2020 UPDATE … most of James’s work is specially-commissioned by districts and school clusters. However, he will also be speaking at the following open events in 2020: BETT in Jan; UK Roadshow in February/March; southern USA in March; ASCD in April; Australia & New Zealand in May; USA, Botswana, South Africa, & Australia in June; Australia in July; Scandinavia, USA & Australia in August; Australia in September/October; and then Singapore in November. Contact us for more information.

James Nottingham is best known as the creator of The Learning Pit® as well as a sought-after keynote speaker and author of nine books about teaching, learning and leadership. His presentations are characterised by a rare skill for blending arresting anecdotes, hard-edged research and practical advice into a truly compelling narrative. 

In the early days, James hated school – that is why he went into teaching in the hope he could do something to improve education (that and the fact that he failed as a pig farmer!) He began as a teaching assistant in a school for deaf children, then trained to be a teacher and leader in schools in the UK, working across the 3-19 age range. In 1999, he appeared in a TV documentary about the work he was doing with Philosophy for Children (P4C). This led to him setting up a multi-million pound social regeneration project in North East England that won awards for the significant contribution it made to strengthening young people’s lives. In 2006, he created Challenging Learning to share the best ways to enhance learning through challenge, feedback, growth mindset, P4C, questioning and the Learning Pit. The company is now based in six countries (AU, DK, NO, SE, UK, USA) and employs 30 staff.

The most significant professional learning that James’s company offers is the Challenging Learning Process. This is an in-depth approach to enhancing learning outcomes that is tailor-made to fit context & budget. Typically, a CLP runs for 2-4 years and includes workshops & coaching for ALL staff working with 2-19-year-olds, as well as evaluation reports, parent support & demonstration lessons.

Challenging Learning also offers keynote speeches; institutes & conferences; study tours; in-school consultancy & evaluation and books, videos & lesson resources.

James is described by Skolvärlden (Swedish Teaching Union) as “one of the most talked about names in the world of school development” and was recently listed among the Future 500 – “a definitive list of the UK’s most forward thinking and creative innovators.”



James Nottingham has developed a rare skill for blending arresting anecdotes, hard-edged research and practical advice into a truly compelling narrative.

Prof Barry Hymer

James Nottingham has the skills of explaining the complex in a way which is accessible and inviting. He is challenging yet encouraging. The examples of how it could be and the insights into what success looks like will leave you wanting to do things differently without a bag of guilt to weigh you down.

Prof Mick Waters

James Nottingham - lärare och skolledare och ett av de mest omtalade namnen inom skolutveckling i världen i dag / James Nottingham is a teacher and leader, and one of the most talked about names in the world of school development today

Skolvärlden, 2014

“James's work at our school is leading to the most significant and ongoing positive change that I have witnessed in my 30 years in education”

George Telford, Australia

“Nothing short of an AMAZING speaker. Time flew by! Although it was in English, the language was never a problem! / Intet mindre end FANTASTISK oplægsholder. Tiden fløj af sted! Selvom dagen foregik på engelsk, blev sproget aldrig på noget tidspunkt et problem!”

B Jensen, Denmark

I thought it was an inspiring lecture by James Nottingham. I wish everyone in education could hear these important messages.

Alexandra Sundelin

Pre-School Leader, Denmark

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

Monica Blankestijn

Teacher, Netherlands

Your keynote was the 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 and nurseries for years to come.

Conference organiser

Buenos Aires, Argentina

James delivered a fantastic thought-provoking keynote that sparked debate and discussion amongst delegates alongside some excellent examples and nuggets of suggested good practise for them to take back to school.

Conference organiser

Birmingham, UK

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

Headteacher, Manchester, UK