Our Team

Leadership

Sigrun Olafsdottir

Chief Operations Officer
Chief Operations Officer

Educated in Iceland, Sweden and England, Sigrun has an extensive background in IT, finance, business management and HR. She graduated from the Commercial College of Iceland in 1993 and started her own .com business which she ran until she moved to England in 2003. Arriving in London, she joined a start-up company that focused on social technology and remained a core member of staff for five years until she decided to focus on starting companies and organisations. During this period, she studied Social Science and was awarded CIMA certifications.

Sigrun joined NSN in early 2011 and since then has looked after the internal operations, finances, HR and IT, as well as acting as the Company Secretary.

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London Office

Amy Norman

London Region Intern

Ellie Downton

Operations Assistant

Kirsty Watt

Head of Academy Ambassadors

Louise Starling

Partnerships Manager

Sophie Taylor

Communications and Alumni Officer

Tom Orr

Partnerships Assistant

Vanessa Gray

Network Partnerships
London Region Intern

Prior to joining Academy Ambassadors in June 2018, Amy completed a BSc in Sociology and Anthropology from Oxford Brookes University. Amy is commencing a MSc in International and Social Public Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science in September 2018. Amy has seamless international experience living and working in both the US and UK from a young age.

As the London Region Intern, Amy supports communications with non-executive directors, multi-academy trusts and corporate partnerships in the three London regions. 

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Operations Assistant

Ellie graduated from Royal Holloway University of London in 2016 with a degree in History. She then worked for her local council in Dorset before moving to Taiwan to become an English Language teacher. She currently volunteers for an education outreach programme where she helps to deliver interactive workshops and activities in schools and youth centres in London. Ellie joined Academy Ambassadors in July 2018.

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Head of Academy Ambassadors

Kirsty Watt has been Head of Academy Ambassadors since October 2014 and has been responsible for the growth of the organisation into a high-calibre board recruitment programme which recently appointed its 900th non-executive director. Before joining Academy Ambassadors, Kirsty was Head of the Academies and Funding Policy Project team at the Department for Education and was responsible for scope and delivery of Ministerial priority reforms. Kirsty has also worked in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office. Prior to this, she worked in a private PR practice with Colman Getty PR on arts campaigns and on social and business issues for clients including Waterstones and the National Portrait Gallery.

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Partnerships Manager

Louise has 10 years’ experience in the charity sector. She spent seven years in various roles at youth charity, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE). She worked with schools and local authorities to deliver the programme to over 10,000 young people each year across London. Her role included managing regional activities, projects and programmes with the aim of increasing the number of young people starting their DofE, double the proportion of young people taking part from disadvantaged backgrounds and ensuring at least half of all young people starting their DofE achieve their Bronze, Silver or Gold Award. Prior to joining the Academy Ambassadors team in February 2016 she worked for Arthritis Research UK in the corporate partnerships team.

She currently leads the Corporate Partnerships strategy at Academy Ambassadors, engaging with companies across England to promote non-executive director roles to their staff. She also supports non-executive director recruitment and trust engagement in three regions.

Louise is a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Educators and Middle Warden for the Guild of Young Freemen of the City of London.

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Communications and Alumni Officer

Sophie started out as an events organiser for communications-led charity CharityComms where she developed and managed a wide range of events focussed on the needs of communicators in the charity sector. She moved to South Korea to become an English Language teacher and volunteered for a charity which helps North Korean defectors re-integrate into modern society. After the success and enjoyment of teaching, she went on to teach students of all ages and backgrounds in the UK and eventually in Spain. Sophie joined Academy Ambassadors in October 2017 and now manages the communications, the alumni network and supports with non-executive director recruitment in the South West.

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Partnerships Assistant

Tom graduated from the University of York with a BA in Education Studies in 2016 before moving on to complete his MA in Global Development and Education at the University of Leeds. Alongside his studies, Tom was part of a group research project into young offenders with City of York Council. He also co-founded a philosophy-for-children programme that was carried out across several primary schools in York.

Tom joined Academy Ambassadors in August 2018 after a period of working for the NHS. As Partnerships Assistant, he supports and engages with multi-academy trusts, non-executive directors and corporate partners.

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Network Partnerships

Vanessa joined New Schools Network in October 2017 following a career break. Vanessa has a physics degree from Imperial College and has spent most of her career in banking. Vanessa worked for over a decade at UBS bank on the Investment Banking side, in institutional derivative sales and trading. Latterly Vanessa moved over to the private banking side of the business, in the role of an investment specialist at UBS Wealth Management. Vanessa also worked at Dresdner Bank, where she headed up a pan European equity derivative sales team. Most recently Vanessa built a Wealth Management business for a boutique headhunter, leveraging from contacts and knowledge acquired over many years in the banking industry.

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Manchester Office

David Ardill

Regional Manager

Melanie Carter

Regional Officer

Thanh Bui

Regional Assistant
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 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.

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Regional Assistant

Thanh is on secondment from the Education and Skills Funding Agency, part of the Department for Education, where she handles complaints from the public about academies. She has worked in a number of departments within the civil service including The Equality and Human Rights Commission as a Resourcing Advisor.

Since having children, Thanh has become more involved in education and is keen to learn more. Thanh also loves travelling and has travelled around South Korea and Vietnam (where she was born). Thanh is currently the Regional Assistant and supports the Academy Ambassadors Northern team. 

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Regional Advisers

Alan Davison

Regional Adviser - South Central North West London

Anne Casey

Regional Adviser - North; West Midlands

Sally Lawson-Ritchie

Regional Adviser - East of England and North East London

Sarah Pittam

Regional Adviser - South East and South London

Scott Walker

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

Alan completed a Doctorate in Education examining School Self-review and has 40 years’ experience in education as a teacher, senior leader and Head, and as Special Projects Director London Leadership Strategy for the National College for School Leadership. Within the London Leadership Strategy, he spent 2 years building leadership capacity across all 411 London secondary schools, with a particular emphasis on those schools with ‘the furthest to go’.

Following retirement from Headship, he is currently working part-time as an Educational Advisor for the DfE within the Open Academies and Free Schools divisions. Alan also supports MAT governance through work with Stone King Solicitors. As part of his ongoing commitment to education, he is a member and director of three academy trusts. Over a span of 21 years, Alan has been Head of three schools, most recently at Dame Alice Owen’s School. Dame Alice was rated outstanding by Ofsted, without any areas for improvement, and named State School of the Year by the Sunday Times in 2016. As a National Leader of Education, Alan has twice supported schools out of special measures, and numerous schools to improve.

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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 - East of England and North East London

Sally has a strong background in public policy beginning her career in a Government Minister’s private office before joining a commercial public affairs company.  She was Academies Director for one of the first business sponsors, Sir Rod Aldridge, establishing schools with a specialism in entrepreneurship. Sally is a former Sponsor Adviser at the Department for Education, academy board vice chair and education consultant. She has supported education start ups and is an adviser to Votes for Schools a new on line platform for schools and colleges. Sally specialises in setting up new multi-academy trusts and advising on their governance structures. 

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Regional Adviser - South East and South London

Sarah has experience as an executive, non-executive director and adviser within the education sector. She joined the Knowledge Schools Trust, the first to sign its funding agreement with the Secretary of State, as a trustee in April 2011. Sarah was subsequently appointed as the trust's Operations Director, setting up new schools. Sarah has expertise in governance, finance, capital projects, operations and bid writing.

She began her career at the Boston Consulting Group and progressed to become a partner of BMG Strategy, a consulting practice specialising in data analytics. Sarah also specialises in advising private sector organisations and charities on their strategy regarding the academies and free schools landscape. She is a trustee of Bourne Education Trust.

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Regional Adviser - Lancashire and West Yorkshire; East Midlands and Humber

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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