Last Week at The Difference

A truly exciting week! We found out that we won the Teach First Innovation Award.

innovation awards

This is great news and we are excited to continue with our hard work in fighting to break the link between social exclusion and school exclusion. It was a great evening with a brilliant opportunity for Kiran to spread awareness of the current climate in alternative provision.

kiran talk

As well as meeting lots of interesting people at the Teach First event, we have had a rewarding week meeting with lots of our colleagues working hard within the education sector to give all young people the best chances in life.

We were especially excited to meet the team at The Family School and discover more about their unique version of alternative provision. We really enjoy meeting passionate teachers and hearing their views on all things education.

Now the school holidays are upon us we are putting our heads down to some research analysis and writing. We are welcoming three interns for the next two weeks who are teachers volunteering their holiday time to help us make The Difference. What heroes!

Last Week at The Difference

We’ve had a brilliant week at The Difference jammed packed with great opportunities to meet with front line teachers working in AP schools and chances to hear interesting speakers talking passionately on a range of subjects.

Early in the week Kiran’s profile was published in Schools Week. It was a great opportunity to shine a light on AP education and explain how we want to help provide a pathway to support teachers into AP. It is definitely well worth a read.

Later in the week Kiran and Anna went to the annual TBAP Conference (#tsaconf17). We were treated to two interesting key note speeches from Javed Khan, the CEO of Banardos, and also Andrew Rogers from Changing Minds. Both gave us plenty of food for thought and reminded us why we feel so passionate about AP education. The afternoon gave us plenty of time to discuss ideas and thoughts with peers in workshops and over coffee. Find out more about the conversations we were having here.

Our Challenge

The Difference was established to address two key problems:  

  • High and rising exclusion rates, with the most vulnerable getting excluded from mainstream school.
  • Tragic outcomes for excluded pupils, linked to the Alternative Provision sector’s struggle to recruit teachers.


Our programme is developed in direct response to the factors which underpin these problems:

  • High stakes, high stress environment in schools – Our research suggests that high stress cascades from teachers to pupils – contributing to disruptive and extreme behaviour amongst those children who feel least in control in the other parts of their lives.
  • Low support and rising need – There are increasing mental health, domestic violence and other safeguarding concerns affecting children in school.3 The profession is not equipped to deal with these challenges: half of senior leaders say their staff cannot recognise behaviour linked to mental health and almost three quarters say staff cannot direct students to external support.4
  • Demand for bold and critical leadership – England’s accountability culture values academic outcomes, but does not recognise other aspects of school life which boost selfesteem, develop social skills and unlock potential in young people. Perverse incentives may be leading to exclusion of complex pupils who take up teacher time, or whose low grades or progress may affect the school’s data.5 Leaders in schools with high exclusion rates are more likely to be celebrated by the media and politicians than those who make incremental and longer-lasting school improvements.6

Our Solution The Difference’s systemic approach seeks to:

  • Support expertise in the profession – The Difference will create specialists in complex need, through our two-year Masters programme. Difference Leaders’ understanding of mental health will help them prioritise the wellbeing of staff and students.
  • Create a prestigious progression routeThe Difference’s prestigious programme will raise the status of teaching in Alternative Provision, similar to the way in which Teach First raised the status of inner-city teaching. We will create a route back to mainstream, linking the two sectors.
  • Inspire agents of change – The Difference will nurture a network of critical leaders, informed about policy in education and in adjacent public services, and empowered to challenge the status quo. The programme offers a career progression route for teachers who prioritise the holistic development of young people, but feel frustrated at the lack of resources and professional development committed to areas such as mental health. In doing so, it retains a group of teachers who are vulnerable to leaving the profession.

The Difference

The Difference Mission – To place exceptional teachers in schools serving excluded children, train them to become specialists in educating children with complex needs and inspire them to become the inclusive, innovative and influential school leaders of the future

Executive Summary

The Difference is a new social enterprise fighting to break the link between school exclusion and social exclusion. We want to place exceptional teachers in schools serving excluded young people, train them to become specialists in educating children with complex needs, and inspire them to become the inclusive, innovative and influential school leaders of the future. Our movement seeks to create cultural change across the country’s schools: cascading best practice in schools with healthy, happy, empowered staff and students; championing the multi-agency needs of young people and families, and creating bold school leaders equipped to really make a difference to young people’s long term life chances in practice and policy.

The Difference is in its first stage of development. Our case for change paper will be published by think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in June 2017, and has been endorsed by sector specialists, partner schools and teacher representatives. We are now seeking funding to launch our charity and develop our pilot programme, training 50 future leaders in two regions in our first year. Our ambition is to grow our programme to train 400 leaders a year in schools across the country by 2025; and to become an independent organisation whose advocacy work inspires policy to break the link between school exclusion and social exclusion.

We are committed to raising additional investment, in-kind support and organisational partnership to enable us to increase our impact and establish sustainability. This will add value to our movement by enhancing our training and alumni programme and aiding our policy and advocacy work. We want to work in partnership with educationalists, foundations, philanthropists and private organisations who share our values and commitment to empower and alter the trajectories of vulnerable young people.