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Illuminate Minds Academy Trust home page
Illuminate Minds Academy Trust home page

Welcome to Illuminate Minds

Contact Us

Our Team

Trust Leadership Team



Chief Executive Officer - Jo Southby 


Illuminate Minds Trust may be small but it is certainly mighty! 


That is not because we see ourselves as a “business enterprise” but because we make it our business to keep our focus on our children and young people and providing them with an education which excites, stimulates and nurtures every individual.  We don’t believe in ceilings to achievement or barriers which can’t be overcome, but we DO believe in “Excellence Every Day” and promoting a learning community for all.

With over thirty years in education and over twenty years in senior and executive leadership roles in alternative provision, special schools, local authorities, residential children’s homes and multi-academy trusts, I came to Illuminate Minds Trust eager to bring my learning from other sectors and knowing that if we get it right in the first phase of a child’s education then we are providing a springboard for life.  We never stop learning so it is vital that all of our children develop a love of learning and that is what we aim to secure in our schools. 

My passion is working with school leaders in developing and growing their teams, creating systems and structures which support pupils making exceptional progress and, most importantly, building a curriculum which encourages children to engage in their learning, experience success and enjoyment!  I am committed to working with school leaders to create magical learning environments where children access educational provision which expands their knowledge, widens opportunities beyond their lived experiences and make positive memories which will enable them to flourish and grow as they move on in life.  As a National Leader of Education, I have worked in supporting many schools over the years and contributed to their improvement journeys.  I wholeheartedly believe in the power of collaboration and the importance of investing in continual professional development to enable our staff to become the best they can be which, in turn, improves the quality of our school provision and the educational experience of our pupils.  We pride ourselves on our approach to SEND and inclusion – embedded not an “add on” – and we are fortunate in having staff with significant leadership experience in special educational environments as well as mainstream primary schools. 


For me, the Illuminate Minds schools are amazing places, full of ambition for our communities and driven by moral purpose and aspiration.  I am proud of our schools and encourage anyone who wants to see what true inclusion looks like to come and visit us!



Chief Finacial Officer - Umar Jillani 


I am an experienced ACCA-qualified accountant and head up the Trust’s finance functions as Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

I have a breadth of experience built up over more than two decades across finance, estates, project management, procurement, contracts, governance, HR and legal.

Prior to joining Illuminate Minds Trust, i was the Chief Financial Officer of iExel Education Trust where i worked for 3 years and was instrumental in modernising and centralising the finance department, which resulted in the finance team generating efficiencies and cost saving.

Before joining iExel Education Trust, i worked at the KPMG (Education audit department) for four years where i managed a portfolio of Education clients raging from Multi Academy Trust, Colleges to Universities (typically with turnover of over £100m).I have also worked in top 10 audit firms.

My focus at Illuminate Minds Trust will be on further developing support functions within the Trust and ensuring Illuminate Minds Trust maintains a strong financial foundation.



Director of SEND, Safeguarding and Inclusion - Beverley Evans


As a highly experienced senior leader in SEN I am very proud to be part of this Trust, which ensures an inclusive approach to learning and supports and develops staff to deliver an exceptional educational offer. Throughout my career I have advocated for all pupils to have equal access to high quality provision and supported staff to implement effective adaptations that allow for equal access to the curriculum for all learners.

Everyone is entitled to a high quality education and it is our duty and responsibility to ensure that no one is left behind. My experience throughout my teaching career enables me to share my knowledge and develop staff who are better able to understand pupils and equipped to provide high quality learning opportunities. 

Education is the key to a successful future, and disadvantage is the barrier to educational success. We have to ensure that it is recognised and overcome.  With over twenty-five years of leadership experience, the vast majority working in the SEND sector, I bring expertise in complex safeguarding concerns, the delivery of bespoke and high quality provision for pupils with  additional needs and a strong knowledge of funding associated with the EHCPs as well as school budget management.  I am committed to the development of both pupils and staff and love working with the talented community which makes up the Illuminate Minds Trust!


Director of Teaching and Learning - Sam Robinson 


I am incredibly proud to work at Illuminate Minds Trust and lead on teaching and learning. I have worked in the education sector for a number of years and have loved every minute. I have a passion for ensuring the children that we serve are given the best possible life chances, I believe that instilling a love for learning, building character, promoting independence and enabling children to develop their knowledge and skills should be at the heart of any primary school.

I am an accredited coach and believe in empowering all members of our school community to be the best that they can be and to see the champion within themselves. I am a values driven leader and work hard to ensure positive relationships are made with the communities that we serve, ensuring that our schools are safe, happy and nurturing places for all stakeholders. 

I am currently studying for my Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and I am reading around educational initiatives extensively to further better my own practice. I am an advocate for staff development and ensuring all staff members are able to offer excellence to our children.  I am also a trustee for The Galaxy trust.


Ultimately, I work within education to ensure that all children in our care receive excellence every day are happy and bright individuals whilst dreaming big for the future.


HR Director - Amanda Smith 


I began my HR career over 23 years ago and have specialised in the Education sector for the past 15 years. My most recent full-time role, was HR Director of a large multi academy trust but I have worked in all settings within the sector including, nursery, primary, secondary, 6th Form and University, where I have experienced different challenges for both the leadership teams and the whole staff body. In addition, I have volunteered as a school governor for a total of 11 years, giving me the insight from the other side of leadership. I always strive to be fair, consistent and to provide leaders and staff with support and information. I am a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, the accreditation body for HR professionals. 

 In addition, I have various qualifications in counselling, line management and other areas of CPD






Central Team


Trust Curriculum Lead - Alice Palmer 


I have always wanted to work in a primary school environment since volunteering when I was 15 at a local primary school. It was only when I volunteered when completing my Masters in History at Sussex University at a primary school in an underprivileged area that I knew I would want to work at addressing educational disadvantage. I decided to complete my PGCE with Teach First and have not looked back since!


During my teaching career I have had the opportunity to lead all subjects, but it was during Lockdown I was able to use my time when schools were closed to develop bespoke curriculums. I believe that the curriculum should be unique to each school setting and the children should see themselves in the curriculum they are learning about. Since joining Illuminate Minds, I have developed and embedded bespoke curriculums for Writing, Reading, History, DT and Geography. I have also sourced and worked closely with experts in Handwriting and Art so that we can offer a broad and balanced curriculum to the children who attend our schools.


I am passionate about providing children with a Cultural Capital offer so that they have experiences outside their current setting. It is from these experience’s they can aspire to achieve and become well rounded citizens both in the local and global community. It is through this that I strive to achieve our vision of ‘Excellence Everyday.’


Trust Research and Development Lead - Kate Anderson-Vilardell 


I am passionate about beating educational disadvantage, so that no child's education, aspirations and future should be limited by their socioeconomic background. It was this that inspired me to change careers from Construction Management to Education, having mentored many apprentices who had felt that they had to settle for a job, rather than aspire to be whoever they wanted to be. My own values aligned with that of the charity Teach First, and I joined them to train to become a teacher after five years as a Site Manager.


I have always enjoyed academic study, whether it was at undergraduate or masters level, and my role as Associate Senior Trust Lead for Research and Professional Development gives me the opportunity to carry out research into evidence-based teaching and learning, and also to help develop our Trust staff to enable our learners to experience Excellence Every Day in the classroom.


As part of my role, I will be implementing coaching groups and developing the teaching staff to work smarter, so that we can have an even greater impact on the children we teach. It is an exciting role and I am thrilled to be part of such a forward-thinking and child-centred Multi Academy Trust.


Trust Early Reading and Phonics Lead - Jodie Cousins


It began with teaching my dolls the ABCs, but my interest in education has long endured the days of Barbie & Ken! I started my journey as a teaching assistant whilst completing my degree in education. Over the course of nine years, I have strived to inspire and motivate others, provide children with a safe, welcoming, and engaging school environment and to cultivate a love of learning that will create lifelong learners. My background is predominantly in EYFS & Key Stage 1 where I have led for a number of years. I am passionate about promoting Phonics & Early Reading, to create fluent, confident and independent readers.


I am delighted to be part of a trust that corresponds to my core values of inclusion, collaboration, openness, and ambition. As a member of the local community myself, I am pleased to be part of a trust that continually strives to improve the experiences for children and the communities that they serve, puts pupil and staff wellbeing at the heart, and champions staff development on the journey to excellence.


Trust SENCO - Aman Aujla


From the age of 7 I aspired to be a teacher, I absolutely love teaching and have gained a wealth of experience teaching in Key Stages 1 and 2 across various schools. My first leadership role was Curriculum leader where I designed and implemented a bespoke creative curriculum. Following this, I became SENCO, in this role I gained extensive experience in leading a Physical Disability SRP, Nurture provision and supporting/ coaching staff to develop an inclusive learning environment.


I’m incredibly passionate about diversity and inclusion, I enjoy bringing creativity to the SENCO role, through the implementation of various projects to enrich experiences for all pupils. One of my priorities has been developing strong relationships with all stake holders through coffee mornings, termly SEN surgeries and by simply being a visible leader and advocate for inclusion.


I have studied NPQSL and NASENCO qualifications and am currently working towards my NPQH. I recently gained Team Teach Instructor accreditation too.

I am incredibly proud to work for Illuminate Minds, a forward-thinking trust that is genuinely committed and dedicated to promoting excellence everyday through Inclusion.


 Attendance, Safeguarding and Engagement Lead - Lorraine Reynolds


I am excited to become part of the team as Attendance, Safeguarding and Engagement Lead at Illuminate Minds Trust.  My journey into education started with working in a pre-school where I completed early years training, I then progressed to manage and open my own pre-school.  Following that I went onto working with alternative provisions working with Years 10 and 11 which I have done for the last 20 years, completing my QTLS then progressing to Assistant Head Teacher and also being a designated safeguarding officer.  


I am passionate about my job, across the trust we aim to provide a warm, welcoming safe environment which provides a supportive encouraging place for learning.  I believe education is key to children's success in life, regular attendance is important to vie them the best possible start so they can progress. 


Trust School Business Manager - Sandra Williams


I have worked at the Fairford Academy site, formerly Normandy Primary School, since 2004. I was part of the team when setting up the Normandy Children’s Centre in 2008/ 2009. I completed and studied CSBM and DSBM qualifications in the following years and was part of several more changes within the school as it changed from being a LA community primary school to joining with Pelham Academy in 2015 and now as part of Illuminate Minds Trust since 2021.


The role of Trust Business Manager involves working across both schools overseeing the day-to-day operations as well as supporting the Head Teachers and Leadership teams. This can range from advising, planning and monitoring the budget to seeking best value for goods and services.

Outside of my employment I have been a School Governor since 2006 serving for 13 years at one school and currently 2 years at another in Royal Borough of Greenwich acting as Chair of Finance and Chair of Governors.


Working within education, both as an employee and as a volunteer, is my way to trying to help make a positive contribution to the lives and outcomes of all children, who after all one day will be the ones making the decisions which will affect our lives as well as their own and their children’s future.


Trust Health and Safety/Estates Manager - Steve Hallinan


I am passionate about ensuring that all our staff and students have a safe and stimulating environment in which to learn.  Working in education for almost 10 years within estate management and health and safety,  I have benefitted from being in different educational settings including five years as Facilities Manager across a trust with both mainstream and SEN schools.  Prior to this, I worked for 13 years working within the public sector for a royal borough.


I work collaborately with head teachers and school business mangers providing support and advice on both health and safety and compliance, whilst also overseeing the day to day operational management of the school sites.


I enjoy the “no days the same” experience of working in education and the ever-expanding learning opportunities the fast-moving, ever-changing landscape of the educational environment provides.  However, it’s seeing the impact ,both visual front facing and behind the scenes ,that provides a sense of job fulfilment that I have only ever found working within education.  


I am extremely grateful and excited to apply my knowledge and training within this role, not only as the Premises Manager for Pelham Primary School but also as Health and Safety and Compliance Manager for the trust.


Trust Marketing and Stakeholder relations officer/Executive PA


I am a PA with over 21 years administration experience within a broad range of sectors including Media, advertising and most recently within Children's Social Services and Education.


I have gained a wealth of knowledge in supporting individuals and teams, thinking ahead to ensure the day can run more efficiently, with communication being at the heart of everything I do. I believe that it's important to get out there and talk to people, to form connectiions and promote your team.


Since working within the Education Sector it has sparked a real interest for being in a more meaningful, child centred working environment. I have made it a priority to have an excellent understanding of Safeguarding to help create that respectful and safe education environment.

I fully believe in the the Trust's Vision, that children and young people are at the heart of their communities. To know that children are encouraged to be curious, dream big and have a voice during their time at the schools within the Trust, is such an inspiring and positive environment, that i'm proud to be a part of. 


Executive HR & Business Support Officer - Kiran Gahir


I am delighted to be the Executive HR and Business Support officer at Illuminate Minds Trust. After graduating with a psychology degree I had the opportunity to work in the property industry where I gained my core admin, organisational, communication and people skills. I have worked in different sectors including dispute resolution, repossessions and sales negotiation. Helping others is at the heart of all that I do.

I have also worked directly in schools as a speech and language assistant giving me a great understanding of learning barriers in relation to mental health and wellbeing and the importance of encouraging confidence, resilience and aspiration in children and young people. I have a real passion for working with children and enjoy watching them progress and achieve their full potential.

I am looking forward to working in my new role and championing our vision to deliver Excellence Everyday.




Our DSL's/Safeguarding Team


Fairford Academy Barnenhurst 


* Beverley Evans

* Sam Robinson

* Chris Guilford

* Lorraine Reynolds

* Aman Ajula

* Sue Graham

* Sydnie Maldon

* Amy Willis-Richards


Pelham Primary 


* Beverley Evans

* Tom Baines

* Alice Palmer

* Kate Anderson-Vilardell

* Lorraine Reynolds

* Kelly Rackstraw

* Wojchich Bialek

* Louise Appiah 

* Jodie Cousins




Contact Us

Illuminate Minds Trust, Pelham Road, Bexleyheath, Kent, DA7 4HL

Telephone: 0208 303 6556 Email: