitment to education is strongly linked to national identity.  “Education is the key to keeping our culture,” she says.

And for those of you like me wondering where exactly the Basque country is… here’s the map.

Government graphs

Ten hours after touching down in Bilbao myself and my fellow associates found ourselves deep inside the labyrinth that serves as the city council offices.  Not long into our welcome from the director the impact of policy on the Basque language in particular was encouraging.

Offering three language models; A Spanish delivery with minimal Basque; B 50:50 Spanish: Basque and D (quick fact: there is no letter ‘C’ in Basque) Basque delivery with minimal Spanish.  The region had seen a dramatic cultural shift over a thirty year period from parents selecting model D schools from 15.9% in 1986 to 66.9% by 2017.

So how did they do it?

I’ve listed below the standout points for me, in only a short blog it is impossible to list everything learnt from the trip however, it goes without saying that a lot of initiatives discussed with us were only possible with government funding. 

  • An early strategic plan for the deployment of teachers who spoke Basque to ensure they went to teach in provinces where the speaking of Basque was poor.
  • Two year full time sabbatical language training for all teachers.
  • A dedicated government programme to promote the Basquisation of school atmosphere (NOLEGA) which includes short stay residential centres; grants to schools to promote theatre, the performance of sung verse in the traditional style; exchanges between schools from different sociolinguistic areas aimed at increasing the use of Basque among pupils and annual prize contests for prose, poetry and elocution

But what do the kids say?

At this point the similarities (and problems) of Wales and the Basque country started to show.  We were fortunate to visit five schools in the Basque country ranging from public to private and junior to senior with all providing language model D to their communities.  When faced with two simple questions nearly all children gave the same answer:

“Do you speak Basque at home?” Overwhelmingly the answer to this question was “no” with Spanish being the preferred language to use with family and friends. 

However following this question with “are you Basque or are you Spanish?” An equally overwhelming answer was given… “we are Basque!”

Which brings us to a key factor to consider, that language competence does not ensure language use. And language use depends on other factors, in particular on public demand.   Without native parents using the language at home, the school can at best and at great cost produce competent second language speakers, who are secondary for the survival of the Basque language.

Final words

The 1978 Spanish constitution declared that Spaniards had a duty to know Spanish.  But it also added that each regional community could declare its local language official, thus implying the right of those communities to regulate its use.  It goes without saying that the Basque autonomous region has taken this right and delivered, transforming the language competence of its’ workforce and being responsible for a cultural shift in its’ citizens to embrace the Basque language and heritage.

All this work has been achieved by a generation which suffered an oppression of their language and culture during a Francoist Spain.  It remains to be seen whether this next generation will be quite as militant in the pursuit of its own language rights. Will they share their parents’ enthusiasm for their mother tongue or will their identity be more in line with a global community in an ever shrinking world?

Final photo

Text Box: Students studying on public transport

We used a lot of public transport during our visit, I took this photo on my first day in the Basque country but the sight was not uncommon.    A group of teenagers studying on their way to school.  It reminded me of the American philosopher John Dewey who said The most important attitude that can be found is the desire to go on learning.”  The Basque country students I saw certainly embodied this attitude as did the professionals we met with who were keen to learn from the good practice taking place in Wales.  As an associate for the National Academy I hope to also take the lessons learnt from the Basque educational system to help inform our own thinking.

Richard Monteiro – Headteacher of The Federation of Ysgol Bryn Clwyd and Ysgol Gellifor

February 2020

Press Release

The Board of the National Academy for Educational Leadership is delighted to announce that Mrs Tegwen Ellis has been appointed to be its new Chief Executive.  Mrs Ellis is currently the Assistant Director for Leadership Development and Quality Assurance at the Leadership Academy and was previously the headteacher at Ysgol Cynwyd Sant in Maesteg.

Dr Sue Davies, Chair of the Board, said ‘I am delighted that Mrs Ellis has been appointed.  The Board and I look forward to working with her as together we take the Leadership Academy forward on the next stage of its exciting development.’

Education Minister Kirsty Williams said ‘I would like to welcome Tegwen Ellis to the role of CEO in the National Academy for Educational Leadership.  She brings with her a breadth of knowledge and has been instrumental in the development of the Leadership Academy to date.  I am sure Tegwen will help steer the Academy forward, supporting practitioners to develop their leadership skills to help make Wales the best place to be an educational leader.

‘I would also like to thank Huw Foster Evans for the commitment and dedication he has shown over the past 20 months. He helped establish the Academy and has provided support to so many in the first year of operation.’

Mrs Ellis said ‘I am proud and privileged to have been given this wonderful opportunity to lead such an important part of the evolving education landscape in Wales.  I look forward to working together with everyone who has a role to play in making Wales an even more exciting place to be an educational leader.’

Mrs Ellis will formally take up her new role on 1 April 2020.

Do you want to join the Leadership Academy?

Here at the National Academy for Educational Leadership we are already looking forward to what 2020 has in store and to appointing our latest group of Associates.  This will be our third cohort and they will be joining 21 other Associates from across Wales on a leadership learning experience which will equip them for this exciting and challenging role.

Our Associates are the lifeblood of the Leadership Academy; they provide our capacity in the wider system; they sit on our decision-making panels and they provide the leadership insights which we need in what is an extraordinarily exciting time for Welsh education.  Above all else, they must be able to operate in that interface between policy and practice – speaking to government and to experts with the confident, authentic voice of practising school leaders. They also have a role in ensuring that the whole educational sector feels connected to the Academy and understands its values and its principles.  Wales has a long and distinguished history of nurturing outstanding educators who have made our nation what it is today and through our Associates we are now enabling our school leaders to bring their experiences of leading effective schools to a national stage.

It has been a challenge for the Academy to ensure that the Associates are representative of all areas, sectors and regions.  For our third cohort we are specifically interested in appointing Associates from special schools, PRUs, all through schools, Welsh medium schools and secondary schools as well as from specific geographical areas.  We must do this to ensure that the Academy can genuinely claim to be national, able to listen to and influence leadership practice in the widest possible range of contexts.  This is not a straightforward task as there are logistic and other challenges to overcome but an Academy which claims to be for all leaders must attempt to be listening to every leader, wherever they may be.

We are working to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to engage with our work, to sign up for our newsletter and to engage with our events.  In a climate of seemingly endless reform we are starting to redress the balance between policy and practice.  It is our school leaders who are best placed to make decisions on curriculum and on learning and they should be able to inform national policy accordingly.  High-stakes, top down, accountability measures are increasingly seen as outdated and unsuccessful levers for school improvement – and government is listening.  The Wales education system is moving to a place where government policy is informed by school leaders, and where school leaders in turn are enabled by that policy to develop their practice together.

Huw Foster Evans – Chief Executive

A Cohort 2 Associate Reflection

Having been an associate in cohort 2 for 9 months now, completed the first set of learning experiences and got stuck into our commission – it seems like a good moment for reflection!  It’s been a busy few months getting to know a diverse and dedicated team of associates and staff from all over Wales who come with a wealth of knowledge and experience from Welsh and English medium schools, primary and secondary phases, faith schools and federations and working with them to develop the new mindset of a system leader.  Over that time, our work has really come under 4 main headings :

1. Professional Learning

From Mererid Hopwood to Laura McAllister, and Andy Hargreaves to Pak Tee Ng, we have learnt from leaders at the forefront of the profession as well as some of the primary thinkers from Wales and around the world.  We have learnt about, and experienced coaching first hand and thought about how to develop these skills in ourselves and the teams we work with, both in school and in our work with other associates.  We also continue to implement the Leadership Academy’s endorsement process to ensure that good quality leadership training opportunities are identified for schools to access, which has helped me to reflect on our National Mission and to ensure that providers are supporting it through their offers.

2. Representing the Profession

At this challenging and exciting time for schools, we have also relished the chance to speak on behalf of the profession to policy makers and those who will shape the future of education in Wales.  We have met with the children’s commissioner and the Welsh language commissioner as well as representatives from Estyn, the minister herself and her officials.  This is an important element of our work and one that we feel is starting to have an impact on the many areas of change we are experiencing in schools today.

3. Our commission

In response to the minister’s remit letter to the Leadership Academy, we have spent time shaping the question for our commission: What is the role of educational leadership in realising the vision of a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language? As we progress this research project we have engaged in discussion about the vision for our nation, analysis of current language data trends and interviews with school leaders, members of the middle tier, academics and policy makers.  We have also debated at length how and what to present in response to this question.

4. Promoting the Academy

The final area of work has involved sharing an understanding of the Leadership Academy and its contribution to leadership more widely.  We have contributed to the Leadership Academy’s first national conference, and have shared its vision of ‘Inspiring Leadership – Enriching Lives’ with our regions, authorities and local forums in a series of roadshows and other events.  In addition, fellow Associates have visited Ireland to discuss the ‘Leadership development for schools programme’ there and the parallels with our own work.

And so, as the Christmas holiday approaches, and as I hang up my stocking and prepare my festive trimmings, I look back on a busy year with significant satisfaction.  I have learnt a huge amount about leadership, the educational vision for our nation and crucially about myself.  I am sure that the school, community and students that I serve, have benefitted from this learning process and I look forward to developing my ongoing contribution to the wider system.  

Ian Gerrard – Head of Ysgol Aberconnwy

Current Vacancies

The National Academy for Educational Leadership is seeking a dynamic Chief Executive to build on and take forward the work of the Leadership Academy.

The closing date for applications is 17 January 2020. Interviews will be held in Swansea on 5 and 6 February 2020.

For information and to apply, visit