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‘It shouldn’t be about hero leadership – it should be about how leaders work together’

James Toop believes that the schools system has lost its focus on leadership, and that the sector urgently needs to ‘reignite the debate’ if it is to drive up standards and retain teachers. Will Hazell meets the chief executive of the training charity Ambition School Leadership

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It’s often said that sport can teach you a lot about being a leader. The quote attributed to the Duke of Wellington that “the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton” may be apocryphal. But James Toop, the chief executive of Ambition School Leadership, says that he learned about leadership from playing Eton fives.

Fives, Toop explains, is a “slightly bizarre sport”, “like squash with your hands”. Coaching the sport was the first time he realised that he “enjoyed helping other people grow and get better”. Above all, the sport taught him about “integrity”.

“One of the beauties ...

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