top of page

of the Year Award

National Headteacher 

Martin Knowles, Principal of Essa Academy, shortlisted for National Headteacher of the Year Award.

Martin Knowles, the Principal of Essa Academy in Bolton, has been shortlisted for Pearson’s National Headteacher of the Year in a Secondary School Award for 2021.


The Pearson National Teaching Awards, established in 1998, are an annual celebration of excellence in education, recognising the amazing work of teachers across the UK. Known as the ‘oscars’ of the teaching profession, they receive a significant number of entries across the country each year within each of their sixteen award categories, and only a few of the nominated candidates are shortlisted. This is an exceptional achievement for Martin, who has been Principal at Essa Academy for almost four years and has driven significant school improvement during that time. Essa Academy is now oversubscribed and in the top 20% of schools nationally for pupil progress.


The application form which was written by the Senior Leadership Team at Essa Academy draws on the ‘magic’ which Martin has brought to the community of Great Lever over the past four years. From the Essa Experience and a minimum of 20% PPA for all teachers, to the Character Development programme and compulsory cooking for all students, these are just some of the innovative and life-changing initiatives Martin has implemented which have had a significant impact on the school and community. 


Jen Sidebottom, Vice Principal of Essa Academy quoted in the application “Martin Knowles is a leader like no other. His sole purpose is to better the life chances and improve the lives of the children he works for. Martin has a tireless drive to provide an outstanding education through an exceptional and unique school experience and curriculum offer, encompassing all parts of a child’s development both personal and academic. Martin’s vision is that ‘all will succeed’. He is a visionary; a mastermind of strategy who meticulously considers every decision he makes on behalf of the Academy. His decisions are always and only ever made based on what is best for our students.

Martin has transformed Essa Academy and the community he serves. He is an exceptional leader who is modest, compassionate and never settles for anything other than the best. He does not accept recognition for his work easily, and therefore it is through this application we wish to give back to him, to recognise the incredible impact he has had on the future generation of Bolton.”


Martin will now progress onto the next stage of the process starting with a virtual day of celebration in May, including interviews with Essa Academy staff, students and parents. The shortlist of Silver winners will then be announced in June, and the Gold award winners announced in the next academic year.


Martin stated that this recognition has come as a total surprise. “I am completely humbled by this achievement. This is testimony to the amazing hard work of everyone involved at Essa Academy. We are on an incredible journey and this further compounds Essa Academy’s rapid improvement over the past few years. This is recognition for all of the staff and students - their hard work has made the school the special place it is today.”


We wish Martin the best of luck going forward. To quote the application, his senior team and staff alike believe that “there is nobody more deserving of this recognition and award.”

bottom of page