Ashfaq Rahman

Chief Executive Officer

Ash was previously Vice CEO of the Nova Education Trust with particular responsibility for Toot Hill School, Newark Academy, The Suthers School, Garibaldi School, Meden School and Melton Vale Sixth Form College. Prior to this, as Deputy Head Teacher and later Head Teacher at Toot Hill School, Ash led an achievement agenda that saw the school ranked in the top 2% of schools nationally. Ash was also a key player in securing the Outstanding judgement for the school. He became the Head at Toot Hill School in 2012 and under his leadership the school consistently secured excellent examination results that have placed it amongst the highest performing secondary schools in the East Midlands. Toot Hill has consistently secured EM 84+% 4+ and nearly two thirds of the pupils in the school secure EM5+. Under his leadership, Newark Academy was also transformed from Special Measures to Good in less than three years. It is now one of the most over-subscribed schools in the area.

Ash has a strong expertise in curriculum and has strategically led the trust-wide approach to securing high achievement at Key Stage 4 and 5. In 2019, NET was judged the 7th highest performing trust in the country for progress at Key Stage 4. He also leads on quality assurance across the trust.

Ash regularly leads inspections, is a National Leader of Education and works closely with DfE officials in implementing the national strategy around teacher recruitment and retention. He has vast experience in governance and working collaboratively with other local schools and trusts.

Ash is currently a director of The Priestley Academy Trust and the chair of the school improvement committee. He is a National Pupil Premium Reviewer. He specialises in leadership, curriculum, personalised learning, staff development, tracking and the use of data, raising achievement, school improvement and school standards. He has a strong understanding of school- and trust-level finances and knows how to maximise resources to get the greatest benefit for all learners.

Helen Duffy

Senior Executive Head Teacher (Primary)

Helen joined the trust 2015. Her expertise lies in transforming schools who are in Special Measures and improving leadership.

Helen has been responsible for moving two schools out of Special Measures – Birklands Primary School in Market Warsop who are now a Good school and Victoria Primary School in The Meadows area of Nottingham, who gained Good with Outstanding for leadership and management in their most recent Ofsted inspection.

Helen also provides support to Robert Miles Infant School in Bingham and Westdale Junior School in Mapperley. More recently, Helen has started to work with Firbeck Academy, where rapid improvement is occurring.

Helen leads on Safeguarding for the Nova Education Trust, where she regularly reviews policy and practice and works alongside each local authorities safeguarding partnership and relevant agencies.

Alys Finch

Senior Education Lead

Alys joined the Trust in 2019 in the role of Senior Education Lead. Her role includes the strategic leadership of professional learning across the Trust.

Alys has executive oversight of the Trust’s Initial Teacher Training provider (Nottinghamshire Torch SCITT) and Teaching School Alliance (Nottinghamshire Torch TSA), as well as leading on well-being. In addition to working across the Trust, Alys works particularly closely with a number of our schools with a focus on school improvement through a focus on coaching, Teaching and Learning, and developing leadership capacity.

Alys started her career as a secondary English and Drama specialist, in a range of Middle and Senior Leadership roles, with responsibilities which included Teaching and Learning, CPD, Appraisal, SEND and Oxbridge applications. Following this, Alys has worked in a range of local and national ITT leadership roles. Alys also worked on secondment to Teach First, spending three years as the National Curriculum and Assessment Lead for English, leading and quality assuring Teach First’s secondary English provision across England, with an advisory role for the start-up provision in Wales.

In 2016, she led a West Yorkshire SCITT from being at risk of closure to a Good with Outstanding features Ofsted judgement in 2016/17. Following this success and time as a trustee for the National Association of School-Based Teacher Trainers (NASBTT), Alys worked as an Education Consultant specialising in teacher development, mentoring, leadership and management and ITT Ofsted preparation. This included working nationally with teacher education providers and other organisations on a range of projects and priorities, including authoring NASBTT's Assessment title in its series for Early Career Teachers.

Ryan Hawley

Executive Head Teacher (Secondary)

Ryan primarily oversees the developments of Meden School and The Garibaldi School, both schools are Ofsted-rated Good schools with Ryan overseeing their developments as they continue their journeys to amazing.

Prior to this appointment, Ryan was the highly-effective Head Teacher at The Garibaldi School. Having been appointed as Head Teacher at Garibaldi in September 2015, he had a mission to make the school a true school of choice for Mansfield and surrounding areas. Under his leadership the school consistently achieved high outcomes that ranked Garibaldi as the best performing school in Mansfield. In 2019 the school secured its best-ever Progress 8 figure of +0.47 placing it in the top six schools in Nottinghamshire. The school won national accolades for both Attainment and Progress. Garibaldi is now truly a school of choice and is very heavily over-subscribed.

Ryan also currently oversees Assessment, Recording & Reporting and School Improvement Planning across the Trust and he has a real expertise in coaching, mentoring and developing high quality leaders. He also specialises in Cultural Development, School Improvement, Teaching and Learning, School System Development and Raising Achievement.

David Hooker

Vice Chief Executive Officer / Senior Executive Head Teacher (Secondary)

David is currently Executive Head Teacher at three secondary schools – Kirk Hallam Academy, NUAST and NUSA. Alongside the CEO, he has helped establish clear KPIs to help guide and monitor individual school and central spending whilst raising standards and securing reserves.

David has previously held two headship roles leading failing schools, in very different settings, from Special Measures to Good ratings and both were quickly ranked in the top 10 nationally for school improvement. (Meden School 36% 5+EM to 64% and Djanogly City Academy P8 -0.4 to 0.71). In both cases, the schools were lifted out of Special Measures within 12 months and both have sustained their positions in the long-term.

Alison Ingram

Director of Governance, Compliance and Public Relations

Alison joined the executive team in April 2017 having previously worked as Company Secretary for Nottingham University Samworth Academy Trust.

Prior to this, Alison worked for 11 years as a Lead Project Manager for the University of Nottingham, where she led on a range of educational projects for their sponsor schools, NUAST, NUSA and Firbeck and for the School of Education leading on their PGCE volunteering project in South African township schools.

Before joining the education sector, Alison worked extensively in the corporate sector including a significant period at National Grid partnering the leadership board of one of their subsidiary enterprises.

Steve Orton

Chief Finance Officer

Steve joined the trust in April 2017, initially as Vice Chief Financial Officer and was subsequently appointed to the role of Chief Financial Officer in July 2018.

Steve is a qualified CIMA accountant, having obtained Chartered status in June 2009.

Steve has over 16 years of experience of working within the educational and charitable sector. Before joining the trust, Steve held a senior management position at The Creative Education Trust.

Sandy Paley

Executive Head Teacher (Secondary)

Sandy is currently Executive Head Teacher of Toot Hill School and Sixth Form College, and Melton Vale Sixth Form College. She also works extensively across the trust, with a particular focus on developing a truly robust and ambitious curriculum for all students.

Sandy’s expertise is grounded in both a rich experience of leading curriculum planning in all subject disciplines from Key Stage 3 to 5 and a complete commitment to wider reading, research and learning theory.

Sandy previously spent 13 years as a Middle and Senior Leader at Toot Hill School, where she led on Achievement, Curriculum, Pupil Premium and Literacy as Deputy Head Teacher, followed by four years as Head Teacher, during which the school secured its highest Progess 8 (+0.5) and became a lead NACE school, after its third consecutive accreditation. Subsequently, Sandy secured a role as a NACE associate and assessor, specialising in leading outstanding provision for the most able students.

Andy Seymour

Executive Head Teacher (Secondary)

Andy is currently Executive Headteacher of three secondary schools and is an experienced Headteacher and Senior Leader having worked in a range of schools across the region holding a number of senior leadership roles.

Andy was previously Head Teacher at Newark Academy and led the school from Special Measures to Good with Outstanding Leadership and Management in less than three years. As a result, of his transformational leadership the school is one of the most oversubscribed schools in the area.

Andy is passionate about the power of education to transform lives and leads Trust wide Achievement. Andy is also the strategic lead for the Trust’s Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement process.

Andy also has significant expertise in school improvement and is especially interested in school culture and ethos as well as the quality of education, particularly curriculum design and implementation.

Cathryn Smith

Strategic Lead for Quality of Education

Cathryn comes to this role with a vast range of experience in education including subject leadership, leading Teaching and Learning, Professional Development, Quality Assurance and curriculum literacy at a large outstanding secondary school.

As an outstanding classroom practitioner herself, Cathryn understands the importance of continual professional learning, sharply focused on exceptional subject knowledge and pedagogy, firmly rooted in research and learning theory.

Cathryn has a depth of knowledge and expertise working with school leaders in areas such as developing Middle Leadership; coaching and mentorship of teachers; CPL design and provision, including Subject Knowledge Enhancement; curriculum development; outstanding KS5 provision, and whole school literacy and Reading for Pleasure.

As a NACE associate and assessor, Cathryn also specialises in outstanding provision for the most able students, with a focus on truly ambitious curriculum design and expert delivery. Cathryn understands how children learn and is passionate about ensuring an equity of amazing provision for all young people.


The trust board aims to devolve as much decision-making to each Local Governing Body (LGB) as is possible.

We want schools to belong to their communities and governors to see themselves as major partners in the life of their school.

We support and foster strong links between the LGB and Head Teacher and hope all governors can have a high profile within the school whilst holding the leadership team to account.

Governors receive regular training so they can undertake their duties and enjoy the experience of helping their school move forward. It will be the governors, in partnership with the Head Teacher, that will determine resource allocation and spending priorities.

Trust Directors

  • Mr Richard Flewitt (Interim Chair)
  • Mrs Janice White
  • Ms Lucy Burrow
  • Mr Robert Dowling
  • Mr A Stephenson
  • Mr B Thomas
  • Mr A McKee
  • Mr A Glover
  • Mrs Margaret Monckton


  • Mr Jonathan Sims
  • Professor Sarah O’Hara
  • Nicola Morrison
  • Nichole Munro

Central services

Our central services team covers a wide area of school operations:

  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Information Technology
  • Data Services
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Estates
  • Governance

Each area is guided by a ‘Service Level Agreement’ that is their contract to school clients.

The overiding aim of the Central Services team is to allow school leaders to focus on educational matters and provide key services at lowest possible cost in order to enable the school to focus resources in the classroom.

The normal charge for this service is 5% of GAG, however the trust does take into account the financial position of each individual school.