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Education Team

Our experienced school improvement team provides educational support for our schools. Our aim is to bring out ‘the best in everyone’, and this approach has proven successful: 76% of our schools have a ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating, compared with 22% at their previous inspection. But we don't stop there – we are committed to developing every child in our schools, closing the gap for disadvantaged pupils and providing a well-rounded education with character.

Our educational support is led by Dame Sally Coates (Director of Secondary Academies), Darran Ellison-Lee (Director of Primary Education), and Dr Ian Young (Head of Independent Schools).

Dame Sally Coates

Dame Sally Coates

Director of Secondary Academies

Principal of Burlington Danes Academy an 11 – 18 Ark Academy in Hammersmith & Fulham. The school has 67% pupil premium and mostly serves the very deprived White City Estate. The school results in the last two years have almost doubled and this year the GCSE results including English and Maths were 80% 5A* - C.

She was acting as Executive Principal at Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton until July 2012 and Executive Principal of Ark Putney and West London Free School until July 2014. Prior to that, Sally was Head of Sacred Heart School an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ VA school in Camberwell, London Borough of Southwark. She has always worked in inner city schools in London and has been in teaching since 1976. Sally started work as an English Teacher in Peckham Girls, now The Academy at Peckham.

Sally chaired The Review of the Teaching Standards and most recently chaired the Skills Test Review. She also served as a member of the Key Stage 2 Test Review Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Bew. Sally was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2013 New Years Honours List.


Darran Ellison-Lee

Darran Ellison-Lee

Director of Primary Education

Darran has a wide range of achievements in Education, including leadership in both Primary and Secondary phases as well as in Special Education. Darran was a National Leader of Education, leading one of the first national teaching schools and a federation of primary schools in the North of England. The teaching school under his leadership provided a wide range of school improvement work and was one of the first schools providing training for Schools Direct.

Darran has overseen growth of our primary schools, which now includes 18 Academies and 12 Independent Prep schools. Darran’s leadership of improvement work has secured enhanced quality of teaching, resulting in schools moving from Special Measures to Good, at times requiring him to step in as Exec Head or acting Principal to support. Under Darran’s leadership, 10 United Learning primary schools have maintained or secured a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating for overall effectiveness. In addition, Darran is Director with responsibility for the Trust’s support, challenge and accountability on Safeguarding, ensuring that United Learning meets Statutory requirements and that Safeguarding processes across the Group are robust and effective.


Dr Ian Young

Dr Ian Young

Head of Independent Schools

Ian previously worked as Deputy Head at The King’s School Ely, a co-educational day and boarding school for 1,000 pupils.

He has a wealth of teaching experience having worked in five HMC schools since graduating from Queen’s University, Belfast where he studied applied mathematics and physics as well as obtaining a doctorate in theoretical atomic physics.

More recently Ian was awarded his MBA in Education from Keele University and the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).


They are supported by a number of school improvement specialists, including Steve Adcock (Deputy Director of Academies), our regional directors, and a team of subject advisors.

Regional Directors |  Subject Advisors

United Learning