Meet our Trustees
Nicola Harper - Chair of Trustees
I am a CIMA qualified Government Finance professional, currently working in Central Government leading corporate services business intelligence, business change and transformation. I have 15 years' experience across four Government Departments; working within justice, international trade, education and the Cabinet Office. This experience means I am focused on delivering value for money through critical challenge, ensuring the right outcomes for society and the successful delivery of public services. I joined in 2019 as a Trustee and am passionate about supporting the Trust to ensure effective governance to deliver maximum value for everyone within the school communities.
My name is Denise Libretto and I was appointed as a Trustee in late 2021. I have worked in the UK Government for over 30 years in a variety of roles – environment, aerospace & defence, overseas trade, mobile telecommunications, and my current role dealing with planning applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects in England and Wales, such as offshore wind farms, solar generating stations etc. I have a strong work ethic, and a diverse transferable working skill set that I bring to my role as Trustee - good leadership and teamworking skills, approachability, good communication and collaboration skills, project management, problem solving, influencing and decision-making skills. I hope my contribution as a Trustee going forward will help support the leadership team make informed and balanced decisions in the governance, management and operation of the Trust as it grows, to the benefit of all its pupils and the wider community.
I am invested in being a trustee at The Illuminate Minds Trust because I share the values and ambitions of the trust and would like to develop and grow this organisation so it provides “excellence, everyday” to more and more primary and special school pupils.
I have educational knowledge and experience I am keen to support the Trust’s growth and success. For 15 years I was a teacher, head of department, and senior leader at a range of secondary schools in South London, developing a good understanding of the rewards and challenges of working in education today. Amongst other things, I have learnt the importance of being visible as a leader so I would welcome any opportunity to get involved, from attending community events to taking part in interviews for teachers and other staff members.
In 2017, whilst still passionate about education, I made a career change. I became managing director of an education consultancy business called OLEVI. In this role, I act as a strategic partner and coach, empowering both school and trust leaders to think, clarify their vision and craft effective and efficient improvement plans. I would like to play a similar role as a trustee, finely balancing both support and challenge to ensure leaders feel accountable for their actions but also celebrated for their achievements. As a naturally curious and collaborative person, helping trustees and leaders work together to measure the impact of a project and identify where and how improvements can be made to have an impact
school improvement to benefit this very special organisation and its brilliant professionals, pupils, and families.
I have been teaching for 16 years, specialising in SEND and Inclusion. I have worked in mainstream and specialist provisions for primary and secondary settings in Kent, Medway, Bromley and Bexley. As previously LEAD advisor for SEND and Inclusion in Kent I have supported schools, senior leadership, governors and local authorities with training and supporting the awareness and quality of education for SEND learners. My consultancy Inclusion and SEND Solutions Ltd has worked with a range of schools in different areas providing services, from strategic development, training, SEND reviews to supporting new post SENCo's. I am currently the Assistant Head Director of SEN and EAL at a high school in Canterbury.
Education recruitment specialist with 17 years of experience assisting schools across London and surrounding boroughs with their staffing needs.
From Trainee Consultant at Protocol Education - 2005 to Associate Director at Tempest Resourcing - December 2020. During that time placing more than over 2000 education professionals into schools across London.
January 2021 - became the Founder and Director of Create Education Limited – An education Recruitment business set up to work in partnership with schools across London and surrounding boroughs – Assisting with staffing needs and offering specialised recruitment advice. January 2021 – Present
Create Education are proud members of Apsco and have gained Apsco Plus status earning 99.5% on their first audit. This means their compliance requirements are of the highest level whilst ensuring that they have safeguarding policies that are not only in line with KCSIE but ones that exceed those requirements.
All members of staff are safer recruitment trained with the business being a Member of The recent government CCS framework, as well as being approved employers for both the Ark and Harris Federations.
Partners with the Ronald Macdonald Foundation Trust – Initiating multiple fund raising charity events throughout the year.
Brenda is a Consultant Psychotherapist and Family Mediator at NHS and worked in the North London Family Therapy Practice, supporting schools and delivering training in developing Family Group Therapy to increase the chances of sustainable change for children through the engagement of parents / carers in the process.
Brenda McHugh worked with her colleague, Neil Dawson, from the Anna Freud Centre to establish a unique and ground breaking free school - The Pears Family School was founded and is sponsored by the Anna Freud Centre,
The Pears Family School, co-located with the Anna Freud Centre, is a school for children who have been excluded from mainstream education, and successfully returns children to the most appropriate full time education.
The Pears Family School puts families at the heart of all its work. Parents, carers and pupils learn together. Parents and carers receive training and guidance to support their own learning and that of their children. The Pears Family School has continued its ground-breaking work during coronavirus where looking after vulnerable children and their families has been crucial.
Having worked in Education for over 40 years I have relevant and varied experience related to supporting the Trust in being a critical ‘friend’. I am keen to work towards being part of a dynamic team in the mould of ‘Excellence Every Day’ and also working towards assisting the Trust towards meeting its strategic obligations in the following areas:
I have extensive experience leading and managing teams in a variety of settings and in developing and implementing strategic plans. This experience would be invaluable in helping with the governance of the Trust and setting it’s direction ensuring that it is achieving its goals.
I have extensive experience communicating effectively with a variety of stakeholders, which is important in building relationships with parents, teachers, and other stakeholders in the Trust community.
I also have extensive experience identifying and solving problems as well as experience at managing budgets and financial resources, which would be essential in ensuring that the Trust is financially sound and that it is making the most of its resources.
In addition to my skills and experience, I also have a strong personal commitment to education. I am passionate about the role of education in shaping young peoples' lives, and I am committed to making sure that all students have the opportunity to succeed.
Overall, I have a wealth of skills and experience that would make me a valuable asset to any Trust. I am a strong leader with a proven track record of success, and I am passionate about education.
I spent 15 years working as a Civil Servant in the Ministry of Defence, largely in the area of Data Protection and Cyber Security - with two roles of particular significance, firstly as Chief of Staff to the MOD's Chief Information Officer and subsequently leading a project with Defence Suppliers to improve the protection of information in the supply chain. Both roles involved regular interaction with senior officials both from government and industry, briefing programme boards and regular presentations at conferences, seminars and other events.
Since making the move into the private sector in 2016 I have gained experience of working in a more commercial environment, and whilst I thoroughly enjoy the challenge of doing so, I also miss the sense of contributing directly to wider society.
I see this opportunity as allowing me to bridge these two worlds and bring to bear the experiences I have gained from each to help make a small but real difference to the children you are educating.
Ms Jo. Southby - Chief Executive Officer, Illuminate Minds Trust
I am a true advocate of the transformational power of education. Having spent my career promoting an aspirational approach to learning and achievement, I believe strongly in a holistic curriculum offer as a vehicle to widen horizons for all pupils, supporting them in becoming the best versions of themselves whatever their backgrounds or starting points.
I have spent almost thirty years working in education with the vast majority spent in specialist school and alternative provision. I have worked across the sector leading pupil referral units, SEMH / ASD schools for both primary and secondary pupils and also within secure settings for some of the most challenging and vulnerable learners, many of whom have significant undiagnosed and unmet needs. For the last six years I have worked in multi-academy trusts, firstly as Executive Director of Education, Standards and Safeguarding and, most recently, as CEO of Illuminate Minds Trust. I remain committed to ensuring the educational offer and entitlement for all children and young people is exciting, engaging and of the highest standards, always focusing on preparing pupils for the next stage in their lives and igniting the spark of curiosity to support them as lifelong learners.
I have significant experience of governance through my “day jobs” but also through participation in Trusts’ and maintained schools’ governance. Outside of my own working environments, I have also been Chair of Governors for a special free school in challenging circumstances as well as Finance Governor for a maintained school and Trustee in two multi-academy trusts. As CEO of Illuminate Minds Trust, I have reviewed and re-developed the governance model to comply with the Academies Handbook. In my previous trust, I was responsible for developing a governance reporting structure which formalised the communication and information sharing between boards in line with the Scheme of Delegation.