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Meet the team

Why our team will make a difference

S.P.A. benefits from the wealth of knowledge and experience of its trustees, advisory board and operational staff, who are drawn together from across many sectors. What they all share is a passionate belief in the power of partnerships.


Tom Arbuthnott

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    Tom is S.P.A. Chair and Deputy Head (Partnerships) at Eton College, responsible for the schools’ work on public benefit and social mobility, particularly through overseeing the bursary programme, state school partnerships, and the agency that students develop to social and environmental ends.  Tom was a former Chair of the Schools Together Group and was active in raising the initial seed funding for S.P.A.
    Tom has been developing thinking and ideas about partnership working for more than a decade, and instituted and edited the first two collections in the ‘Partnerships in Practice’ series: ‘All Together Now’ (which focused on music partnerships) and ‘The Missing 2000’ about preparing young people for top-tier university entry.

Sarah Butterworth

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    Sarah is the Director of Schools at the educational charity Royal National Children’s Springboard Foundation which secures transformational bursaries for young people at independent and state boarding schools across the nation. Previously she ran partnerships for Highgate School and project managed the opening of the London Academy of Excellence in Tottenham in 2017—a sixth form free school with nine independent schools and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in the partnership.

Jodh Dhesi

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    Jodh is Chief Executive Officer of the Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham (a Foundation Charity operating two independent schools with a multi-million pound endowment) and Accounting Officer of King Edward VI Academy Trust, Birmingham, which operates ten 11-16 academies. These two entities work together under the name of King Edward VI Foundation, Birmingham, known as “the Foundation”. 
    Jodh is accountable for the leadership, educational outcomes, financial and risk management, organisational development, governance and ambassadorship of the Foundation which educates 11,000+ students and employs 1700+ members of staff.
    He is also a School Improvement Partner for the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership.

Nicki Mattin

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    Nicki is Principal of Thurston Community College. She has over 30 years’ experience of working in schools and believes that they should equip their students with the confidence, competence, knowledge, skills and understanding to fit easily and actively into a rapidly changing society. Partnership working is critical to this. During her career she has worked on projects that have had influence locally, nationally and internationally. This has included being the school lead on an EU- funded project “Improving the Quality of Education in Iraq” with the British Council and Iraqi government, focused on helping to rebuild the Iraq school system and community using a model of school to school support. At a local level Nicki was a founding member of East Kent Schools Together (EKST) an innovative state-independent school partnership, in which each school contributes and draws from the partnership on an equal footing for the benefit of all.

Julie Robinson

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    Julie is CEO of the Independent Schools Council (ISC), the trade body representing associations across independent education in the UK – more than 1400 schools.  ISC provides national-level research, communications and lobbying for the sector.
    Julie spent more than 11 years in headship roles, and is a Governor at both a City of London Academy and an independent school in London.

Leo Winkley

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    Leo has been Headmaster at Shrewsbury School since 2018. He is also the Chair of the Board of Trustees at Shrewsbury House (The Shewsy) and Governor at Prestfelde School. Leo previously served as Chair of the City of York ISSP, Chair of the Boarding Schools Association and Headmaster at St. Peter’s School in York from 2010-2018.
    Leo has more than 12 years of experience in partnership work. He helped found the S.P.A. in order to extend opportunities to promote life chances for young people and share mutually beneficial experience and expertise across sectors for the benefit of children and progress.

Advisory board

Anne Bamford OBE

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    Professor Anne Bamford is Strategic Director of Education, Skills and Culture for the City of London. Anne has been recognized nationally and internationally for her research in education, emerging literacies and visual communication. She is an expert in the international dimension of education and through her research, she has pursued issues of creativity, innovation, social impact and equity and diversity. Anne has conducted major national impact and evaluation studies for the governments of Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland, Hong Kong, and Norway.

Fiona Boulton OBE

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    Fiona Boulton is Director of Independent Schools for United Learning and she is on their executive team. She is Executive Head at Guildford High School. She was appointed an NLE in 2013. Fiona has recently helped to set up and launch the West Surrey Partnership for the independent and state schools in the Guildford area.
    Fiona is currently a Member of the Learning Partners Academy Trust and a member of the governing body of St Ives Prep School and Epsom College. She is an Associate Director of the University of Cumbria in addition to being part of the Ofqual Advisory Group and the Pearson Advisory Group. 
    Fiona held the HMC Chair role for 2019-20 and was an Advisory Board Member of the Institute for Ethical Artificial Intelligence in Education (2019-2021).
    She was awarded an OBE in the King’s New Years Honours List for services to education.


Dr Kate Chhatwal OBE

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    Kate is CEO of Challenge Partners, an England-wide, practitioner-led school improvement charity. Kate is passionate about education and social justice. Her belief in the ability of children and adults to develop themselves and others, and to transform the world around them, is at the heart of all she does.
    Kate’s previous roles include Executive Director of Southwark Teaching School Alliance and Chief Programme Officer at The Future Leaders Trust. Kate also spent 11 years in the Department for Education, where she led the Labour government’s flagship National Challenge Programme and worked on developing far-reaching proposals for 14-19 curriculum and qualifications reform.
    Kate has volunteered as a school governor and trustee for more than a decade and is currently a trustee at STEP Academy Trust.
    Kate holds a PhD in education policy from the European University Institute in Florence, and was awarded an OBE for services to education in the 2020 New Year’s Honours.

Leora Cruddas CBE

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    Leora Cruddas is Chief Executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, the national organisation and sector body for school trusts in England.  She has advised successive governments and sits on several DfE Advisory Bodies. She was recently the vice chair of the Head Teacher Standards Review Group, a member of the external advisory group for the Schools White Paper and SEND Green Paper and has also been invited to sit on the Regulatory and Commissioning Review.  
    Prior to founding CST, she was Director of Policy and Public Relations for the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). Leora has six years of experience as a Director of Education in two London Local Authorities. 
    She is Visiting Professor at UCL Institute of Education. 
    Leora was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours, 2022.

Rowena Hackwood

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    Rowena joined Astrea Academy Trust as Chief Executive Officer in July 2020. She has significant experience in leading high profile organisations across the public, not-for-profit and private sectors. Before joining Astrea, Rowena was CEO at David Ross Education Trust (DRET) where from 2017, she embedded performance improvements, introduced a core knowledge curriculum, and led the trust in providing inspirational opportunities and educational excellence.
    Rowena provides strong and visionary leadership to those she works with. She drives energetic change to ensure an organisation is the best it can be.
    Rowena is also a passionate advocate of building capacity within the sector and works with the Ambition Institute as a trainer on their Executive Educators Programme, mentoring CEOs of growing academy trusts. She is part of the MAT Review Programme and is an active member on a range of advisory groups, including with the Department for Education. She has also served as a trustee with one of the largest academy trusts in the country.
    Prior to joining the education sector, Rowena was the Chief Executive of a not-for-profit start-up in the regeneration sector, where she established and ran a £60 million regeneration project on the national stage.

Andrew Halls OBE

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    Andrew was Head Master of King’s College School, Wimbledon for more than 13 years, and was previously Master of Magdalen College School, Oxford.  Andrew attended a large comprehensive school in Birmingham before reading English at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.  He is currently Honorary Principal of King’s College School, Bangkok, and an educational consultant focusing on school improvement.
    His interests include researching the life and works of Charles Dickens and he has given several lectures on this theme. He has a broad interest in UK education and, in 2020, he was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for services to education.

Tony Hartney CBE 

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    Tony Hartney CBE has been a headteacher of inner London primary and secondary schools, including twenty-three years as headteacher of Gladesmore Community School in Tottenham, which serves a community of high economic deprivation. Under his leadership, an exceptionally positive ethos prevailed, outcomes were strong, and community relationships were impressive. For nearly two decades outstanding Ofsted judgements were achieved. Over a hundred students gained bursary places to sixth forms in independent schools, and the school became a flagship for both the Premier League and Moody’s Corporation.   Since retiring from headship, Tony audits safeguarding and provides guidance for schools in this. He has also retained a prominent school improvement role supporting schools in HEP. He notably led the acclaimed London-wide Stepping Stones initiative for the GLA, and he was key in fostering calm and improved community relations following the riots in 2011. Since then, he has chaired several education and community boards and is experienced as a governor of primary, secondary, PRU, AEP and sixth form providers.

Ali Henderson

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    Ali is the CEO of Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation (RNCSF), the UK’s largest bursary charity. Prior to becoming CEO, Ali led RNCSF’s focus on impact and learning, building on her previous experience in a focus on strategy development and impact evidence in roles for Oxfam, local government and in Private Office at No.10 Downing Street under the Blair & Brown administrations.

Iain Henderson

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    Iain is Deputy Head (Educational Developments and Partnerships) at Wellington College. He has taught in both state and independent sectors in the UK.  He has been a Biology teacher; a Head of Year; a Boarding Housemaster; Assistant Head, and Deputy Head.  He works with all the schools in the Wellington Family to embed the essential Wellington DNA, ethos and culture, sensitively in each new context.  He is co-director of the Festival of Education.  He also oversees Educational Conferences, the Wellington College Teaching Alliance, the Independent State School Partnership and the Wheeler Programme, as well as any other partnership or collaborative work undertaken by the school. 
    Iain is a trained coach and has introduced and grown a coaching culture at Wellington.  He has now trained more than 500 teachers there and at other schools to become coaches.  He is also a governor of Wellington College International School Bangkok and a trustee at Corvus Multi-Academy Trust. He is a trust member of Ascend Academy Trust and coordinates the enduring collaboration between Wellington College, The Wellington Academy, Wellington Primary Academy and Wellington Eagles Primary.

David Laws

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    David joined the Education Policy Institute as Executive Chairman in September 2015. 
    Between 2010 and 2015, David served in the Coalition Government as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Schools Minister and Cabinet Office Minister. Whilst Schools Minister he was responsible for policy areas including all capital and revenue funding, the Pupil Premium, accountability and policy on teachers and leadership.
    David was Member of Parliament for Yeovil from 2001 until 2015.
    David graduated from King’s College, Cambridge, with a double first class honours degree in economics and worked at J.P. Morgan and Barclays de Zoete Wedd.

Lord Nash

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    Lord Nash was a non-executive director of the Department for Education between 2010 and 2013, a Schools Minister between 2013 and 2017,and the lead non-executive director across government between 2020 and 2022. He is a qualified barrister and a career venture capitalist.
    He and his wife founded Future Academies, which manages 10 schools in London and Hertfordshire with a total of 7000 pupils.

Sir Hamid Patel CBE

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    Sir Hamid Patel CBE is Chief Executive of Star Academies, a multi-academy trust that operates 31 schools in clusters in Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, West Midlands and London.
    Sir Hamid is a member of several national and international strategic educational and policy forums. He currently serves as a board member of Ofsted and the Confederation of School Trusts. He is an Honorary Professor of Education at the University of Birmingham.
    In recognition of his service to education, Sir Hamid was awarded a CBE in 2015 and a knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2021.

Carl Ward

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    Carl is Chief Executive of the City Learning Trust, an academy trust in Staffordshire.  He is also Chair of the Foundation for Education Development (FED).  He has regional, national and international experience in education strategy, leadership development and school to school improvement. With more than 26 years in teaching and leadership roles, Carl was also ASCL President (2017 – 2018), part of the Prime Minister’s Talent & Enterprise Taskforce (2009 – 2011) and has advised the Number 10 policy unit on several aspects of education.   
    He is also Chair of the Careers and Enterprise Company’s Education Advisory Board and previously Chair for the Schools Cooperative Society and the Chartered College of Teaching’s trustee selection committee.  He is a serving council member of the International Confederation of Principals and a member of the Global Education Leaders Partnership.  In addition, Carl has been a member of the Education Funding Agency advisory board; DfE School and Academy Funding Group; Confederation of School Trusts board and the European School Headteachers Association. In 2020, Carl was recognised for his impact in education and named as a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching, as well as a Fellow of the Leadership Council at the Center for Universal Education, Brookings Institution, Washington DC.

Operations team

Oliver Blond
Chief Executive Officer

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    Oliver has led prestigious schools in both the state and independent sectors for seventeen years, as Head of The Henrietta Barnett School in Barnet, named State School of the Year during his tenure, and Head of Roedean School, a day and boarding school in Brighton. He is the Academic Director and a founding member of the PTI (formerly The Prince’s Teaching Institute), an educational charity delivering high quality subject-based professional development to hundreds of school teachers and leaders, and has been involved in this innovative start-up from inception to influence. After studying for a joint degree in English Literature and Philosophy, Oliver trained as an English and Drama teacher, and has since held roles of Academic Tutor, Head of English and Deputy Head, Academic, at schools in London, including North London Collegiate School and Wimbledon High School, before moving onto Headship. He has also worked as a school governor, and consultant on school development, and has made a very significant contribution to educational leadership in schools and partnerships in different sectors, including the charity sector for over 25 years.

Christina Astin

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    Christina is an experienced school partnerships leader and now helps schools to develop strategic partnerships for mutual benefit, especially cross-sector. She directs training programmes and speaks and writes on partnerships. In 2022 she launched #PartnerChat, a network for school partnerships professionals, hosting monthly virtual “breakfast briefings” to discuss topics relating to partnerships. She is also a school science consultant (having taught physics for 22 years) and is a sought-after leader of science leadership and physics-specific teacher training across the UK and beyond. As a Head of Science she co-founded Young Scientists Journal. She is an advisor and former trustee to the charity Physics Partners and she maintains a portfolio of corporate clients as a consultant on educational outreach. In 2022 she was appointed Chair of Planet Possibility, a consortium of five organisations working together with funding from the Institute of Physics to increase diversity in physics. Christina qualified as a Level 7 Executive Coach in 2022. She is proud to serve as a Kent Ambassador, and is a Fellow of both the Institute of Physics and the Chartered College of Teaching. She lives in Canterbury with her family where she sings in the cathedral as a deputy lay clerk.

Ian Davenport

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    Ian has worked with S.P.A. since its inception, when he was the founding interim Lead. He now provides ongoing support on government and school relations.
    After graduating, Ian worked in The City for a number of years for Morgan Stanley and Arthur Andersen. He was the Head Master of Blundell’s, a housemaster and Head of Department at Radley College and an Economics tutor at Oxford University.
    Ian was also the founding CEO of the Royal National Children’s SpringBoard Foundation as well as starting the SpringForward project, working closely with the DfE.
    He has been an adviser to various educational organisations, including ISC. He has been a governor of a number of schools, both independent and state, junior and senior, as well having been the Chair of Trustees at The Royal Academy for the Deaf.

Ashley Craft

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    Ashley joins S.P.A.’s impact function after helping dozens of charities and NGOs to develop their evaluation frameworks, and to collect, analyse and use the data to inform their next steps. He is comfortable with quantitative and qualitative data and has worked on programmes in data-poor environments, as well as those employing the most rigorous research methods. Ashley’s evaluations include educational programmes seeking to increase academic attainment and others targeting social and emotional skills or removing cultural barriers as a stepping stone to greater attainment. Ashley also co-managed an education charity delivering secondary school improvement in East Africa through partnership with UK universities.

Dr Margaret Hunnaball Researcher in Residence

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    Margaret has 35 years’ experience as a physics teacher, with senior leadership experience in both state-maintained and independent secondary schools. Her final post was Principal Deputy at King’s College School, Wimbledon, which is part of the Wimbledon ISSP. Margaret has recently completed a PhD at King’s College London, conducting ESRC-funded research into cross-sector educational partnerships. Her research interests reflect her love of education: partnership working, leadership and holistic education beyond the formal curriculum. 
    As S.P.A.’s Researcher in Residence, Margaret brings a wealth of teaching experience in both state and private sectors, and also in research both within this country and around the world.
    Outside education Margaret is passionate about hockey, she was an International Hockey Federation (FIH) umpire and is now on the FIH Pro League Panel for Umpire Managers.  She also serves on the European Hockey Federation Appointments Committee and the FIH Rules’ Committee.

Clancy McMullan

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    Clancy has worked in education for over twenty years in a variety of settings across Yorkshire. Her experience stretches from classroom teaching to faculty management to examining. Throughout her career, devising and delivering staff training has been integral, at both whole-school and trust-wide levels. She is currently based at Vale of York Academy, York. Concurrently, Clancy has worked as coordinator of York ISSP, which is an equal partnership of thirteen secondary schools, (ten state schools and three independent schools), situated within the City of York. Its purpose is to provide a city-wide network of academic and enrichment opportunities for able and interested children in York. Over the years in her role as York ISSP Coordinator, Clancy has worked with other partnership coordinators both offering and seeking support through the valuable network that exists nationally. She joins S.P.A. as an associate to support the delivery of consultancy, CPD and resource development. Cross sector equality of access and delivery continues to be at the heart of Clancy’s partnership ethos. Celebrating the good practice across all schools to build and endorse the collegial nature of alliance through shared expertise, regardless of socio-demographics, she believes, is the key to promoting impactful partnership work with a child-centred approach.

Dr Keith Watson

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    With vast experience of the educational sector, including as a CEO of a primary academy trust and being the leader of a Teaching School, Keith now uses that knowledge and experience as an educational consultant and coach. Keith worked for 30 years in primary education, mainly in Southampton, and for many years he focused upon school improvement through National Support School work and with the National College for School Leadership, particularly on research and development. His doctorate, from Southampton University, focused upon the development of assistant headship in England. Having also trained as a coach outside of education he now coaches many school leaders and leadership teams both on school improvement but also on their own personal development. Keith is also the CPD lead for the National Association for Able Child in Education Charity which includes delivering training and CPD across the country. Outside of his work Keith is a keen runner and triathlete who manages to get slower and slower year by year as well as maintaining a lifelong passion for history.
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