Getting to know Nick Lewis – the Excalibur Academies Trust CEO from September 2024

Getting to know Nick Lewis - the Excalibur Academies Trust CEO from September 2024

Excalibur Academies Trust was proud to announce that Nick Lewis will take over as CEO when Nicky Edmondson stands down at the end of this academic year.

Many of the trust staff and students already know Nick, either from his time as Principal of Fairfield High School, from his year as Interim CEO of Gatehouse Green Learning Trust (leading into the merger with Excalibur), or in his current role as Excalibur’s Director of Secondary Improvement.

We will of course get to know Nick even better once he has started his new role, but as September is a little time away yet, Nick has helped us to learn a little more about his journey into the big job, and shared some of his priorities and passions with us.

How it all began

When Nick started school in the 1970s, expectations for him and the other children from his community were low, and the education system of the time reinforced this as it failed to identify and support children who today would receive pupil premium and recognition and support for their adverse childhood experiences.

Despite this, Nick loved school, and credits his teachers for “opening his mind to a world beyond poverty”, although many of those around him weren’t able to benefit similarly. Having seen the education system fail his community so badly, teaching didn’t initially appeal to Nick as a career path, but motivated to be part of the change, that’s exactly what he did when he became a teacher in 1992.

Starting his teaching career in London, Nick taught at a number of schools, quickly moving into leadership roles, and also experiencing the experimental approach of the ‘Fresh Start’ schools of the period, learning which innovations worked and didn’t work in something close to equal measure.

Returning to Bristol in the 2000s, in his own words Nick experienced “almost every school leadership role” including Primary and Secondary, and worked on the launch of a £19m new build school, before eventually taking the Principal role at Fairfield.

In 2022 Nick became the Interim CEO of Gatehouse Green Learning Trust (GGLT), and upon the completion of the merger with Excalibur Academies Trust he took on the role of Director of Secondary Improvement, which brings us to his next adventure as the Excalibur CEO.

Nick’s passion for education

It’s fair to say that Nick is passionate about the whole of the education sector, but when you speak with him it is hard to miss the sincere drive and belief in the transformative power of education, particularly for those from marginalised or disadvantaged backgrounds.

During the application process for the role, Nick said “Inclusivity, individual empowerment, and the pursuit of excellence are at the heart of my approach to educational development”, and it’s clear from Nick’s experience and work that he lives by these values on a daily basis.

So, it’s no surprise that when talking about the appointment, the Chair of Trustees, Toby Watson said “Nick has been an inspirational leader within our trust for many years. His passionate belief in the value of high-quality education for all, with an astute focus on inclusivity, equity, and the pursuit of excellence, means he is perfectly aligned with the values of our trust, and we are confident he will continue to progress the great achievements of the trust in improving the lives of the young people and communities that we serve”.

Nick’s other education-related work that we might not know about

Keen to have a positive impact on educational and life opportunities for all, not only those who he can help directly through our Trust, Nick has also worked with the DfE Regional Directors Office to support school improvement throughout the southwest region, and across all three key stages.

In addition, Nick is a National Leadership Advisor for The Careers and Enterprise Company, he is Chair of Schools of Tomorrow, and at a national policy level Nick is working with the Edge Foundation to research and suggest viable alternatives to Progress 8 which are then shared with educational leaders and politicians across the political spectrum nationally.

Why the time is right for the CEO role?

With Nick’s ambitions in education being so focused on improving outcomes for young people and providing development opportunities for colleagues, becoming a CEO wasn’t originally on his road map. When Nick was asked to support GGLT through the academic year leading up to the merger, he enjoyed the challenges and opportunities that the role provides, leading him to recently complete the ASCL CEO development course.

When talking about the work preparing for the trust merger, Nick said that he was “privileged to have had the opportunity to lead the vision and values work for both trusts, which ensured that the voice of all the staff communities were valued and integrated into the process.”

With such experience and personal alignment with the trust’s vision and values, and with his passion to provide life-changing education for all, now seems to be the perfect time for Nick to lead our organisation.

Will there be any immediate changes in September?

As sure as the wind blows and the sun sets, there will be changes in education in September! But we are all used to that.

Specifically relating to Excalibur Academies Trust, the work to provide better services to our students and staff following the merger has only just begun, and as we continue to identify and share best-practice and take opportunities to align service contracts and more, we will continue to see changes and improvements throughout the trust.

As with his vision and values work for the merger, Nick is keen that changes are driven by the collective values and knowledge of all of the trust team and the community. So please take any opportunities to feed in your thoughts and ideas through academy and trust events and activities.

A message from Nick

“I am delighted to be able to lead such a wonderful Trust as Excalibur. For me, it is a place where people are encouraged to be themselves, and as a result perform at their best, because that enriches all of us. When we do that, our young people feel that they belong and can flourish with us”.