Central Team Story
An extraordinary education is not always achieved through radical change but by everyone continually engaging in the pursuit of the small things that together will make the biggest difference.
We work alongside children and staff in schools. Aiming never to lose sight of our ambition to provide an extraordinary educational journey, we support schools to identify what needs to improve and provide guidance in how the improvements can be made. It is our goal for all schools to deliver an extraordinary education and we recognise that sometimes the improvement journey can be tough and sometimes it can be more straightforward. Because of this, we tailor our support according to need.
Meet the Central Team
Chief Executive Officer, Adam Matthews
I qualified as a teacher in 1995 after spending eleven years working as a logistician for companies in the UK and USA. I have worked in education ever since as a teacher, headteacher, Local Leader of Education, National Leader of Education, Advisory Head and Ofsted Inspector. I have been the CEO of Extend Learning since its development and inception.
I have worked with many schools across the country to improve outcomes for children through effective school improvement. I have worked with schools on two Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) projects, the DfE Tailored Support Programme and several other school development projects.
Head of Business Operations, Lynn Winter
I am an experienced development manager with a history of working to support children and young people in education and extended schools. I began working in the south west in 2004 and went on to develop and implement an extended services programme in south Weston. I founded a charity in 2006 providing safe out of school activities and aspirational experiences for children and their families. I have been on the governing body of a primary school for over ten years.
I managed the running of the WSM Education Trust for five years before being an integral part of the development and implementation team that founded Extend Learning. As the head of business operations, I co-ordinate effective business services across our schools, so that our teaching staff are able to focus on the education of children.
Human Resources Manager, Karen Romano
“Professionally I’m Karen Romano the current Head of HR for ELAN, and alongside my amazing team, I am responsible for looking after the HR and Payroll needs of all our schools. It’s busy and chaotic most of the time, but sorting through the chaos is what we do best. I am lucky enough to have been on board from the beginning and although not originally from an education background, being able to bring experience from other areas is a great advantage.
Personally, I’m anything but professional, and family life is very important to me. Usually it’s very busy and spare time is a luxury reserved for catching up or sleeping, but I wouldn’t change a thing!”
Chief Finance Officer, Maria Davidson
I joined the team in July 2018, after spending 23 years in Local Government in the Corporate Finance Department. I became an Accountant in 2005 having gained wide experience in roles ranging from Internal Auditor to Best Value Officer.
I have the demanding role of ensuring that the trust’s financial resources are directed towards teaching and learning in a very challenging financial environment.
Outside of work, I am a keen long distance runner who enjoys the training rather than the race itself.
Estates Manager, Warren Leavens
I have a long history of managing property and estates. I have built up extensive knowledge of estates management, statutory compliance and health and safety over a twenty plus year career and have enjoyed working in all sectors of education during that time. I look after and support eight primary schools across north Somerset and the central team. It is a challenging and busy role and a pleasure to work for ELAN.
Executive Assistant to CEO, Sarah Edwards
I have worked in the education sector for well over ten years in school admissions with North Somerset Council, as Personal Assistant at Bournville Primary School and now support the senior leaders within Extend Learning. I am also an experienced Clerk to Governors and advise our schools on statutory requirements, policies and protocol.
Communications Lead, Laura Elmont
I lead communications for Extend Learning and our primary schools across North Somerset and beyond. I am therefore responsible for the implementation of the trust's marketing strategies, communications and public relations activities.
I work closely with the Chief Executive Officer, HR Manager and Business Operations Manager to ensure good marketing practices across the trust and our schools. I aim to improve the quality and effectiveness of communication mechanisms, ensuring that all of our aims and key messages are communicated, whilst providing every opportunity for feedback. I create, maintain and update content for our online platforms and printed materials as well as the trust's social media accounts, including maintaining the social media strategy and monitoring each of our school’s online presence. I also support academic staff with social media advice/account management within their individual schools.
Finance Manager, Jo Lewis
I have been the Finance Manager with Extend Learning since the beginning. I have always enjoyed working with numbers and have done so since leaving school to join a local accountancy firm, I left accountancy 27 years ago and since then have been an admin assistant, North Somerset Council’s first travelling bursar and a school bursar.
I enjoy preparing budgets for schools and subsequently monitoring them during the year, ensuring there is enough money for schools to educate the children.
Over the last twenty years I have also been a clerk for several governing bodies, which gives me an understanding of school life beyond the budgets.
At weekends I enjoy knitting and reading and spending time with my grandchildren at my caravan in Axminster.
Human Resources Assistant, Michelle Clarke
My day to day work can be very varied and I work on many different projects throughout the year as well as supporting the team to continually improve, my areas of expertise are DBS checks, recruitment and selection, single central record and employee benefits. I’m a naturally creative person who loves a challenge and I work best when we have deadlines to achieve, which is just as well when supporting all staff across eight primary schools and the central team!
My children are my passion and I work hard so that I am able to enjoy quality time off with them indulging in my playful side, keeping both them and me out of mischief!
HR and Payroll Assistant, Kim Underhill
As payroll administrator I mainly look after the payroll process for our eight schools and central team. I also support HR by completing DBS applications and checks, absence records and reports and employment contracts. I started in education as an office apprentice in one of our schools and after seven years gaining experience in school, I joined the Central Team in October 2018.
The best way for me to wind down after work is spending time with my thoroughbred horse, Fudge, refreshing myself for the next day’s challenge.
HR & Payroll Assistant, Sarah Tucker
I have been working in finance and administration since 1990 so have a varied knowledge and expertise across all aspects of business operations.
I worked for Avon and Somerset Police in different departments for many years and in the business offices of the Sovereign Centre in Weston-super-Mare prior to joining Extend Learning. I help in the process of the monthly pay run and am the first point of contact for the team. I process staff contracts for both new starters existing staff as well as absence and payroll spreadsheets. There are lots of other general HR and administrative duties to do too for 600+ staff.
School Improvement Lead, Penny Boardman
I have extensive experience in school improvement spanning over 20 years, mostly achieved working within the North Somerset Local Authority school improvement. I have worked alongside many school leaders and governors within and beyond North Somerset to secure improvement. My specialisms are in English and assessment and my work in these fields is extensive.
I am the author of two publications which support the teaching of phonics and teaching of spelling. I deliver training for schools across the country on all aspects of reading, writing and spoken language. I also work with many schools to develop principled approaches to assessment and enabling them to shape their systems and processes so that all stakeholders access reliable and valid assessment information that is useful to them.
Education Welfare Officer, Mahad Ali
As Education Welfare Officer (EWO) I am responsible for school attendance across the Extend Learning Academies Network. I work with headteachers, attendance leads and families to improve school attendance and thereby attainment for all the pupils and families we work with. I have worked for over 18 years across Weston-super-Mare and Bristol supporting children and families to achieve change. Eight of those were spent as EWO for North Somerset Council helping to develop robust attendance monitoring systems across the authority. When I am not at work I support Middlesbrough Football Club, which is painful and enjoy playing golf…. badly!
SEMH, Jane Steele
I have extensive teaching experience having taught across primary and secondary age range in a variety of roles, Head of Year, Inclusion Manager, SENDCO and Head of KS2/3 Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) with Somerset and North Somerset LEA’s. I have always had an interest in social, emotional mental health (SEMH) and developmental trauma and their impact on a child’s ability to learn. At the end of 2014 I accepted the post of Advisory Teacher, SEMH with a specialism in attachment and trauma, with the Virtual Learning Service (VLS). It’s in this role that I now work for Extend Learning.
Cognition and Learning, Cat Wright
I have taught across the primary range in a variety of roles including senior leadership with Birmingham and Staffordshire LEA. In 2010 I took up a specialist post with Staffordshire’s SENSS department as a Behaviour Support Coordinator (Advisory Teacher role), working with schools and vulnerable students toward inclusion. I relocated to North Somerset in 2014 to work with the Virtual Learning Service (VLS) as an Advisory Teacher for cognition and learning, with a specialism in dyslexia. It’s in this role that I now work for the eight Extend Learning schools.
Head of Teaching School, Kerri McArdle
Prior to becoming Head of The Beach Teaching School, I was Assistant Head at Bournville Primary School with the main responsibility of leading teaching and learning within the school. Over an extensive and varied 20+ year career in primary education, I have taught in schools nationally, across four different local authorities, undertaking advisory work as well as in depth research into pedagogy.
A specialist in pedagogy, my other key areas of expertise also include: curriculum development, CPD, assessment, M&E and subject leadership. I have been a mentor to practitioners at all levels of their careers who have gone on to be successful in many specialisms. I have a wealth of experience in delivering training to individual colleagues bespoke to themselves and their school development plan.
An integral member of The Beach Teaching School, Kerri is a trainer on the leadership programmes, works with leaders, teachers and support staff and your school to design bespoke CPD solutions.
Sports Premium Manager, Lee Molland
I have been working in primary school Physical Education, School Sport and Physical Activity for over 10 years. I am passionate about seeing children reach their potential and use the power of sport to better themselves to be the best that they can be. I have successfully worked to a philosophy of personal best, and healthy competition and am a keen advocate of ‘The Daily Mile’. I care deeply for children to be active as much as they can and access as many opportunities as they can. This passion allowed me to lead my previous school to an award in ‘Most Active Primary School’ within Berkshire. As a PE Lead, I was supported by a fantastic team who believed in the same approaches as me.
Within Extend Learning, I work with schools individually to upskill their staff in teaching PE and with PE Leads to help improve their overall provisions. I also lead on running a competition calendar for our schools, and work with local providers and other educational settings to get the best experiences for the children in our schools.
If you don’t see me in a tracksuit at school, you’ll find me in a tracksuit playing sport somewhere!
Finance Assistant, Gemma Coyle
I have worked within a financial role since leaving school in 2002. My longest role was 13 years for Thatcher’s Cider where I gained a lot of experience. I started out in finance as an accounts payable controller before moving over to credit control and into the sales ledger side of thing so I have knowledge in both areas.
At ELAN my main duty is to ensure all of our supplier invoices are processed and paid on time to enable the day to day running of the schools and central team. I am new to the education sector and keen to learn more!
I have a busy home life. Evenings and weekends consist of taking care of my family, including two dogs and our most recent purchase… sheep!!
Finance Assistant, Debbie Johns
I relocated to Somerset in 2018 and worked for a short time for Liberata at Castlewood in Clevedon. Prior to moving to Somerset I worked in the finance department of a secondary school in Hampshire from 2007. In 2017 the school merged with two other schools to become an all through school on three different sites! I was responsible for all purchasing needs of the schools, recording all the income and paying invoices as well as working with the department heads to ensure they did not overspend their budget.
At ELAN my main responsibility is to process the sales ledger for all eight schools and central team, managing all income, balancing the bank reconciliation and monitoring balances.
Outside of work I am a keen short mat bowler. I have over 100 caps for Surrey and have played for England Ladies.