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We are delighted to share that newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Ian Simpson, will be joining the Laidlaw Schools Trust family in April 2021. Currently Executive Principal at Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, Ian is an experienced school leader with a track record of transforming schools across the country.

Known for his transformational leadership, Ian entered the world of education as a PE and Geography teacher in Yorkshire and steadily rose through the ranks of Head of PE, Head of Key Stage 3, Assistant Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher, Principal and Executive Principal.

He played a key role in several rapid turnarounds, guiding schools out of special measures by promoting cultures of aspiration and raising standards. Most notably, Ian led Oasis Academy Lister Park to its first ever ‘Good’ judgement from Ofsted in under two years as Principal.

“I passionately believe that all children regardless of their social and economic background deserve a first class education. This has been my driving force each and every day in every school that I have worked in. I look forward to working with the whole LST community to ensure that all our pupils aspire and achieve,” he says. 

We look forward to welcoming Ian and having him lead LST through its next phase of growth. Ian’s experience, unwavering determination, and humility promise to transform the life chances of all our pupils, and ensure that we realise our collective mission of providing inspirational education.  

Get To Know Ian

When did you first realise you wanted to be a teacher?

I first realised I wanted to be a teacher when I was working as an apprentice plasterer in the summer of 1987 – the day after collecting my ‘O’ level results. I wasn’t expected to do well and hadn’t applied for Sixth Form but I actually passed everything.

That evening, I was training with Leeds Rugby League U19’s (Leeds Rhinos now) at what is now the Leeds Metropolitan University campus, and  my friend’s father, a PE lecturer at Leeds Carnegie University, gave me a lift back from training. During the journey, I shared with him that I’d passed all my exams and he said : “You should go to Sixth Form to do your A-Levels. You’d make a great PE teacher.”

The next day, I told the plasterer I was working with about my plans and the rest is history!

Which educationalist inspires you the most and why?

I like to draw on a wide range of both educational and leadership philosophy and theories. I can lose entire weekend afternoons watching TED Talks and inspirational clips. My favourite clip that really inspires me and demonstrates how influential a teacher or a school can be on a child’s future is the ‘Ian Wright meets teacher’ interview – I advise everyone to watch it. It reminds me why I became a teacher and why it is such an important job.

The educationalist who has inspired me the most and whose work I revisit in order to reset the priorities in my schools is Carol Dweck and the philosophy of fixed and growth mindsets. Dweck’s theory has helped me as a leader and in my own individual development by explaining that in order to develop a growth mindset, it’s important to self-reflect and regulate thoughts; to ensure that our minds are open to new ideas and challenges. It helps to prevent getting stuck in our views which, as we grow and develop, become outdated and harmful to our progress in work and relationships.

How has COVID changed the way we teach forever? What are the upsides of the current school disruptions?

The manner in which teachers, leaders, and support staff have upskilled their digital and online practice is nothing short of revolutionary.

Teachers are now teaching online and students are engaging without any issues. Even though this will never be a model that replaces face-to-face traditional methods, it offers options to issues of absence and difficulty in sourcing teachers in certain subjects, as well as meaning there is no such thing as a snow day ever again!

It has also made meetings more efficient and saved the cost of journeys and time taken, which means professional development opportunities and quality should improve and be more accessible after the pandemic is over.

Why Laidlaw Schools Trust?

Laidlaw Schools Trust has an inclusive ethos and serves communities similar to those in which I lived during my formative years and where I worked for the majority of my career. I love making a difference in schools and communities that have not always had the best reputation in terms of Ofsted or exam results — the job satisfaction and appreciation from stakeholders is just the best feeling when those you serve can see and feel the difference from your impact as a leader.

What are your ambitions for Laidlaw Schools Trust?

My ambition is that all the Academies are rated good or better as quickly as possible  hopefully in their next Ofsted inspection. I want all of our children to enjoy the learning experience we provide, achieve excellent results, and have positive life-lasting memories of their school experiences, such as the curriculum, trips, visits, and extracurricular opportunities.

I also want all staff to enjoy their work and be driven to make a real difference to the children and the communities we serve, and for LST to become the employer of choice in the region, so that we have the best people supporting, teaching, and driving positive change in our schools.

Once some of these initial aims are achieved, I’d then like to see the Trust grow in number and have a stronger influence on securing and establishing high expectations and outstanding practice in the North East that is then nationally and internationally acclaimed and recognised by other Trusts and educationalists.

What are your thoughts on the role of teaching in the lives of the underrepresented & underprivileged?

Education and access to opportunity regardless of circumstance is the key to improving life chances and social mobility.

Ensuring that any child from any background has the opportunity to succeed, as well as the adults who believe in them and care for their future. This is the reason why I became a teacher and as even more so now as CEO, where my actions and work can have a greater impact on individual children, families, and communities.