Case Studies

Don't take our word for it. Hear about leadership at United Learning from those who know best: our leaders.

Leon Wilson

Principal / Head    The Hurlingham Academy

Leon Wilson

I started my teaching career in Jamaica, in 2000. Two years later, I moved to England to take up a position as science teacher at Burlington Danes School in London, following the recommendation from a friend. Throughout my 14 years at the school, I worked in a range of roles as I built up my experience, including across the science and maths departments, as a Head of Year, Assistant Head, and finally Vice Principal.

I had heard of United Learning through Dame Sally Coates, who previously led Burlington Danes, and I was interested when a Vice Principal position came up at The Hurlingham Academy under its then Executive Principal, Ben Parnell, in September 2015. Although the headship position was available, I wasn’t yet sure if I was ready for that role, and was successful in gaining the VP job. This gave me the experience of working within the school and understanding the support available, from the school and the wider Group, and how the school was planning to improve. I later took the headship position within the school.

I really enjoy working at a school that is part of United Learning. There is an excellent collaborative approach, and a tangible sense of purpose, particularly amongst headteachers, that allows us to have access to a wealth of knowledge and experience. I can phone any headteacher and get support with any issue I may have, from people who are actually doing the job. People are happy to share. We also have access to excellent services from the subject advisors, and school improvement and business service teams, who regularly visit to provide hands-on advice and support+ support of the advisors, Dame Sally, Steve, coming in and giving hands on advice and support, without judgement. As a new Head, this is invaluable, particularly in areas such as HR and finance where I have less experience.  Additionally, alongside this collaborative culture, we are still held accountable – we are expected to deliver the best possible outcome for our kids.

I will enjoy teaching wherever I go, but I am hoping to stay at United Learning. It would be fantastic to be involved in running a bigger school with a sixth form – The Hurlingham Academy is very small and competition for students is very tough, but we are moving the school to the next level. I would like to have greater impact, not just at Hurlingham but in the wider community – five years down the line, maybe, I hope to have an opportunity within the Group to develop and grow. As an ethnic minority Head within the organisation, I believe it is vital for students to see people within the Group, and prompt them to think ‘I could be like Mr Wilson’. Our pupils are very diverse, but with a limited number of ethnic minority heads and senior leaders within the profession, they have little to aspire to. I don’t want students in London to just be seen as ‘trouble’, but rather to be aspirational, and I hope to be a really positive role model for them.


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