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Our Schools

Altarnun Primary School

Altarnun Primary School

Egloskerry Primary School

Egloskerry Primary School

Launceston Primary School

Launceston Primary School

Atlantic Academy

Atlantic Academy

Bideford College

Bideford College

Launceston College

Launceston College

Pool Academy

Pool Academy

Trust Leadership Team

Ben Parnell - CEO

Ben Parnell has a wealth of experience and success in education leadership. He has been leading Athena Learning Trust since 2022 and prior to this, has held positions including Director of Education, Regional Director and Executive Principal. Ben encourages direct inquiries about his capabilities, loyalty, impact, flexibility, working relationships, strengths, and areas for development. His track record for school improvement is long and consistent, with improvements often being sustained even after he leaves a school. Ben believes in promoting great behaviour, structured teaching, high levels of support for students with special educational needs, financial resilience and fantastic governance. 
Ben's superpower is his ability to inspire and instil urgency simultaneously, getting his teams fired up about what they can achieve together for the young people in their care. 

Joe Kirby - Director of Education

Joe Kirby, leads the school improvement team and has expertise in school culture, curriculum, research, the science of learning and school improvement. He has worked with world-leading school leaders and this can be seen in his high standards for children and staff. He is focused on ensuring that 100% of students pass English and Maths. Joe believes that great education combines great teaching, curricula, culture and community to help students learn liberating knowledge and values that let them take part in the great adventures of humanity and contribute to others and the world. 

Shirley Si Ahmed - Chief Finance and Operations Officer (CFOO)

Shirley Si Ahmed is our Finance Director and also oversees our operations and is employed on a full time basis. Shirley is a seasoned School Business Leader with extensive experience managing all aspects of school operations and finances, enabling school leaders to focus on teaching and learning, and school improvement. She is well-versed in leading finance, IT, data protection, HR, catering, lettings and derivatives. Recently, Shirley and her family have moved from Croydon to the West Country, and her child is now enrolled in an Athena school.

Amy Coombe - School Improvement Lead

Amy Coombe is one of Athena’s School Improvement Leads and has a focus on driving improvements in reading and teaching across the trust on a 0.8 contract. She has achieved over 91% 4+ at GCSE as Head of English and Assistant Head for five years at Jane Austen College. Amy has developed a new cover system for our trust secondaries, dramatically reducing workload for teachers and supporting senior leaders to manage high levels of staff absence with minimal disruption to student learning. Amy also leads on CPD and line management for the trust, working towards our vision for world-class people development by helping schools to provide high quality CPD and line management for every role in the school.She has written a Key Stage 4 curriculum to support struggling schools, oversees the reading strategy that includes the tutor time reading program and the catch-up program including support and training for Lexonik.

Tegen Thompson - School Improvement Lead

Tegen Thompson, is one of Athena’s School Improvement Leads. Tegen, who hails from and was educated in Cornwall, leads as one of the organisation's two "in-residence" school improvement leaders. She is currently serving as Deputy Headteacher at Launceston College for two years, ensuring that the strategy is fully implemented at the school. Tegen has pioneered this model, which will be expanded to other schools next year. She has achieved 80% 4+ at GCSE as Head of Science before taking on a role in the SLT. Her areas of expertise include attendance, revision and homework, raising achievement, safeguarding, Pupil Premium and Science.

Matt Thompson - School Improvement Lead

Matthew Thompson is one of Athena’s School Improvement Leads. Matthew brings a sense of calm and clear direction to the school improvement team, particularly in areas of high need. He is responsible for overseeing attendance, attainment, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), post-16 education, and mathematics. He has a track record of success, having achieved 91% 4+ in Maths at GCSE within United Learning before becoming a member of the senior leadership team (SLT) at Redruth School. He is an expert in behaviour, assessment, data, timetabling, reporting, maths, statistics, economics, and computing, and holds a first-class degree in economics.

Dr Linda Blackburn - School Improvement Lead

Linda Blackburn is a school improvement leader at Athena Learning Trust, who is
focused on improving culture and standards, specifically KS4 outcomes, at Atlantic Academy on a full time basis. She has been described as a combination of three well-known education figures: Katherine Birbalsingh, Tom Bennett, and Doug Lemov. She has experience leading KS3, GCSE, A-level and IB (HL & SL) Chemistry, KS3 and GCSE Science and A-level Physics. She achieved 98% grade 4+ and 89% grade 7+ at GCSE as Head of Chemistry, and has experience in setting high standards, raising attainment and leading the improvement of teaching. Linda also has experience in leading major change in a Jersey secondary school raising standards, expectations and aspirations, and improved student outcomes from 40% to 65% grade 4+ as Head of Science. She holds a PhD and Master's Degree in Chemistry and has experience as a Manufacturing Chemist at Croda International and a Pharmaceutical Chemist at AstraZeneca. She believes in a knowledge-rich and rigorous science curriculum that is accessible to all pupils regardless of their background and is focused on ensuring that all pupils achieve.

Naveen Rizvi-Boulton - National Director of Mathematics, Numeracy and Development

Naveen Rizvi-Boulton is the National Director of Mathematics, Numeracy and Development and has a focus on supporting schools in developing students outcomes for Mathematics across both Primary and Secondary Schools within the Trust. She has expertise in curriculum design and resource creation from her time at one of the UK's largest MATs, United Learning, as the Mathematics Curriculum Writer. The resources were used by 200 teachers, across 45 secondary schools and experienced by 35,000 children leading to a significant rise in student outcomes. Naveen has worked as a teacher of Maths and an Acting Head of Mathematics at some of the UK's most transformative schools and believes that high-quality teaching, effective operational management and teacher training improves schools. Naveen aims to ensure that 100% of students pass Mathematics in primary and secondary with the intention of inspiring pupils to study the subject into A level and University. 

Naveen is passionate about Engelmann and Carnine's Direct Instruction and believes that its initial Mathematics programmes delivered in a primary setting allow pupils for consistency age-related expectations. Equally, its corrective programmes allow pupils entering secondary below age related expectations to close the gap.  

Gemma Kee - Head of People Operations

As the Head of People, Gemma Kee leads our HR and payroll services on a full time basis. She brings a wealth of experience in leadership and management from various private and public sector positions prior to her role in HR at Athena. Her expertise in educational HR was developed through both strategic and operational roles within maintained and academy trust schools and colleges. As a chartered member of the CIPD, her primary focus is to drive people support, personal development, and HR processes within the Trust.

Georgina Fahey - Head of Governance and Compliance

Georgina is passionate about working with children and has spent her career leading in primary schools, most recently in Bristol. She currently serves as the trust Governance and Compliance Lead, and has held this role since September 2022. Georgina was born and educated in Cornwall, holds a Masters Degree in Psychology, and is a qualified SENCO. As the governance lead for the trust, she has restructured governance at the local level, developed a committee structure for trustees. 

Rosie Broughton - Head of Catering and Lettings

Rosie has the pleasure of looking after the catering provision for the trust across all of our schools and managing a variety of evening/weekend lettings, including the unique Bachelor's Hall bunk house on Dartmoor. She has been with Bideford College and the Trust for 18 years. Starting her career in 4* hotel management, she moved to school catering when her twins were young and really enjoys the challenges it presents, as well as the wonderful staff in the catering teams that make all the food daily for the students. The catering service contributes to good health, improved concentration, and helps the students get the best from their education. Her aim is to provide all students with great food, made on-site, supporting local producers and taking care to preserve the environment. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family, horse riding, walking, and travelling.

Darren Crockford - Head of Estates 

Darren is the Head of Estates, leading the Facilities teams across all the sites while managing the role of Head of Health & Safety. He has a wealth of experience in the building trade and site management, gained over a long career in both the private and public sector. Growing up and being educated in Cornwall, he attended one of the schools that is now part of our Trust. After leaving full-time education, he entered the retail trade in a trainee management role, before going on to run his own successful building company for many years. When the opportunity came up, he joined Launceston College as the Site Manager before rising to become Head of Estates for the Trust. His passion lies in improving our facilities and using his skills and experience to lead the very committed Site Teams, playing a part in giving the students the best educational experience possible. When not at work, Darren is a lifelong football fan, enjoys working on his house and garden, and spending time with his family.

Joanne Crosby - Health and Safety Compliance Lead

Joanne began her career in health and safety in 1998, starting off by completing her qualifications and eventually becoming an enforcement officer for a local authority. 

Later on, Joanne had the opportunity to work as a Health and Safety advisor at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park. In this position, she was responsible for crafting risk assessments for various activities, including giraffe foot trimming, sea lion shows, and elephant walking. Additionally, she provided guidance on ensuring the safety of numerous visitors, including children and school groups.

Throughout her career, Joanne has worked in diverse sectors, including the NHS, various local authorities, housing associations, and the private sector. Notably, she was involved in event safety management for notable occasions such as the Queen's Funeral Screening in Exeter, the 2018 Paralympics, and Christmas Light Switch-Ons.

Two years ago, Joanne and her family relocated from Bedfordshire to North Devon. They now enjoy a fulfilling life in the countryside, surrounded by a range of pets including a turkey, horses, dogs, snakes, a cat, pigs, and bees. Joanne is also a proud mother of three sons and looks back on their move with great satisfaction.

Danny Garfield - Head of Trust IT

Danny has been working in IT in education for just shy of nine years and holds a degree in computing. He leads the IT teams across the trust and supports the Network Managers in maintaining a reliable and secure infrastructure that supports teaching and learning. Danny truly enjoys working in education and believes that it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to positively impact our students, and give them the best possible start in life.