Challenge Partners

  • Grade: Trustee
  • Salary: Unremunerated (expenses only)
  • Location: London (possible to join some meetings remotely)
  • Closing: 11:59pm, 3rd Jul 2022 BST

Job Description

Please read the full appointment brief available HERE. A summary of the key information is pasted below.

Chair’s welcome

Challenge Partners was founded over a decade ago by education practitioners keen to extend the benefits of mutual accountability and collaboration which transformed London schools as part of the London Challenge. Since then, hundreds of schools and multi-academy trusts across the country have joined our partnership. They work together to deliver our collective mission of reducing educational disadvantage and improving the life chances of all children and young people.

I took up the role of Chair of Challenge Partners in 2021, after five years as a trustee. Those years confirmed my initial perception of Challenge Partners as a charity with a clear sense of purpose, as well as a deep commitment and ambition across the partnership and the central team. They also helped me appreciate the close parallels that exist between Challenge Partners and my day job. 

For the last 15 years I have worked in an investment firm, backing companies for the long-term to help them grow faster and more sustainably. We have a rigid set of criteria before we commit, including a strong value proposition; customer loyalty; resilient business model; a platform for further growth; and great leadership. We might not always use the same language here but these are all defining features of Challenge Partners. 

At work, when it comes to how we engage with our investments, the essence is about collaborating with aligned management and sharing knowledge built over many years. We don’t want to start from the beginning every time – we want to leverage the knowledge that is already in the system. Again, that is Challenge Partners. It is incredibly hard to get it right but hugely powerful when it works.

My admiration for Challenge Partners continues to grow. Everyone in and around the partnership is hardwired to seek ways to drive improvement. No matter how demanding the operating environment - and it is hard to imagine one more demanding than the last two years - the partnership has risen to prove its value. 

We have a lot to do but we are in good health, with an outstanding team and dedicated partners. As a Board, we are ambitious for our charity, keen to see it build on a successful first decade to further extend our partnership and impact. We are looking for trustees committed to our cause and with skills that enhance those already represented on our Board - particularly in the areas of legal, HR, IT/digital and entrepreneurship. We are also committed to ensuring our Board better represents the diversity of the communities we serve and seek particularly candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds and/or those with lived experience of educational disadvantage. One of the two trustee roles we are recruiting will be ring fenced for candidates from these backgrounds.

If you can add value to our mission and Board, we look forward to hearing from you.

Chris Davison, Chair of Trustees

About Challenge Partners

Challenge Partners is an education charity, led by practitioners, through which schools and multi-school trusts collaborate to improve each other and the education system as a whole, so all children benefit, especially the least advantaged.

We work with schools across the country, and have three focus areas:

  • School improvement

  • Leadership development 

  • Knowledge exchange

Our programmes and networks are grounded in evidence of what works, regular quality assurance, and sharing the collective wisdom in our schools. 

The schools and trusts in our partnership transform children’s lives through great results, outperforming national averages for pupil progress and attainment whilst also improving Ofsted grades. More than this, they nurture and inspire the next generation of leaders and citizens to contribute positively to their communities and the world and to live life to its fullest.

Our background

Challenge Partners was formed in 2011 to spread the success of the London Challenge, a programme of work which transformed the performance of London schools and led to the development of Teaching Schools.  

As a highly successful charity with a sustainable social-enterprise business model, Challenge Partners has grown rapidly since its formation. Our partnership comprises over 500 schools across the country, reaching more than 275,000 pupils - 26% of whom are from low-income households. Our schools stretch from the Isles of Scilly in the South West to Sunderland in the North East and include all types of school – primary, secondary and special, academies, independent and maintained schools, including some of the highest performing schools in England. 

Challenge Partners is proud to work with the Social Business Trust, a charity that supports effective social enterprises to scale up their impact, through their partner organisations: Bain & Co, Charles Russell Speechlys, Clifford Chance, EY, Permira, Permira Credit, Refinitiv, Schroders, and Thomson Reuters.

To find out more about what we do, please click here.

Role purpose

To make an active contribution to the success, growth and sustainability of Challenge Partners, through critical friendship and fulfilment of the six main duties described in The Essential Trustee:

  • Ensure the charity is carrying out its purposes for the public benefit

  • Comply with the charity’s governing document and the law

  • Act in the charity’s best interests

  • Ensure the charity is accountable

  • Manage the charity’s resources responsibly

  • Act with reasonable care and skill

Following a recent trustee skills audit, we are looking to recruit new trustees with professional expertise and track record in one or more of the following areas:

  • Legal

  • HR

  • IT/digital

  • Entrepreneurship - experience of successful risk-taking and leading business growth

Key responsibilities

Strategic leadership

To make an active contribution to the strategic leadership of Challenge Partners, including:

  • Overseeing the development, refinement and delivery of clear strategic plans to maximise our impact for schools and children

  • Making informed and sound decisions, enabling the organisation to capitalise on new opportunities as they arise, and manage risk robustly

  • Advocating on behalf of the organisation, spotting and leveraging opportunities to extend our influence, and/or actively gain support from potential members or funders

  • Acting as an informed and influential ambassador for Challenge Partners


To make an active contribution to the governance of Challenge Partners, including:

  • Overseeing the organisation’s compliance with its governing documents, company and charity law, and any other relevant legislation or regulation

  • Bringing impartiality and objectivity to the decision-making process, and collective ownership of decisions once made

  • Demonstrating commitment to continuous Board improvement, including annual appraisal of Board and personal performance

Acting as a critical friend

  • Establish and build a strong, effective and constructive working relationship with the Chief Executive and Leadership Team, respecting the difference between strategic (Board) and operational (management) roles

  • Provide constructive challenge in order to extend management thinking and test the robustness of their plans

  • Draw on your experience and expertise to offer insights and connections which strengthen the development, refinement and delivery of our mission and strategy


Trustees are likely to spend around one day per month on Board activities as follows:

  • Meetings: The Board typically meets five times a year in London (with virtual options available for some meetings) during business hours. Meetings usually take place in September, December, February, May and July and are typically two hours long, with one each year being extended to a full- or half-day awayday.

  • Committees and working groups: We have two standing Board Committees, which focus on Finance, Audit and Risk, and fundraising. Ad hoc committees and working groups are formed as needed and trustees allocated based on expertise/availability.

  • Buddying: Each trustee is linked to a member of the Leadership Team who they meet around six times per year in order to:

    • Build relationships and promote two-way mentoring and learning which enables trustees to gain deeper insights into our organisation, business and leadership capacity, and members of Leadership Team to benefit from personal challenge and support that enables them to develop their leadership and skill in working with the Board; and

    • Enable members of the Leadership Team to draw on the expertise trustees have that relate to the areas of business they are leading.

  • Ad hoc communications: Trustees are sometimes asked to contribute to decisions by correspondence between meetings, though email traffic is typically light.

  • Induction and training: As required.

Term of office

Trustees are appointed for an initial 3-year term, which may be extended to a maximum of 3 terms in total.


Although this role is unremunerated, all reasonable expenses (travel, accommodation, subsistence) relating to trustees’ work for Challenge Partners will be reimbursed in accordance with the charity’s policy.

Person specification

Personal qualities 

  • A deep commitment to the mission and values of Challenge Partners

  • Excellent interpersonal skills with the ability to communicate and collaborate well with colleagues from a range of backgrounds and sectors

  • Good judgement, the ability to take managed risks and seize opportunities

  • Ability to use sound business principles while also being driven by social mission

  • Commitment to personal and collective continuous improvement, seeking, giving and acting on feedback on performance

  • Comfort and skill in acting as an ambassador with the ability to advocate and inspire engagement and support from key stakeholders or donors

  • Credibility in your own field of work with a clear focus on excellence and innovation, striving to deliver high performance

  • Strong networking capabilities that can be leveraged for the benefit of the organisation

  • Strong tact and diplomacy skills with the ability to listen and engage effectively, challenging appropriately and objectively

  • An understanding of, and commitment to, the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion as part of good governance

  • Ability to commit and expertise the time to perform the role well

Knowledge and skills

We are interested in candidates from a range of backgrounds and insights, so experience may come from a wide variety of sectors or industries. You don’t need to be an expert in education as training can be provided, but you do need to bring expertise in at least one of the following areas:

  • Legal

  • HR

  • IT/digital

  • Entrepreneurship

In addition, you will need to bring:

  • Recent experience of operating strategically within an organisation - identifying, prioritising and monitoring progress towards achieving strategic objectives 

  • Experience of identifying and capitalising on opportunities and responding appropriately to risks

  • Ability to collaborate and communicate well within a team and exercise collective responsibility

Prior experience of working in a governance role, such as a charity trustee or Non-Executive Director of a company would be beneficial, but is not essential

Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion 

Challenge Partners is fully committed to equal opportunities and we are actively seeking to enhance equity, diversity and inclusion at all levels of our organisation. We welcome applications regardless of sex, gender, race, age, sexuality, belief, or disability. We would also welcome applications from a range of geographies across England, and offer the ability to join some meetings virtually to support this aim.

We are particularly keen to receive applications from candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds and/or with lived experience of educational disadvantage. At least one of the two vacancies we are recruiting for will be ring fenced for candidates from these backgrounds.

How to apply

Consistent with our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, our recruitment platform enables us to sift applications without identifying candidates. Please click HERE to visit the site where you can complete your application.

Please let us know if you will require any special provision as a result of a disability should you be invited for an interview.


If you have any queries on any aspect of the appointment process, need additional information, or wish to have an informal discussion about the opportunity, please contact the CEO, Dr Kate Chhatwal OBE, at


Deadline for applications: Midnight on Sunday 3 July 2022

Meet the Chief Executive:  Late July/August

Gathering references

Interviews with trustee Nominations Committee: Early September

Board approval: Late September

DBS check

Removing bias from the hiring process

  • Your application will be anonymously reviewed by our hiring team to ensure fairness
  • You’ll need a CV/résumé, but it’ll only be considered if you score well on the anonymous review

Applications closed Sun 3rd Jul 2022


Removing bias from the hiring process

  • Your application will be anonymously reviewed by our hiring team to ensure fairness
  • You’ll need a CV/résumé, but it’ll only be considered if you score well on the anonymous review

Applications closed Sun 3rd Jul 2022