Get Inspired - Projects

Get Inspired

Backing Teacher and Leader Agency – a 2019 focus area

14 March 2019: posted by BigChange

Teacher and leader agency has the power to change our learning ecosystem. We’re supporting and championing this agency as one of three of the Big Change 2019 focus areas into which we’ll direct multi-year support to new project partners. This is only possible thanks to the incredible generosity of our amazing donors and Strivers.

Read our 2019 Focus Areas for Big Change blog to discover the research process and the context for all three focus areas, including how they’ve been developed since the 2017 cohort.


Big Change believe that teachers and school leaders are often the agents of change that our learning ecosystem need. However, their working environments are often not conducive to using their experience and passion to create the change that is needed to set young people up to thrive in life.

The Need for Change

Teachers are leaving the profession in increasing numbers and recruitment targets have been missed every year for the last five years. This a symptom of a wider problem.

Both the independent review of modern work by Matthew Taylor, and the RSA’s research into mission-led schools lead us to believe that one of the key issues for most teachers is not the quantity of work (the ‘workload challenge’), but the quality of work, and that the issue of quality is bound up in issues of agency, meaning, value, belonging, motivation and purpose.

Recent data from teacher voice platform TeacherTapp suggests that middle leaders in school are also facing issues affecting their morale. 39% of middle leaders surveyed said their morale was lower than the previous year, and only 6% reported that their morale was ‘very high’, compared with 25% of Head Teachers.

The Emergent Opportunity

There is much still to be learned about what makes different teachers and leaders, in different departments and schools and at different stages of their career, satisfied with their work. There is even more work to be done to understand what are the cultural and leadership conditions that need to be in place for teachers and leaders to be empowered to create the kind of learning environment that leads to the kind of ‘whole child’ education that allows both students and teachers to thrive.

The OECD’s research into the trends in education shows that 77% of the teachers surveyed felt that they worked in an environment hostile to innovation, preventing teachers and school leaders from being the agents of change that they have the potential to be. There is an opportunity to remove the barriers that often prevent teachers from being agents of positive change in the learning ecosystem.

Previous Big Change Support

We’ve backed many approaches to this problem and have learned a lot from our project partners so far, they are:

  • Achievement for All: a well-established education charity piloting teacher-led action research into teachers’ wellbeing needs.
  • Whole Education: a partnership of schools and organizations working to bring about better conditions for teachers through better human resource processes in multi academy trusts (MATs)
  • Bounce Forward (formerly How to Thrive): upskilling teachers in pioneering resilience training to benefit themselves and their students
  • Ambition Institute (formerly Institute for Teaching): incorporating wellbeing training into teacher training and school leader training modules