Executive Team

Simon Beamish, Chief Executive


Simon Beamish graduated from York University with a BA in Politics and went on to study for a PGCE in History at Durham University. He gained an MSc in Social and Political Theory from Birkbeck College, University of London as well as an NPQH from the National College for School Leadership. He has taught at several schools in Kent, Medway and South East London. In 2009, Simon was appointed Principal of Longfield Academy within Leigh Academies Trust. In the previous year the predecessor school had achieved just over 20% 5+ A*-C grades including English and Maths. By the time that Simon left the school in September 2013 to become Principal of The Leigh Technology Academy, this figure had risen to just under 70%.

Simon was appointed Chief Executive of Leigh Academies Trust in November 2013, succeeding Frank Green CBE, who went on to become Schools’ Commissioner for England. In addition to this role, Simon is currently Chairman of Governors of Roseacre Junior School in Maidstone. He is also Chairman of Kent and Medway Training, one of the region’s largest teacher training providers. Simon sits on the Regional Schools’ Commissioner’s sub-regional board for Kent and Medway and the Executive Board of the Kent Association of Headteachers. He is also a trained Ofsted Inspector and a National Leader of Education. He lives in Kent with his wife Emma and three children.


Neil Willis, Deputy Chief Executive 

neil-willisAfter studying at Plymouth University and Goldsmiths College, University of London, Neil taught Geography at various schools in Surrey and Kent. He was Acting Headteacher at Axton Chase School in its transition to becoming Longfield Academy in 2008, and Principal at Longfield until 2012. He became Deputy CEO of the Leigh Academies Trust in 2012.

Whilst at Longfield, Neil was integrally involved in the design and development of the new academy building which opened in September 2011. As part of this work he led the introduction of iPads as a learning device for all students. As the first large scale mobile device scheme in Europe, it has garnered worldwide interest and recognition with the academy winning the national ICT Facility Award and being runner up as Academy of the Year 2011.


Sharon Waterman, Education Director

sharon-watermanSharon Waterman was awarded a Bachelor of Education (Honours) from De Montfort University in 1993 having studied Secondary Physical Education and English at Bedford College of Higher Education. The National College of School Leadership awarded Sharon the NPQH in 2006 and she successfully completed the Associate Academy Principal Programme in 2011.

Sharon has worked in a number of schools in both Northampton and Kent developing her expertise and experience as leader using innovative curriculum design to raise standards and achievement. Sharon was appointed Co-Principal of The Leigh Academy in 2011 and in recognition of her outstanding leadership and growing role across Leigh Academies Trust Sharon was appointed Trust Principal and an Executive Director of Leigh Academies Trust in 2015. Sharon left The Leigh Academy in September 2017 to take on her new role as Education Improvement Director.


Sue Crocker, Business Director

sue-crockerSue has worked in the education sector since 1996, including both the primary and secondary sectors, and was appointed Leigh Academies Trust Business Director in 2008. Sue has led the Trust through major capital-building programmes totalling £66m, the most recent of which, Langley Park Primary Academy, phase 2 opened in July 2018. Current projects include Bearsted Primary Academy, Snowfields Academy and Leigh Academy Rainham opening September 2020 and the new Jupiter College at Wilmington Academy. Sue is integrally involved in all aspects of business and operations and has been instrumental in bringing new schools into the Trust. Other areas of strategic leadership include health and safety, estate management and administration.



Steve Avis, Finance Director
bb160602webSteve is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and joined Leigh Academies Trust as Finance Director in January 2015. He has over 25 years of experience within finance across the public sector and has held senior management positions in the civil service, including in the Department for Education. He was also head of finance at Partnerships for Schools (now part of the Education Funding Agency). Before joining the Trust, Steve was director of finance and operations at a high profile new academy in central London.

Steve has two daughters and two grandchildren. He lives in Surrey and is a lifelong supporter of Leeds United Football Club.


Stephane Vernoux, IT Director

stephane-vernouxStephane joined Leigh Academies Trust in 2012 to transform, develop and deliver the Trust’s IT strategy. Much emphasis is placed on growth, mobility, innovation, risk and exposure management, and achieving outstanding educational outcomes. Before moving to the UK, Stephane began his career as a biomedical engineer. He then turned his focus to IT, bringing over 15 years’ technical and management expertise. Most recently, Stephane worked as the Head of IT for the largest indoor ski slope operator in Europe, prior to which he held various IT roles within a specialist property company.



Richard Taylor, People Director

Richard joined Leigh Academies Trust in 2014 to develop the Trust’s HR strategy and drive improvements in our people practices. Richard is a Chartered member of the Institute of Personnel & Development and has devoted his career to building successful HR teams that add real value to the organisations they serve. Over the last decade Richard has held a number of HR leadership roles across a variety of sectors including Engineering, Construction, Facilities Management and Oil & Gas and he brings to the Trust a commercial, pragmatic and creative approach to people management.