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Meet the Team

Ian McNeilly - Chief Executive

Ian McNeilly is the Chief Executive Officer and Accounting Officer of The de Ferrers Trust. His previous role was as Senior Her Majesty’s Inspector working for Ofsted. His main responsibilities at the inspectorate included the oversight of academies, multi-academy trusts (MATs) and teaching school alliances in the East Midlands. He led on the reviews of the effectiveness of MATs. He acted as Ofsted’s main regional link with the Department for Education including the office of the Regional Schools Commissioner. He was also responsible for schools within the local authorities of Derby, Derbyshire and Leicester and for the oversight of Initial Teacher Education providers across the East Midlands.

Ian has successfully supported many headteachers and senior leadership teams to improve their schools and had the best rate of any HMI in moving schools from requiring improvement to being judged good or better. A qualified teacher with a Master’s degree in Literature, he worked in a variety of educational settings for 15 years, including in leadership roles. Ian led a national subject association for eight years, liaising with a wide range of stakeholders across the curriculum, and from early years to teacher training. He was an advisory board member of a Russell Group university’s Education department. As an Ofqual subject expert, Ian took part in projects including standards reviews and an international comparability study. Ian has particular interest and expertise in English and literacy, and in improving the achievement of all children, particularly those who are disadvantaged.


Craig Brown – Director of Education

Craig has been involved with supporting Trust schools since the Trust’s inception and now works full fime for the Trust, with overall responsibility for educational outcomes.  He works closely with the Academy Principals to improve performance and instill best practice in all aspects of education.  Craig leads an expanding team of cross-phase educational Lead Practitioners, who work at both a strategic and an operational level, helping the Trust Board to hold each Academy, and their leaders, to account.

He has a degree in Sports Science and Mathematics from Loughborough University and has taught Mathematics in secondary schools for over 16 years.  Craig has taught all elements of Mathematics, from Year 6 transition to A-Level Further Mathematics and Higher Level International Baccalaureate Mathematics.  He has an outstanding track record within examination group performance, as well as supporting colleagues into A-Level teaching. 

Prior to joining the Trust, Craig was Vice Principal at The de Ferrers Academy with responsibility for Data and Timetable.  He led the development of regular data tracking and reporting at the Academy and created an accountability model that underpinned dramatic improvements in outcomes over a sustained period.  Craig also successfully supported a number of other schools in both development of data protocols and timetable creation, with each establishment reporting significant performance gains over the period. 

He is passionate about educational performance, particularly in the local area; he is a Director of a local primary academy that was previously in Special Measures.  Craig is also passionate about technology in education; he is an Apple Teacher and was one of the original exponents of the 1-to-1 iPad programme at The de Ferrers Academy. 


Amy Taylor - Director of Finance

Having graduated from Keele University with a degree in Mathematics & Finance, Amy joined BDO Stoy Hayward (later taken over by RSM Tenon/Baker Tilly) to train as a Chartered Accountant becoming a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) in 2005. Amy remained in practice until 2016, becoming Senior Audit Manager servicing a large and varied portfolio of clients but specialising in Charities & Academy Trusts. Amy joined The de Ferrers Trust in 2016 bringing with her a wealth of experience from her client work in both the private sector and with other Academy Trusts.






Jo Harrison - Director of Human Resources

Jo began her career in a Derby law firm.   After taking her first HR role in the private sector, she gradually gained knowledge and experience in a variety of situations whilst positioned within a medium sized software development company.  During this time she gained her Postgraduate Diploma in HR Management and became a Chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).  Following a number of redundancy processes and ultimately the closure of the software company, Jo assisted in the set-up of a new venture with the same board of directors.  Jo’s next move was working at The de Ferrers Academy late in 2013, and a vast portfolio of experience has followed this move.  Jo is a generalist HR practitioner covering all areas of HR.




Tammy Pyszky - Director of Governance and Compliance

Having graduated from university with a degree in Law, Tammy spent 9 years working for a Lexcel accredited law firm of solicitors that ranked highly in the prestigious Legal 500 directory.  She spent some time as a Practice Manager, before specialising in legal compliance and moving to The de Ferrers Academy in 2013. 

Tammy has undertaken the NCTL’s Clerk’s Development Programme and has a good understanding of governance in education.   She is responsible for ensuring 'Outstanding' governance across the Trust.  

Tammy was the project lead for the conversion to Multi-Academy Trust status and will support schools joining the Trust with the legal process throughout their transition.   



                                                                                               Nicola Bell - Director of Primary


                             Bio to follow






                                                                                           Kate Priestnall - Director of Safeguarding

Kate joined The de Ferrers Trust in September 2019 and her role is twofold.  As the Director of Safeguarding for the Trust she works strategically to develop an appropriate, effective and overarching Trust safeguarding strategy scrutinising practice across the trust and making recommendations for change.  As part of this role, Kate leads on training staff across the Trust on safeguarding matters ensuring a consistent approach.  Kate leads a team of cross-trust Designated Safeguarding Leads.  Kate also acts as the DSL for The de Ferrers Academy.  Previous roles include Head of Student Support and Safeguarding and Special Educational Needs Coordinator in a large secondary school in Leicestershire.  Kate also spent a number of of years volunteering with the Police Authority supporting vulnerable people whilst in custody and with a national children's charity as an advocate for children in care settings and those detained in secure units.  Kate has qualifications in advocacy and counselling, an honours degree in Law and has trained as a barrister.


Katie Pattinson - Lead Practitioner in English

Katie graduated in 2006 from Keele University where she studied English Literature and Music and subsequently completed her English PGCE; she has been teaching English for twelve years in schools in Staffordshire. Katie has had a number of roles during her teaching career including Assistant Head of Year, Director of Learning: English and Associate Assistant Headteacher. During her time as Director of Learning Katie successfully led her team to consistently improve GCSE results in both English Language and English Literature. Katie has extensive experience of coaching and mentoring both new and experienced teachers to improve Teaching and Learning and outcomes for students of all abilities. 


Katie is an experienced GCSE English Examiner and has been appointed as a National Lead English Literature Expert for AQA. Katie has completed her National Professional Qualification for Senior Leadership and is also a Women Leading in Education coach. 


Katie is passionate about improving the quality of Teaching and Learning in English across The de Ferrers Trust and is committed to improving outcomes for all our students.



Michael Dowson - Lead Practitioner for Maths

Michael has been teaching for nearly 20 years in a variety of schools in the Midlands and has been a Head of Maths for nearly ten of those years in two outstanding secondary schools. He has taught throughout the age range up to and including Year 13 Further Maths with excellent results. Michael is a strong proponent of technology in the classroom and has led various professional development sessions on the use of ICT in education.




Geoff Stockle - Estates Manager

Geoff has been employed in many varying educational establishments for the majority of his professional career. He moved to The de Ferrers Trust in May 2017 having been the Estates, Health and Safety manager for Burton and South Derbyshire College for 4 years prior. Previous similar appointments have been with the Acorn Care & Education group in Staffordshire and Norfolk that supports children with additional needs, a local independent School, Birmingham Connexions information, advice and guidance organisation as well as with Kodak and the NHS. NEBOSH qualified and a technician member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (Tech IOSH) as well as member of the British Institute of Facilities Management (MBIFM) Geoff brings a wealth of experience and skills with regard to all facets of estates management.




Helen Denison - Trust Finance Manager (Central)

Helen has a wealth of experience in both education and employment settings. She has worked in public, private, and voluntary sectors in a variety of roles for employers including the Employment Service, Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), Amber Valley Borough Council, Staffordshire University and most recently for the JCB Academy.

For the last 10 years Helen has specialised in financial resource and operations management roles. She has a breadth of financial support and budgetary experience including management of externally funded projects (including EU sponsored programmes).

She has studied to Postgraduate level achieving both Pg Certificate and Pg Diploma in Business Administration, and has recently achieved her Prince 2 qualification in project management.


Pardeep Dhami - Trust Finance Manager (Academies)


                                  Bio to follow






Vanessa Dodes - Trust Finance Manager (Academies)


                                                                                                                  Bio to follow






Nazia Odud - Finance Assistant 

Nazia has completed her AAT level 1, 2 and 3 accounting courses and will study towards her level 4 in September.  She has worked for many educational establishments including Burton and South Derbyshire college and Tower View Pre-School gaining experience of finance operations in the education sector. 










Fiona Hinds - Senior HR Advisor (temporary)


                                                                                                                           Bio to follow






                                                                                          Samantha Lawless - HR Officer


 Samantha began her career in Banking before joining The de Ferrers Academy in 2016 and became HR Officer for the Academy in 2017.  Samantha is an Associate member of CIPD after completing her CIPD Level 3 in HR Practice in  2019 and is currently studying for her CIPD Level 5 in HR Management.  Samantha joined the Trust in September 2019 and provides HR support to all academies covering all areas.




Nicola Townsend - Data Manager

Having graduated from the University of Chester with a BA.Ed degree in English, Education and Social Psychology Nicola embarked on a tour of the southern hemisphere before joining a corporate sales team within a global games technology company.  She spent more than ten years setting up a team dedicated to defining 'best practice' processes and supporting the 100+ strong sales team before moving in to a corporate account management role.

Nicola joined The de Ferrers Academy in 2011 where she has since completed her NDMA (National Data Manager Award). She has established effective target, assessment and reporting structures within the Academy and is now rolling out these structures and supporting data management across the Trust.



                                                                     Sandra Taylor - PA / Business and Governance Assistant

Sandra provides PA support to the Chief Executive.  Sandra has worked in educational establishments for a number of years  including FE and primary settings and has developed numerous skills delivering high standards of organisational and administrative support.  Sandra has an NVQ L3 in Business Administration and has completed the Level 3 Certificate in Clerking of Schools and Governing Boards accredited by the ICSA and currently provides clerking services to two local governing bodies within The Trust and supports the clerking services to the Trust Board.  Sandra provides business and governance assistance to The Trust and is the PA to the Chief Executive.