Simon Beamish, the CEO, looking at the camera

SIMON BEAMISH

Chief Executive Officer

Simon 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.

Simon was appointed Chief Executive of Leigh Academies Trust in November 2013, succeeding Frank Green, CBE. In addition to this role, Simon is currently Chairman of Governors of Roseacre Junior School in Maidstone. He is the Chairman of Kent and Medway Training, one of the region’s largest teacher-training providers. Simon is also the Chairman of Thames Gateway Teaching School Hub. He is a trained Ofsted Inspector and a National Leader of Education. He lives in Kent with his wife Emma and their three children.

Photo of Steve Avis, Finance Director

STEVE AVIS

Chief Financial Officer

Steve 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 and Skills 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 four grandchildren. He lives in Surrey and is a lifelong supporter of Leeds United Football Club.

Photo of Debbie-Biggenden, Academies Director for Medway and Central Kent

DEBBIE BIGGENDEN

Academies Director (Central Kent and Special Academies)

Debbie was awarded a Bachelor of Education (Hons) from Greenwich University in 1995, having studied secondary physical and health education. She then completed her post-graduate qualification in education leadership and her NPQH in 2006. Debbie started her teaching career as a PE teacher and worked in a number of secondary leadership roles in schools in both Croydon and Kent.

In 2009, Debbie moved from the secondary to the primary phase as Headteacher of Oaks Primary Academy in Maidstone. Leigh Academies Trust appointed her as Executive Principal of four primary academies in the area before she assumed her current role as Academies Director.

Emma Elwin, Academies Director (Medway) smiling at the camera

Emma Elwin

Academies Director (Medway)

Emma graduated from the University of Kent with an LLB Law degree in 2001. After spending time in the legal insurance industry, she went on to complete a PGCE in English and Media at Canterbury Christ Church University. After teaching in schools across Medway, Emma joined The Hundred of Hoo Academy and progressed swiftly into middle and senior leadership positions. She held key responsibility for raising standards, with those for English and maths rising significantly. Emma became Principal of The Hundred of Hoo Academy in 2016. Her exceptional knowledge, experience and skills across the full age range has been integral to the leadership of the first all-through school in Medway. In 2019 outcomes at the Academy represented some of the strongest in its history. Emma became Academies Director for Medway in September 2020.

Photo of Tracey Trusler, Academies Director for North-West Kent and South-East London

TRACEY TRUSLER

Academies Director (North-West Kent and South-East London)

Tracey graduated from Leicester University with a BA (Hons) in French and German and worked for ten years in the property industry, achieving a post-graduate diploma in estate management before retraining as a language teacher in 1997. She taught in schools in inner and outer London, joining Dartford Grammar School for Boys on the senior leadership team before being seconded to Wilmington Enterprise College in 2009.

When Wilmington Academy joined Leigh Academies Trust in 2010 Tracey was promoted to Principal and, by 2013, it had become the top-performing non-selective school in Kent. Ofsted graded the academy ‘good’ with ‘outstanding leadership and management’ in 2013 and again in 2017. During this time, Tracey completed her NPQH and oversaw a £14 million rebuilding programme.

Photo of Richard Taylor, People Director

RICHARD TAYLOR

People Director

Richard joined Leigh Academies Trust in 2014 to develop the Trust’s HR strategy and drive improvements in its people practices. Richard is a chartered member of the Institute of Personnel and Development and has devoted his career to building successful HR teams that add real value to the organisations they serve. Over the last two decades, Richard has held a number of HR leadership roles across a variety of sectors, including engineering, construction, facilities management and oil and gas, and he brings to the Trust a commercial, pragmatic and creative approach to people management.

Photo of Stephane Vernoux, IT Director

STEPHANE VERNOUX

IT Director

Stephane 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, as well as on achieving outstanding educational outcomes. Before moving to the UK from France, Stephane began his career as a biomedical engineer. He then turned his focus to IT, with almost 20 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.

Photo of Phil Whittall, Estates Director

PHIL WHITTALL

Estates Director

Phil Whittall joined Leigh Academies Trust in 2020 as Deputy Estates Director and was promoted to Estates Director in April 2021.  Phil has previously held senior positions within the estates field for the Ministry of Defence and University of Kent.

Phil completed a BEng in Computer Systems and Software Engineering at the University of Greenwich and an MSc in Building Services Engineering and Management at Brunel University.  He is also a fully-qualified electrical engineer and a member of the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers.

Phil leads a team of experienced estates and facilities professionals who provide support to the Trust and its academies in estates management, health and safety, catering, cleaning and third-party income generation via LAT Enterprises CIC.

A man of Kent, Phil lives in Maidstone with his wife, Claire, a teacher by profession, and their three children.