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Chris Kilkenny

"I, Daniel Blake is not a film, it's a documentary about my life."

There is a clear link between children growing up in poverty and school underachievement. it's one of the most intractable challenges facing policy makers, school leaders and educators the world over.

And despite the efforts of so many, the gap is only getting worse.

This is where Chris Kilkenny, a young man with first-hand knowledge of what it's really like, can help.

Chris grew up in unbelievably challenging circumstances, just outside Edinburgh. What he brings to Independent Thinking - and to the schools and educational organisations he is now working with - is a powerful and thought-provoking view into a world that so many of us are fortunate enough to not have experienced.

All delivered by an Associate who is proving himself to be a frank, thoughtful, eloquent and incredibly emotive speaker now addressing educators and school leaders across the UK.

With a mother who was a heroin addict, Chris ended up looking after his younger siblings as well as trying to survive all that life - and the school system- threw at him. Growing up in such real poverty, Chris has been in care, has lived in a rehabilitation unit, has been homeless and forced to live in a B&B and has struggled - and is still struggling - to build a life for himself and his own young family.

So many teachers, almost by definition, are from the comfortable middle classes whose time at home, at school, at university and in the world of work is so far removed from the lives of so many of the young people in our care. Despite our best intentions we can, if we are not careful, alienate those children who need us most or simply miss the messages and signals they are giving off that are simply cries for help, understanding and support.

This was the case for Chris when he was at school and he is on a mission to help teachers see the children with similar needs in their classes, children who are, in Chris' words, 'hiding in plain sight'.

I just wanted to let you know that Chris was amazing, my staff were humbled to hear his story and inspired to do better by our students

Please do pass on my thanks to Chris; he’s an awesome young man!

Chris' story is important and shocking but what makes it even more special is that not only does he deliver it in a way that is both incredibly articulate and moving without being sentimental, but also he does so without bitterness or rancour.

He is not angry at schools and teachers for not being there for him when he needed it or for making things worse by their ham-fisted efforts to try and help without ever really taking the time to understand the issues or the children in front of them. What Chris is angry about is a wider society that seems content to allow poverty to happen and that appears set up to keep poor people poor.

For him, it is through education that such a situation can be changed and through his hard-won insights and his growing experience working with young people, teachers and school leaders across the UK, Chris is able to offer practical ideas on how we, as educators, can make a genuine and vital difference for young people like him.

Not only a powerful contributor for INSET and leadership conferences, Chris is also a superb motivational speaker with students, offering them a ‘reality check’ on what lives can really be like and how vital it is that they take advantage of all the opportunities that they have.

If you are serious about what your school can do to help children in poverty that goes way beyond 'high expectations' and 'zero tolerance' and misplaced talk of 'social mobility', then Chris is the speaker you need to hear.

  • Chris has been with Independent Thinking since 20th September 2016

  • You'll find his work in our Teaching and Learning topic area
  • You might also want to consider David Cameron or Jaz Ampaw-Farr
  • Ask us about Chris's prices and current availability
  • Remember, if you're looking to book more than one Associate then we can offer special 'bulk buy' discounts.

Make a booking, ask a question or just say hello.

Give us a call on +44 (0)1267 211432, drop us a line at or hit the button.

Our office in lovely West Wales will then get in touch before you can say 'meddylwyr annibynnol'.