Meet The Team










Cavelle Priestley-Bird – Executive Director for Alliance of Leading Learning

Cavelle is the Executive Director of the Alliance of Leading Learning. She was a senior leader in a wide range of schools for over twenty years, provider of professional learning programmes across Cheshire East and more recently the Director of the NCTL licence for “The Leadership Academy” at Edge Hill University. She has secured a reputation of building high performing teams and has a wide range of experience in leading and advising on appropriate whole school improvement strategies, whilst embedding the latest thinking on pupil-centred learning.

Cavelle grew The Leadership Academy from a new initiative in 2012 to having an established reputation for high quality transformational leadership training, with over 5,000 school leaders and governors accessing the leadership programmes. Cavelle has strategically grown the brand of our professional learning programmes and the NPQs both at national and international level, developing projects in Hong Kong and Nigeria, and has initiated major bespoke projects with city councils in transformational leadership with measured results in schools across whole local authorities.

Cavelle is keen to harness the expertise of the very best Governors she has the privilege of working with and further develop the “gold standard” (NCTL 2013) professional learning expected now from the Alliance of Leading Learning.

Lee Sims – Professional Learning Programme Lead

Lee is an exemplary school leader with a wide-ranging experience in a diverse range of schools – most recently as a deputy head in Birmingham.

Lee has been instrumental in writing and devising the NEW Governance Development Programme. As Programme Lead for professional learning he co-ordinates our expert facilitators, who are practising National leaders in Governance, Chairs and school leaders. He ensures the governance programme is supported by self-directed learning through blended learning, online learning, current cutting-edge research and work-based practice. Lee has written and delivered the school leadership programmes including the NPQH, NPQML and NPQSL from their inception and is responsible for the coordination of bespoke international projects as well as the creation of bespoke programmes for NQTs, RQTs and classroom practitioners.
As an advanced facilitator, he has ensured the quality assurance of facilitation and critical review of modules as well as marketing, networking and partnership building.

Tom Abbott – Governor Development Programme Senior Advisor

Tom spent 38 years in secondary education with over 25 years on school leadership teams, rising to the role of headteacher. Tom was a member of the Staffordshire Local Authority Self-Improving Schools Board and an active school governor for 17 years.
He is currently part of the governance of a free school in Birmingham, to assist in taking it out of special measures.
Tom has facilitated on the NPQH and was the strategic lead of the NCTL Governance Leadership Programmes under our previous Governance licence – ensuring it became one of the largest and most successful NCTL licensees for Governance Leadership.
As part of his role he has led a team of over 20 highly experienced governance facilitators and NLGs across the Midlands, North West and Yorkshire and Humberside with the aim of creating high quality training experiences for governors, governing boards and clerks. Tom has led on writing new learning programmes, revising and updating NCTL governance training materials, leading training events, facilitating governors training and governance reviews, and leading training sessions for governance facilitators.
Tom has worked closely with the Department for Education for over the last few years, being heavily engaged in the development and revisions of the Governance Leadership programmes and free governor workshops. During this time Tom has completed both the NCTL facilitator training and the NCTL Advanced Facilitation course.

Gemma O’Reilly – Professional Learning Co-ordinator

Gemma has 7 years of experience working in governance, completing the NCTL Clerks’ Development Programme in November 2015.  Gemma has experience of governance in both a primary and secondary setting, within both maintained, academised and within a Multi Academy Trust.    Gemma left the role of Clerk to Trustees for the Marches Academy Trust in September 2017 to take on the new role of Professional Learning Programme Co-ordinator remaining within the Trust, working with Cavelle to delivery both the NPQ and Governor Development licences.  Due to her background in governance, Gemma is enthused to be involved in the delivery of training that supports governance in schools as she understands well how important training is for governors.


Fiona Stagg – Strategic Lead for Governance /Facilitator

Fiona is a national leader of governance and currently chairs two primary schools in Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire. She is also a trustee of a three-school MAT in Nottinghamshire. She is an experienced clerk and works with a range of primary settings including single academy trusts, local governing boards, special schools, maintained nurseries and multi academy trust boards. An active participant in governor and other leadership networks Fiona is also a WomenEd regional leader for the West Midlands, facilitates both bespoke and commissioned governor and clerk development programmes and regularly publishes a blog from the perspective of the clerk.

Fiona has been a governor for almost 15 years, understands the increasing pressures placed upon governors and trustees and is passionate about ‘sharing and learning’ from each other and bringing system leadership to life.
Fiona also carries out external reviews of governance using the NCTL model and was previously a facilitator for the Edge Hill Governor Training modules

Mike Humphreys – Facilitator

Mike is an experienced secondary school leader and facilitator  for professional learning, using skills gained as a senior leader in two large secondary schools.

Mike was the strategic leader for staff development at a large specialist secondary school, including leading on staff professional development and performance management, NPQML, NPQSL and M. Ed.   

As the strategic leader for a SCITT, Mike wrote the bid and developed the programme for professional learning, training mentors and facilitators, liaising with partner schools and universities, assuring compliance with DfE and statutory requirements to ensure the highest possible quality of provision for trainees as a result of rigorous quality assurance. This role also encompassed research and development in cross phase school projects on ‘Life without Levels’ and SEND.
Under our previous licence Mike facilitated learning on the full range of governor training courses, training over 500 school governors. He has been a governor for 2 primary schools and 2 secondary schools. One of these went from Ofsted ‘inadequate’ for leadership to Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ in 18 months. Mike was also a secondary school governor (staff) for the better part of seventeen years.

Michelle Foster – Facilitator

Michelle is an experienced school governor and is currently chair of governors at a secondary school in Wigan.  She also has experience of governance in the primary sector and IEBs.

During the last licence period Michelle delivered the NCTL Governor Workshops and Leadership Development Programmes across the North West. Feedback from sessions delivered were consistently rated as excellent with participants going away from the workshops armed with the confidence and the ability to ask sensible, relevant questions at governing board meetings, and with more confidence in their own leadership abilities after the Leadership Programme.

Michelle has worked within a school improvement team of a local authority as well as within a central team of a multi-academy trust.  Michelle has experience of leading governing board self-evaluation, headteacher recruitment, recent Ofsted inspections, pay appeals, disciplinary hearings and school complaints, as well as developing and restructuring governing boards to improve efficiency and impact.

Michelle is a national leader of governance, has supported schools in the North West and is accredited by The National College to carry out external reviews of governance. Michelle has recently volunteered with Inspiring Governance to mentor future chairs of governors.

John Hesketh – Facilitator

John is a self-employed education consultant working with schools and local authorities to support and improve governance. John has a particular interest in working with governing bodies and schools in difficulty. This interest in governor and leadership dates from the late 80s and his involvement in training and developing governors and headteachers to prepare and support them in their developing delegated responsibilities. Before becoming self-employed 9 years ago, John was employed at a senior level in local authorities in roles with responsibility for the leadership and governance in schools. This involved running a teacher’s centre, development of appraisal schemes and introduction of performance management, development of a clerking service for governing bodies and developing and delivering training for governors.

Participation in these roles allied to John’s commitment to governor development provided a strong base from which John delivered under our previous governor leadership licence and clerk’s development programmes – as well as development and delivery of the DfE free workshops. As such, John is familiar with the competencies required by NCTL programmes.

In his free time John is Chair of an outstanding standalone secondary school academy and has chaired a multi academy trust.

Dave Werry – Facilitator

David has over 25 years experience working in primary education, including 12 years as headteacher. In that time he was accredited as a Local Leader of Education and served for five years on the Staffordshire Schools Forum. Since 2014, he has worked as a school advisor supporting many school across the Midlands. His work in governance includes writing and presenting courses for governors of all descriptions, carrying out external reviews of governance, of both stand alone schools and MATs, and mentoring chairs through leadership programmes. He has held a number of governor roles since 2011 and currently serves as chair of governors in a maintained school and as a trustee in a MAT. In a previous career, he worked for six years in business and industry, qualifying as a chartered accountant with Price Waterhouse.


Geoff Watts – Facilitator

Geoff Watts recently retired from his post as a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Health at the University of Chester. His interest in leadership stems from over ten years ago when he was commissioned to write and deliver a leadership development programme for senior NHS staff.

Geoff has also had considerable experience of school governance having been a governor of a large secondary school and sixth form college for twenty years, ten of which as chair of governors.

Geoff believes passionately in the need for all those involved with school governance to develop their leadership and critical thinking skills through personal evaluation and reflection, as well as the capacity to work with others in  collaborative manner.