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Former Army officer inspires teachers at annual conference

Ibrar Ali was awarded the Military Cross for keeping command when a roadside bomb killed his driver in Basra in 2007

Posted by Hannah Vickers | July 13, 2017 | People, policy, politics

A former Military Cross officer was warmly received by more than 200 senior teachers and principals at Northern Education Trust’s (NET’s) annual conference.

Held at Sunderland University’s St Peter’s Campus, the annual event sees all the senior leadership teams and principals from NET’s 20 academies from across the North of England assemble to share best practice and strengthen inter academy links.

Ibrar Ali, whose citation for the Military Cross referred to his leadership and courage as ‘outstanding’, received the award for keeping command after a roadside bomb blew off his hand and killed his driver, in Basra 2007. He was the first member of the Yorkshire Regiment to have been awarded a Military Cross. 

Now a civilian for the past four years, he has adapted his leadership skills and physical capabilities to raise funds for Walking With The Wounded and the new armed forces rehabilitation centre, The Defence & National Rehabilitation Centre in Loughborough, in a series of extreme exploits.

He was part of the British, Glenfiddich sponsored, contingent alongside Prince Harry in the successful Walking with the Wounded South Pole expedition in 2013 and completed the Marathon des Sables in 2015, described as the toughest footrace in the world where participants endure heat in excess of 50 degrees centigrade in a six day, 250km race across the Sahara Desert. Then, in January this year, he completed the World Marathon Challenge, which involves competitors running seven marathons in seven days in seven continents, covering 295km and taking him to Antarctica, South America, North America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Commenting on the success of the conference, NET chief executive, Ian Kershaw (pictured above with Ibrar), said: “Our keynote speaker has achieved what we are all aiming for – the very best leadership skills.

“In his capacity as a military leader, he showed outstanding bravery within a particularly hostile environment. Although our teaching staff are not exposed to this kind of situation within a classroom setting, Ibrar was able to demonstrate some fundamental leadership behaviours, which were extremely well received.

“He told the audience that to be a good leader you don’t always have to know everything; you don’t always have to be the best at everything; and that an effective leader does not always have to lead from the front: it is the effectiveness of the total team, which is the key to success. Everyone has a role to play. This philosophy has major parallels within an education setting where strong leadership lies at the heart of high performing academy trusts.”

Ibi’s speech was an inspiration for me and my staff. He really made clear how leadership is everyone's responsibility - Nikki Gibb, principal at The Grangefield Academy

Nikki Gibb, principal at The Grangefield Academy in Stockton on Tees, added: “Ibi’s speech was an inspiration for me and my staff. He really made clear how leadership is everyone's responsibility. He pointed out that delegating leadership tasks to others is sometimes the best strategy to employ and that was something we all need to ponder, but he was quite clear that whilst he delegated leadership tasks and roles, he was always ultimately responsible for the outcome.”  

Ibrar added: “Since I resigned my commission in 2013, I have tried to make good use of the skills I developed as a soldier and officer. It is great to hear that my views on leadership were so well received. To be a good leader, you need to be determined and to set high standards for the team around you, which is the reason I am here today. I hope my presentation will make a positive contribution to the continuing success of the Northern Education Trust in the future.”

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