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James Nottingham

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James Nottingham is the creator of the Learning Pit, one of the most widely used models for teaching to emerge in the last 20 years. He is also the author of 12 books, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and is listed in The Future 500, a ‘definitive list of the UK’s most forward thinking and creative innovators’.

James is driven by the desire to make education a better experience than the one he encountered. Having attended four primary schools and been expelled from two high schools, he was a student who fell through the gap. He also failed at his first two jobs – pig farming and factory work. However, when volunteering at makeshift schools in South African squatter camps, he saw a different possibility for education; one that could inspire and transform lives.

Since then, he has been on a mission to discover and share the very best that education has to offer. Along the way, he has worked closely with professors Carol Dweck (Growth Mindset) and John Hattie (Visible Learning); been a teaching assistant in a school for deaf children; taught across the 3-19 age range; and held a range of leadership positions in schools. At the end of the nineties, his work featured in a BBC documentary, leading to an invitation to design a new approach to teaching and learning that would raise the aspirations and achievements of students in low-SES schools. The success of this project was noticed way beyond the UK and so, in 2006, James started an independent company to share his approaches further afield. Over the course of the next 15 years, James built his company into an organisation employing 30 staff in seven countries working with pre-K-12 schools and community groups.

Today, James has returned to being an independent author-consultant once more. (He feels a little like a principal returning to the classroom!) He is a sought-after keynote speaker, workshop leader and in-school consultant. He also runs demonstration lessons: give him any class, any age and he will be delighted to show you any of the techniques he has written about working in situ with your students.

James lives on the border between England & Scotland, has three children and, at the last count, five mini-dachshunds and four frizzle hens.


“Nothing short of an AMAZING speaker.  Time flew by!  Although it was in English, the language was never a problem!”

Bente Jensen, Denmark

“Your keynote was perfect! Feedback from delegates identified your inspirational and thought-provoking keynote as the highlight of the day. I am sure the impact will be felt across our schools for years to come.”

Gabriela Iturri, USA

“Thank you so much for a fantastic keynote speech at our conference yesterday, it was the perfect way to start a conference titled #BeInspired. The feedback from delegates has been fantastic and so many forms refer to your inspirational speech and workshop.”

Kylie Spark, UK

“I attended the Mindset congress because of James Nottingham and wow, I was blown away. I enjoyed his presentation so much! I shared his ideas with my secondary school colleagues, and they were so enthusiastic.”

Monica Blankestijn, Netherlands

Awards and Qualifications

2020: FRSA – made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for outstanding achievements to social progress and development.

2015: Named by Skolvärlden (National Teaching Union of Sweden) as ‘one of the most highly-regarded and talked about names in the world of school development.

2014: Included in the Future 500, a ‘definitive list of the UK’s most forward thinking and creative innovators’.

2005: One North East – Special Recognition Award for outstanding contribution to the progress and achievement of young people in the North East of England.

1996: BA (hons.) QTS – Bachelor of Arts in Education with Qualified Teacher Status: Lancaster University, First Class Honours.

1993: Student of the Year, University of Connecticut, USA – recognising social engagement and student outreach to the wider community.

1989: Dip. TEFL – Diploma for Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Cambridge University, Distinction.

Published Articles

Nottingham, J.A. (2007) Exploration the Learning Pit. Teaching Thinking and Creativity, 8:2(23), 64-68. Birmingham, UK: Imaginative Minds.

Other Information about James Nottingham

His first pedagogical love remains his deepest: Philosophy for Children (P4C). He trained in the approach in 1992 and has been practising ever since.  In the early 2000s, he co-founded a charitable cooperative,

He once had a cup of tea with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

His favourite part of consultancy life is running demonstration lessons. In 2018, he ran demos at Kringlaskolan in Sweden. Soon after, one of their students, Greta Thunberg, went on strike… (he doesn’t think the two events are connected).

If he ever retires from consultancym he might offer his services as an in-school photographer. Some of the photos he’s taken can be seen here.

His mother died when he was 11; his father headed off to the Falklands War a few months later; he was unsuccessful in saving his school friend from dying from an asthma attack ages 13, and the CPR he administered failed to save a student during his first teaching job.

On 15th June 1996, he was seconds away from the largest bomb explosion in Britain since WW2, dentonated by the IRA in Manchester city centre. That same afternoon, he watched Gazza score one of the best goals ever against Scotland in Euro 96′.

He regrets not learning any others languages – apart from British Sign Language in the 80’s, which he has now all but forgotten – but plans to put that right when he hangs up his work boots. The problem is, which language(s) to choose…

He met the band, James, in a bar in Connecticut in May 1994 and enjoted a few drinks with them, One of their subsequent hits, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) feels like the theme tune to his life.

The furthest north he’s been is Tromsø, Norway (70°N) and the furthest south is Invercargill, NZ (46°S).

Published Books

Nottingham, J.A. (2024). TEACH Brilliantly! Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree

Nottingham, J.A. (2020). The Learning Pit. Alnwick, Northumberland, UK: Challenging Learning.

Nottingham. J. A. & Larsson B. (2018). Challenging Mindset: Why a Growth Mindset Makes a Difference in Learning – and What to Do When It Doesn’t. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Nottingham, J.A. & Nottingham, J. (2018). Challenging Early Learning. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Nottingham, J.A. & Nottingham, J. (2018). Learning Challenge Lessons: Secondary ELA. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Nottingham, J.A. & Nottingham, J. (2018). Learning Challenge Lessons: Primary. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Nottingham, J.A. (2017). The Learning Challenge: How to Guide Your Students Through the Learning Pit. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Nottingham, J.A. & Nottingham, J. (2017). Challenging Learning Through Feedback. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Nottingham, J.A., Nottingham, J., & Renton, T. M. (2016). Challenging Learning Through Dialogue. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Nottingham. J. A. (2016). Challenging Learning (2nd ed.). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Nottingham, J. A. (2013). Encouraging Learning: How You Can Help Children Learn. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Nottingham, J.A. (2010). Challenging Learning (1sted.): Theory, Effective Practice and Lesson Ideas to Create Optimal Learning in the Classroom. Alnwick, Northumberland, UK: JN Publishing.

Published Chapters

Friis, K. & Østergren-Olsen, D. (2017) Literacy og Læringsmål i Indskolingen. Frederikshavn, Denmark: Dafolo (Chapter 8)

Wallace, I. & Kirkman, L. (2017) Best of the Best: Progress. Carmarthen, Wales: Crown House Publishing (Chapter 12)

Kristensen, R. & Szulevicz, T. (2016) Understøttende undervisning og læringsmiljøer. Frederikshavn, Denmark: Dafolo (Chapter 10)

Caeli, E.N. & Andersen, P. (2015) Læringsmål og taksonomiske redskaber. Frederikshavn, Denmark: Dafolo (Chapter 2)

Profile Images

If you have booked James to speak at your event, then you are welcome to use any of the photographs on this page. In all other cases, you should check with before using any of our images.

Most of the photographs were taken by Andrew Billington or members of the our team. All images are copyrighted by (part of the Challenging Learning group).

Studio Shots
Action Shots

Social Media Mentions

Profile Images

If you have booked James to speak at your event, then you are welcome to use any of the photographs on this page. In all other cases, you should check with Challenging Learning before using any of our images.

Most of the photographs were taken by Andrew Billington or members of the CL team. All images are copyrighted by Challenging Learning.

Studio Shots

Action Shots


Consultant, Author, Keynote Speaker

This site represents two tradenames:


This trademark is held by James Nottingham (reg. No. 6.381.157) Uses of the Learning Pit for educational and not-for-profit purposes are usually permitted when seeking permission via this site.


This is the name of the group of companies founded by James Nottingham (full details shown on the Contact Us page). It is also the name of his first book.

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