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Pen Portraits - School Improvement Team

School Improvement Team

Community First Academy Trust                             

Rivington Ave, Platt Bridge, WN2 5NG Tel: 01942 487999

Executive Trust Leadership Team
Chief Executive (CEO) | Executive Headteacher | National Leader of Education Sue Darbyshire
Chief Finance Officer (CFO) Michelle Frost
Director of HR (HRD) Craig Holden
Chief Finance Officer (CFO) Carol Brockbank 
Teaching, Learning & Assessment Ann Howard
Director of Safeguarding,Inclusion and Behaviour Martin Haskayne
Director of Professional Learning   Carly Lomax
Director of Curriculum  Laura Farrell
Director or Research  Charlotte Hindley

Special Educational Needs Coordinator 


Nicola Wood


Sue Darbyshire  

Chief Executive Officer | National Leader of Education | Executive  Headteacher  

Sue Darbyshire is CEO at Community First Academy Trust. Sue is also a National Leader of Education and supports school improvement nationwide. She started teaching in 1992 and has been in leadership positions for over twenty years, seventeen of these have been as Headteacher or Executive Headteacher.

Sue is the founder of Westbridge Teaching School Alliance and CEO of Kingsbridge EIP SCITT; an outstanding provider of initial teacher training for both primary and secondary trainees. Sue is totally committed to raising standards and to providing all pupils, staff and trainee teachers with opportunities to excel.

Sue successfully amalgamated two failing schools into a new primary school and took it to ‘Good’ in 12 months and ‘Outstanding’ in its next inspection. She specialises in schools within disadvantaged areas. 

Sue delivers middle and senior leadership training locally, nationally and internationally to both primary and secondary colleagues. She is a qualified coach and NLP practitioner. Sue has completed the UCL MAT Leaders programme and The Future Leaders Trust’s Executive Educators Programme. She has a Master qualification in Educational Studies.

Sue continues to work with her Local Authority at a strategic advisory level, serving on the Wigan Education Partnership Board, the System Leadership Group and as a School Improvement Lead on the School Improvement Board.

In 2018 Sue served as an Interim Executive Board member for a school that was placed in special measures focusing on strategic direction, school improvement and providing a sustainable future for the pupils at the school. The school made exceptional progress and HMI praised the school for a series of rapid improvements.


Ann Howard

Ann graduated from Edge Hill University as a qualified teacher in 1996. Her teaching experience has predominantly been in Year 6 but she has also taught in Lower Key Stage 2 and in Key Stage 1. During her middle management experience, Ann managed - KS1, LKS2 and UKS2.

Ann is an active leader and has developed entrepreneurial teaching practices that accelerate learning and close gaps. Ann also leads a team to develop differentiated input lessons across Wigan.

Over Ann’s career she has faced many challenges of leading schools out of cause for concerns categories and has supported many schools through Westbridge Teaching School Alliance to ensure children within our region are now in Good or better education. 

Martin Haskayne

Martin qualified as a teacher in 1990 and worked for 10 years in a school for children with Severe Learning Difficulties aged 2-19 years as the coordinator for Design Technology across the school. As part of the school development plan Martin became an instructor in the Team-Teach Physical intervention system in 1997 and introduced this within the school Martin remains an instructor to this day.

In 2000 Martin was appointed to the newly formed Behaviour Support Team in Wigan for whom I worked until 2007. During this time, he was appointed as National Training Manager for the Nurture Group Network.

Carly Lomax  

Carly is a highly experienced School Improvement Partner with a track record of  school turnaround with particular strengths in supporting schools in challenging circumstances. Carly believes in improving the quality of teaching and learning and supporting teachers to improve their pedagogical delivery is the most important aspect of school improvement.

Michelle Frost

Michelle Frost is Finance Director and Accounting Officer at Community First Academy Trust. Michelle has worked in school administration for over 25 years. In Michelle’s early career she worked in a small Catholic primary school, being the sole administrative member of staff, before moving on to a new large community school with responsibility for leading a team of 5 admin members and 3 premises support staff. Having worked in both fields, this has provided her with an excellent background and insight into the challenges that can face both types of settings. I take the strategic lead role in financial administration, personnel, site management, and health and safety issues.

When Michelle joined Platt Bridge Community School in 2006, her initial tasks involved the setting up of service contracts, resourcing classrooms and taking a lead role in liaising with partners and contractors for the newly built school. As the school has grown in size and popularity, from 1.5 to 2 form entry this has resulted in both increased budgets and funding streams, together with the building of additional classrooms, appointment of extra staff and greater challenges for the school in general.

Michelle secured the qualification of CSBM through the National College in 2008 and has undertaken the role of Clerk to Governors in both schools for 20 years. Michelle has taken the lead role in the academisation conversion process within both a primary and secondary setting and have has supported many other schools going through this transition.

Michelle’s key responsibility is to ensure the long term financial viability of the academy trust and in achieving this she has successfully raised £2 million in balances to support the trust support of schools causing concern and the academy trust growth.

Craig Holden

Craig Holden is Director of HR at Community First Academy Trust who has responsibility for HR Operations across the academy trust. Craig is a HR and business management specialist with substantial operational experience. With in-depth experience of designing and implementing employee related solutions, offering pragmatic advice to businesses and educational establishments of all sizes, he enables them to comply with their legal obligations. 

Prior to joining Community First Academy Trust, Craig held senior management positions and directorships for over 15 years most recently working with a leading firm of solicitors and was also Operations Director for a multipurpose HR consultancy.

Craig has extensive operational experience in human resource management which includes negotiations with unions at local and regional level. In addition to providing advice and assistance on National Agreement, Craig has also been involved in the provision of statistical data in relation to manpower and salary surveys.  

Craig is experienced in multi-site operations, TUPE, the development of policies and procedures and a wealth of experience of solving tricky employment issues. Craig is a robust and creative negotiator who seeks a negotiated solution to a problem and his experience takes the worry out of any HR issues than can arise and effect business operations.