From educator to entrepreneur:BlueSky founder Denise Inwood
I made the transition from educator to entrepreneur 20 years ago when – as the senior leader in a comprehensive – I saw how a lack of focus on professional development was demoralising colleagues. They were deeply committed to helping the young people, but many of the teachers had been there for years, doing what they had always done.
The strategies they were using were out of date and there was no common framework around which they could have conversations about students. The new thinking behind professional development and allying it to raising student performance had passed them by. Meanwhile, their own wellbeing was at a low ebb.
In the beginning
Working on it in my spare time, I began to formulate the concept and a working model of what would become BlueSky. On large sheets of flipchart paper, I would sketch out the plan for how a system for organising the different streams of data could work – an approach that I still use to think through workflows and functionality.
I grew more and more passionate about the idea until I decided, with the support of my husband, to leave teaching and put my ideas into production.
“I chose BlueSky because I wanted a word or a phrase that would reflect key attributes including aspiration, clarity, positive, brightness, reaching for the sky!”Denise Inwood, Founder and Managing Director, BlueSky Education
Our journey so far
I established BlueSky Education in 2001 and spent four years “on the road” pitching the concept of an online performance management tool that would capture all of the data relevant to staff performance. It would enable school leaders to assess performance in relation to goals in the school development plan but also give individual staff the power to define their own professional development needs and plan their career.
By 2012, when the then-Education Secretary, Michael Gove, introduced new performance management requirements for schools, BlueSky were the first in the market.
Schools should constantly celebrate and reward success, not necessarily in a financial sense; teachers get a huge buzz out of just being able reflect on an amazing lesson and have people listen, and recognise their achievements.
Looking to the future
I plan to continue expanding BlueSky and lead the research and development. The new Partnership module, launched in 2018 to capture live data across trusts and other collaborations, has been adopted by around 100 trusts and the number is growing fast.
What’s coming up next
We have other projects and developments in the pipeline to help schools take advantage of new technology as it emerges and harness it to supporting and developing staff and driving improvement and I’m very excited about the future.