Jonathan Ullmer MBE

Jonathan Ullmer MBE has focused his educational interests and skills on enriching the experiences of students both nationally and internationally since 1985. As Founding Director of Education and Principal for the CATS Colleges, he led two schools from “unsatisfactory” to “excellent” with leadership described by UK Inspectors as “outstanding.” The goal of the CATS colleges is to assist international students in preparing for success at the university level and to expand their English skills as they prepare for their future career.


Jonathan Ullmer studied English at Durham and Oxford Universities, earning a Distinction in Teaching Practice. He received an MA from the University of Victoria, Canada, with an emphasis on North American Literature. Additionally, he earned a diploma in the Therapeutic and Educational Application of the Arts from the Institute for Arts in Education and Therapy, and the LRAM designation as a Teacher from the Royal Academy of Music.


Mr Ullmer began his career in education in 1985 teaching English and Drama at the Swanley School, Kent. In 1989, he became the Arts Curriculum Director at Cecil Jones High School 11-18 Foundation School in Southend before moving on to Sawyers Hall College of Science and Technology in Essex where he served as Assistant Principal in 2002. He took a leadership role as Vice Principal with CATS College Cambridge in 2008 before becoming Principal of CATS Canterbury, the oldest CATS College in 2010.

In 2017, Jonathan accepted an offer from Haileybury to lead their school in the capital of Kazakhstan, Nur-Sultan. Jonathan’s expertise in school improvement was what drew him to the school in the city where he worked with the staff to lead Haileybury through a highly successful inspection in which the school was rated as having outstanding international practice in 17 out of 19 areas. 

Jonathan also led the school to highly successful accreditation by NEASC and CIS to prepare the school to be able to offer American graduation in addition to leading the school into its first highly successful International Baccalaureate results. Under his leadership the school was shortlisted for a Times Independent Schools Award and won two awards for its student leadership programmes and the teaching of the Kazakh language.


An international education of his own allowed Jonathan Ullmer to head an international school in Canterbury offering 26 different native languages with the IB in an academic environment encompassing nearly 60 different nationalities. He has led the CATS Colleges in the development of policy and practice to ensure consistency across all colleges and established leadership awards during Global Leadership Days involving students in every part of college life. He has also written and implemented development plans for CATS Boston, London, Cambridge and Canterbury.

He implemented the transition of the successful CATS Canterbury University Foundation Programme so it is now offered across all three UK colleges. This programme is the only school foundation course that sees students going on to all the Times top universities with the exception of Oxbridge.

Mr Ullmer is particularly proud of Student Voice through which students can provide feedback on both the intranet and ATS app, earning an Award of Excellence from the Independent Schools Association.


Working with local industry, churches, schools and organisations, Jonathan Ullmer led over 50 school and community projects in the greater Southend area. He chaired the Trustees of a Southend counselling service for ten years leading to a growth of 700%. As Chair of Love Southend, he also led a team that developed regeneration work involving 400 young people.


Jonathan Ullmer has been published in various periodicals since 1987 when his article exploring the history of American Indians through drama entitled “History Comes Alive!” appeared in the Kent Education Gazette. Along with a number of articles, he also authored Creative Drama and Explosive Drama, books published by Moorley. 


Throughout his career, Mr Ullmer has received numerous awards and honours. A partial listing includes:


1990 Fellow of the College of Preceptors for contributions to education and published work
1992 National Drama Award providing funding for a community arts project involving drama
2001  Gold Artsmark – school honoured with top Arts Council of England award
2010 International High School of the Year, CATS Canterbury, LTM Magazine award
2012 Award of Excellence from the Independent Schools Association
2013 Awarded Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts
2014 Award of Excellence and Innovation, shortlisted by Independent Schools Association Shortlisted for Independent School of the Year by the Times
2015 International Schools Award, British Council, described as “outstanding”
2015 Award of Excellence and Innovation, Winner, Independent Schools Association


Two awards from 2014 deserve special note. CEG with CTS Canterbury earned the Queen’s Award for Enterprise as the fastest-growing CATS College. In addition, Jonathan Ullmer personally was awarded the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty the Queen for Services to the UK and International Education. 

Ullmer is also the founder of Excellence in Schools.