Our Team

Leadership

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Alison Mugunthan

Director of Finance and Corporate Services
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Sophie Harrison-Byrne

Director of Programmes
Unity Howard

Unity Howard

Director
Director of Finance and Corporate Services

Alison joined NSN in 2020 and is responsible for the financial control, human resources and operations of NSN.

Alison is a qualified accountant and HR specialist who also has a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry from Glasgow University.

Prior to joining NSN, Alison worked with a variety of charities and not for profits. She started her career in practice and after a period with British Rail she worked in the city. She enjoys working with charities where she feels she can make the most difference.

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Director of Programmes

Sophie joined NSN in 2015 and is responsible for oversight and delivery of NSN’s free schools support services, as well as wider programmes and services for schools and trusts.

During her time at NSN, Sophie has led the Delivery team and led the development and launch of new services for pre-open free schools.

Sophie is a qualified secondary English teacher and a Teach First Ambassador. Prior to NSN, Sophie worked as a teacher in both London and Barnsley; she also has experience of working in other third sector organisations, including other education charities.

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Director

As Director, Unity oversees the delivery of Advisory, Delivery and Academy Ambassadors programmes. Unity is responsible for NSN's strategic development, policy work and stakeholder relationships. 

During her time as NSN, Unity has led the Advisory team and has led the organisation's work on Special and AP free schools. Prior to joining NSN, Unity worked for a further education college coordinating the delivery of vocational training programmes across the South East to clients including such as BMW and Rolls-Royce. 

Unity holds a BSc (Hons) in Politics from the University of Bristol and an MA (Hons) in Contemporary British History from King’s College London. During this time, she conducted research into the history of the academies policy in England.

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London Office

Emma Gregory

Head of the Academy Ambassadors Programme
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Erica Ritchie

Recruitment Coordinator
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Jeannie Hume

Head of NED Recruitment
Head of the Academy Ambassadors Programme

Emma joined Academy Ambassadors in 2019 and is now the Head of the Academy Ambassadors programme, a role which combines her knowledge of executive search and corporate recruitment with school and trust governance. After graduating from the University of York, Emma joined Marks and Spencer’s graduate training programme as a merchandiser, before moving into executive search and recruitment at consultancy Penna, followed by global engineering firm Siemens and the HR SaaS company Lumesse.

Discovering a passion for education governance when volunteering as a Chair of Governors, Emma joined Buckinghamshire Learning Trust where she led the governance development programme for around 3000 governors across the region. She went on to work for eTeach, the global education recruitment platform engaging with the largest academy trusts in England.

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Recruitment Coordinator

Erica graduated from Bournemouth University in 2020 with a degree in Public Relations.

Before joining NSN, she had a year’s experience at a London travel PR and sales agency working with luxury hotels and wellness clients, creating content, press releases and established relationships with journalists in the travel sector. Alongside this, she has experience in communications assistance for political pressure groups and education consultancies, utilising email marketing, administration and recruitment strategies. She also has experience volunteering for charities supporting those with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community. 

As Recruitment Coordinator for the Academy Ambassadors Programme, she is responsible for supporting academy trusts to source and appoint business leaders and professionals into pro bono board roles as non-executive directors. 

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Head of NED Recruitment

Jeannie joined Academy Ambassadors in September 2019 shortly after moving to London. Jeannie is a senior recruitment professional with over 14 years’ experience recruiting executive level roles across diverse industries including; resources, aviation, banking and finance. As Head of NED recruitment for Academy Ambassadors, Jeannie is responsible for finding senior leaders from the business community and introducing them to academy trusts as volunteer non-executive directors (NEDs). 

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Manchester Office

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Ben Bateson

Junior Recruiter

David Ardill

Regional Manager

Melanie Carter

Regional and Events Officer
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Rhiannon Palmer

Junior Recruiter
Junior Recruiter

After finishing secondary school, Ben went into Field Hockey Coaching at club level for Bradford Hockey Club, and at regional level with a variety of Junior West Yorkshire Teams. Ben realised much of the reason he enjoyed coaching so much was the reward of helping children reach their potential in hockey. 

Keen to continue helping children develop, Ben joined NSN to ensure a bigger impact on bettering the lives and opportunities of young people.

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Regional Manager

Since graduating from the University of Chester in 2009, David has worked across a range of sectors, including education, agency, local authority and latterly sports with British Cycling, as Partner Marketing Manager for the ‘Sky Ride’ recreational cycling campaign, in conjunction with Sky and Sport England. This was the biggest sports participation campaign the UK had ever seen, aimed at getting people on bikes for fun and recreation; it received a prestigious ‘Partnership Marketing’ award from The Chartered Institute of Marketing in 2015. With a strong communication thread running through his career, engagement and communication forms a central part of his approach to projects. Having previously worked with large stakeholders including Hewlett Packard, Vodafone, The British Heart Foundation, Ordnance Survey and Transport for London across various roles, David has enjoyed success in delivering high-value campaigns. David maintains a strong interest in and passion for volunteering, holding roles with parkrun UK, formerly as an Area Ambassador for the North West, as well as with local social enterprises with an environmental focus near his home in the North West.

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Regional and Events Officer

Melanie graduated in 2014 with an honours degree in Law and Business Studies from Warwick Business School, The University of Warwick. Since then, she has worked as a marketing assistant in the legal sector – producing creative marketing copy, conducting in-depth research and analysis of target markets, and organising large-scale projects and events. Melanie has worked with children, as a volunteer, from a young age, and enjoys using her professional skills and experience to engage with qualified business people, and develop academy boards, in order to improve the quality of education throughout the UK’s Northern regions. Mel now oversees NED recruitment in two northern regions and leads on the organisation of our annual Board Development Day conference. 

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Junior Recruiter

Rhiannon graduated from Loughborough University in 2018 with a degree in Politics and International Relations.

Before joining NSN, she had experience at a Graduate Recruitment Agency in Manchester working with Technology companies and aspiring graduates, conducting interviews, helping candidates reach their potential and establishing relationships with clients. Alongside this, she has experience as a British Heart Foundation volunteer in her community. She also has experience volunteering in primary schools in her hometown of the Wirral.

As a Junior Recruiter for the Academy Ambassadors Programme, Rhiannon combines her passions for recruitment, education and governance.

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Regional Advisers

Anne Casey

Regional Adviser - North; West Midlands

Claire Emery

Regional Adviser - South West and South-East England and South London

Scott Walker

Regional Adviser - Lancashire and West Yorkshire; East Midlands and Humber; South Central North West London; and East of England North East London
Regional Adviser - North; West Midlands

Anne has over 30 years of education experience as  a teacher, Principal, Local Authority officer and senior civil servant Her career spans education and industry. Anne is Director of her own company ACE limited an educational solutions company supporting MATs, Free schools, Universities and School Boards. She is also a part time DFE Education Adviser. Before taking up her role with Academy Ambassadors, Anne was Deputy Director to the RSC (Lancashire and West Yorkshire) developing the education landscape of the region, challenging underperformance, assessing free school capacity and working with academies and trusts on governance and growth strategies. From 2013-2016, Anne was the Principal for the UTC in Media City UK taking it from vision to oversubscribed reality.

Prior to 2013 she was Head of ICT at the Education Funding Agency (EFA), part of the Department for Education. Anne managed a national team of ICT Advisers providing expert ICT educational procurement support to all capital programmes. She advised free schools, UTCs, academies and Studio Schools on the development of the ICT aspects of their school development, and ensured that the first free schools, UTCs and Studio Schools opened with ICT partners in place.

Prior to working in the EFA Anne was Education ICT Adviser for the South of England at Partnerships for Schools where she worked supporting and challenging local authorities and schools as they developed their aspirations for educational transformation through ICT investment. Anne has organised major DfE exhibitions at the BETT show, and developed ICT network events in London.

 

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Regional Adviser - South West and South-East England and South London

Claire is an education specialist in governance and strategic leadership based in Bristol. She is CIPD qualified, an accredited leadership coach and mentor, and registered contractor for the Department for Education providing external expertise plus interim executive support to academy trusts in the South West region.  Claire previously worked in the finance sector and independent management consultancy, owned a holistic therapy business and lectured at City of Bristol College. As a practitioner, Claire is an experienced MAT Member and Chair of Trustees having led 2-19 organisations and interim academy boards to ensure the vision and strategy serves the best interests of pupils. 

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Regional Adviser - Lancashire and West Yorkshire; East Midlands and Humber; South Central North West London; and East of England North East London

Scott Walker taught maths and ICT in secondary schools for 20 years before working as a school improvement advisor for an LA and then the DfE.  He lead the national programme to mainstream the work of Excellence in Cities (one of the largest national school improvement projects based in inner cities) and then became one of the national advisers to the academies programme.  He left the DfE for a while to work for a private school improvement company and specialised in the set-up of academies and free schools. He continues to work part-time for the DfE as an education adviser on the academies free school programme.

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