A Q&A with Nexus Education about how they support both educators and suppliers, providing value to the education sector and  business sector respectively.

Could you please start by introducing yourselves?

Damien: “I’m the co-founder of Nexus Education, I’m a Vice Chair of Governors and I also sit on my local town council.”

Rhiannon: “I do the community side of Nexus and the blogs and editing. Also, since September 2022, I’ve started doing supply work as a teaching assistant.”

Mike: “I’m the other co-founder of Nexus Education and I am also a Chair of Governors in a local primary school.”

What is Nexus Education and why did you start it?

Mike: “We effectively founded Nexus Education when Damien and I were governors (we still are now). At the time academisation was a big topic, particularly in my school, where we were talking about how we potentially needed to acadamise to stay relevant and viable as a school financially. However, when we went through the due diligence in my group, the consensus was that we didn’t necessarily need to be an academy at that moment in time, but we did need to work more collaboratively with schools in the local area. So, we thought, okay let’s bring these groups together so we’re sharing more and look at procuring together more efficiently so we’re getting the benefits without the kind of legal ties of academisation. That was a big driver for us, and it’s kind of just echoed out in terms of building that community of sharing and bringing schools together.”

Damien: “I think the needs are always the same between the buyer and the seller in terms of the pain points they experience. The schools don’t have the time to do research, to go to events and field sales calls; and the suppliers – we’ve got really good suppliers in the sector who’ve got a great message and great products that genuinely make a difference, but it’s hard for them to find a viable route to market that has value. So, we thought, ‘what can we do that benefits all the stakeholders?’ Initially, we started as a blogging platform, as a space for educators to come together and share practice and ideas and had other stuff bubbling on the background. Having an engaged community sharing ideas brings together lots of viewpoints and ideas adds value into the business but it’s also bringing together educators somewhere different to go to express their views and get help.”

Rhiannon: “I think on a much more personal level, Damien and I were parents and Mike’s a parent now, and we just want our kids to have the best education they can and the best support they can, for them to be the best people they can be. And its like, if we can help just a tiny bit with that, it would be good.”

Damien: “And if schools can get the right resources to enable that and the right funding and help it’s going to help contribute to that for everybody.”

What are your core values?

Mike: “The first value we have is transparency; because in every kind of sales driven environment there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors, in hoping you can kind of dupe people as it were, not actually being transparent in saying what you mean and not holding your hands up if you get something wrong and it’s not one hundred percent what you hoped it would be.

“Equity is another core value, in that’s it equitable for all the stakeholders. The schools we work with, they’re getting as much out of it as the suppliers, as we are too. And that’s kind of driven our model with how we run. In fact, in everything we run, we give 20% of the revenue we generate back to the schools we work with.”

Damien: “Value – so linking into what Mike said about equity- but also for our suppliers in terms of return investment. At the end of the day everything we do and the funding we provide back to schools has to come from somewhere, and it comes from suppliers. I think all too often the value suppliers bring is lost. At the end of the day without the suppliers paying for the conferences, the residentials, the exhibitions – there would be no CPD, so it’s important that they are engaged stakeholders that are getting returns back from the events that they do with us.

“Which is where the qualification comes in, so we’ve built a really rigorous platform that enables us to maximise return investment and value for the schools with the time they’re investing. We’ve run 180 odd events now, and I think by Christmas we will have delivered £200,000 to schools since 2018!”

How do you support educators?

Rhiannon: “The blogs are how it started; I think it was six years ago. The way I do it, I’m quite – gentle is the word. Honesty is a massive thing because I go to people and they’re telling me very personal stuff about their experiences and all you can do is try and support them and encourage them. I know everything we do is free and teachers are already so stuck for time, so I try and make myself available whenever. If they message at 10pm, I try and make myself available as they’ve got so much going on in their lives. I think I’m also quite sympathetic, we’ve had a lot of mental health blogs and I’m in a position to be sympathetic to that. I know I struggle with stuff, it’s just the honesty thing again, it’s like saying, ‘we get it, we know how hard this is, we know what it’s like.’

Damien: “They’re giving up their time and there’s no monetary gain – they want a space to talk and share their ideas and I like to think we provide that as well.”

Rhiannon: “I think a lot of people come to me and say its their first time blogging or whatever I’m like that’s fine, everyone’s got a voice, everyone’s got an opinion, we’re all people and we’ve all got stuff going on. I’m sure someone else can either sympathise or learn something from it.”

Damien: “They’re giving up their time and there’s no monetary gain – they want a space to talk and share their ideas and I like to think we provide that as well.”

Rhiannon: “I think a lot of people come to me and say its their first time blogging or whatever I’m like that’s fine, everyone’s got a voice, everyone’s got an opinion, we’re all people and we’ve all got stuff going on. I’m sure someone else can either sympathise or learn something from it.”

Damien: “That’s what policy makers need, is to know what’s going on – on the ground, they need more of that now than ever.”

Mike: “I think a lot of educators and teachers feel ignored because they’re in their own insular classrooms going through their daily challenges, a bit insulated from the rest of the world, so hopefully we can kind of open it up so people know others are experiencing it, and maybe you can help. You may be at the end of your tether with teaching but you can help share knowledge you’ve gained and help make a difference to others.

“With the events space, what drives it is bringing individual schools together to make them act like one unit. We ask them, ‘What are you struggling with at the moment? What are you interested in? What would you like to know more about?’ We will then take that time away of researching what solutions are out there for these issues, interests, and challenges. Then we will invite them to meet in like a speed networking format where the schools will provide feedback on the solutions as individuals but also, we’ll bring it altogether and say, ‘OK, these were your priorities as a group and this is what you thought of these solutions as a group.’ It really gives that group validity of, ‘I really like that solution, the rest of the schools in the group really like that solution too, so there’s a reason this is resonating with us, let’s explore that further.’

“We can pass data over to the groups, for example say, ‘90% of the groups on this day with these particular requirements say this solution has a 5/5 potential impact,’ so perhaps the schools can look at grouping together for collaborative procurement to purchase that solution and get a better deal. Hopefully that saves some revenue there, as well as obviously the direct revenue we give back from the profit shares and local shares that we have from the companies we work with.”

Listen to the full interview and learn about:

  • How Nexus supports businesses in the education sector
  • The Nexus blogging platform and annual awards
  • What’s next for Nexus

Authors

  • Rhiannon Challenger

    Rhiannon is the editor and community engagement manager at Nexus Education. She grows and supports its online community and collates and shares blogs around education. Rhiannon also works as a supply teaching assistant, mostly in SEN and ASL settings.
    twitter icon LinkedIn icon Instagram icon Website icon

  • Mike Reardon

    Mike co-founded Nexus Education as a result of the challenges around budgeting and school collaboration he was experiencing as a chair of governors of a small rural primary school in Shropshire. Outside of Nexus, he has a passion for triathlon and is also an on-call firefighter.
    twitter icon LinkedIn icon Website icon

  • Damien Challenger

    Damien is the co-founder of Nexus Education, a free platform that has provided nearly £200k in funding to schools since 2018 and saved SLT over 18,000 hours. As well as Nexus, he is also a vice chair of governors and a local town councillor.
    twitter icon LinkedIn icon Website icon