About Us

The story of the Enquiring Schools programme

The programme

The Enquiring Schools programme was originally developed as a collaboration between the National Foundation for Educational Research and Futurelab. Since 2012 the programme has been adopted by more than 50 schools, academy chains and organisations across the UK. 

The people

We are a small group of independent expert researchers, facilitators and coaches with extensive experience working in the UK and internationally. We have expertise working with primary, secondary and special schools from both the state and the independent sectors. We also collaborate with organisations, such as The Girls Day School Trust and a number of teaching alliances. 

We are committed to education being a force for good in the world. We believe in an education that is rich with opportunities to develop empowered and well-rounded young people who are able to make a positive contribution to society. We feel that this is best achieved when CPD is less about short-term quick-fix prescriptions and more about empowering teachers to be reflective professionals who are able to respond to the students they teach and to the contexts in which they teach.


The Enquiring Schools Team

Gareth Mills


Director of Enquiring Schools

Gareth was instrumental in the design and development of the Enquiring Schools programme for NFER to build bridges between research evidence and classroom practice. 

He has extensive experience designing and facilitating teacher development programmes having been Director of Curriculum Futures at England's national curriculum authority. He has designed and facilitated workshops for the International Baccalaureate Organisation, Unesco's IBE, the British Council and UK's National College of School Leadership.

Lesley Saunders


Senior Advisor and Researcher

Lesley holds visiting professorships at UCL Institute of Education, Newman University and an honorary research fellowship at Oxford University Department of Education. She has worked as a senior researcher for NFER and was a senior policy advisor for research at the General Teaching Council for England.

Lesley is passionate about finding ways to promote and support teaching as a scholarly and research informed profession.

Mary van Der Heijden


Enquiring Schools Facilitator and Coach.  

Mary has experience working successfully with teachers and organisations in the UK, Europe, South America, Africa and the Far East. 

She has extensive experience as a head teacher and senior leader. She is a member of the Association of Coaching and a trained Cognitive Coach. Mary is a skilled facilitator specialising in developing learning-focused schools through evidence-informed enquiry, coaching, mentoring and practical workshops.

Alison Willmott


Primary Specialist and Teacher Educator

Alison Willmott is passionate about primary education, the arts and literacy. She is an experienced advisor, lecturer and writer. She works extensively in the UK and beyond designing engaging curriculum resources and skilfully facilitating teacher workshops. 

Alison was an advisor for England's national curriculum authority and has developed teacher workshops and resources with the British Council, The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Windrush Foundation and The Confucius Institute for Schools.