Alison Kriel – Northwold School, Hackney

Alison Kriel delights with stories of pupils past, present and future and demonstrates her uniquely empathetic approach to all aspects of her work.


Alison was born in South Africa and as a child attended schools in various African countries, as well as Ireland and England. She has always taught in Hackney schools because she loves the diversity of the community. Alison was the founder head teacher of Betty Layward School. As headteacher, she managed its development from a 90 pupil Early Years school to a very popular and successful 2 form entry primary school for 470 pupils.

Alison joined Northwold School in 2008, initially as an interim post to support it during some challenging times and to prepare it for an overdue Ofsted inspection. She became the substantive headteacher in 2009. When Alison took over Northwold there was only 50% permanent staff, 64% staffing attendance, a falling pupil roll and the school was one of the lowest achieving schools in the country. Under Alison’s leadership, the school has a full list of permanent staff members with 98% attendance, an oversubscribed pupil roll, is the highest performing school in Hackney, is in the top 3 in London and the national top 100. Northwold is a Gold Club member, a national Pupil Premium and SSAT award winner.

Alison’s leadership skills have consistently been described as outstanding by Ofsted.  She is the founder executive principal for a new Multi Academy Trust called “Amaya Trust” which converted on 1st April 2015.


We covered so many topics during this conversation and we could have easily spoken for at least another hour.

Some of the key themes and topics from our conversation include:

  • What it is like to belong to the Northwold School community
  • Why Alison is so adamant that her pupils understand the need to become global citizens
  • The importance of academic and emotional resilience
  • Why Alison chose teaching as a career
  • A particular incident that helped to shape Alison’s educational philosophy
  • Five year olds Lawrence and Christopher who were best of friends
  • Why Alison bought 30 bicycles!
  • What Northwold staff do every Monday morning
  • When Alison experienced a severe case of self-doubt
  • What to do when a teacher asks for support
  • Why our school system bullies children

There are so many gems of wisdom crammed into the next 75 minutes that this list could be ten times longer. I always take great pleasure in spending time with Alison and I hope that you feel the same whilst listening to our conversation.

Grab yourself a coffee, a notebook and enjoy!


Listen to this episode on iTunes

Download the interview as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as”


  1. Qigong, which Alison mentioned on a couple of occasions during the interview, is a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for health, spirituality, and martial arts training.
  2. Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers was the book given to Alison by one of her colleagues after securing her first headship.
  3. The keynote speech at the Teach First Annual Conference 2016 in Leeds that moved Alison more than any other was given by Professor Phil Scraton.
  4. You can find more information about Nick Carter who climbed Mount Everest and subsequently delivered a motivational assembly for staff and pupils at Northwold Primary School here.

One thought on “Alison Kriel – Northwold School, Hackney

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s