The Central Team of The GORSE Academies Trust is small, sharply focused and highly impactful. It is led by the Chief Executive Officer Sir John Townsley who, as well as leading all aspects of the trust’s strategic and operational direction, also acts as its Accounting Officer. It is our intention to minimise the level of financial contribution made to our central activities by each academy and it is a priority for the board of the trust to see those contributions reduce over the coming years.

The Executive of the Central Team is made up as follows:

Sir John Townsley

Chief Executive Officer

Sir John joined Morley High School as its Headteacher in 2003. Prior to that he was Deputy Headteacher at The King’s School, Pontefract and Prince ...Read More

Sir John Townsley

Chief Executive Officer

Sir John joined Morley High School as its Headteacher in 2003. Prior to that he was Deputy Headteacher at The King’s School, Pontefract and Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Otley. Whilst at The King’s School he led a team of teachers who spent a year developing and writing Positive Discipline which is now the dominant behaviour framework across schools in England.

Under his leadership Morley High School was judged as Outstanding in 2009, and then again as The Morley Academy in 2013. In 2007 he led a critical intervention at Rodillian High School which was successful in forming the foundation stone upon which the school has continued to thrive and build. In 2009 Sir John was asked to intervene at Farnley Park High School which was at that point in crisis. The Farnley Academy was the first of the GORSE academies to be transformed from Inadequate to Outstanding in only three years. The trust has now pushed forward, opening an exciting range of free schools and playing a major role in challenging underperformance and creating exciting learning opportunities for children and young people in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the Leeds city region.

A National Leader of Education Sir John is credited with supporting the turn around in performance at Bridlington School, Headlands School and Todmorden High School. Sir John was also a founding member of the Ofqual board and was the chair of the National Headteacher Steering Group for the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

Sir John was honoured for his services to education in the New Year’s Honours list of 2015.

Simon McCarthy

Executive Principal: Primary Education

Simon joined Morley Newlands Academy as Principal shortly after it became part of The GORSE Academies Trust. In 2016, Morley Newlands had been risk assessed ...Read More

Simon McCarthy

Executive Principal: Primary Education

Simon joined Morley Newlands Academy as Principal shortly after it became part of The GORSE Academies Trust. In 2016, Morley Newlands had been risk assessed and placed in the bottom twenty percent of schools in the country. After a period of rapid and significant improvement, he led the school to an Outstanding judgement in January 2018.

Leanne Griffiths

Executive Principal: 11-16 Education

Leanne joined what was then Morley High School in 2005 as second in the science department. Since then, through a combination of immense hard work, ...Read More

Leanne Griffiths

Executive Principal: 11-16 Education

Leanne joined what was then Morley High School in 2005 as second in the science department. Since then, through a combination of immense hard work, intelligence and flair she has risen to the position of Executive Principal: Secondary Education. Her work as a leader is renowned for its diligence and integrity and this was reflected in the brilliance of The Morley Academy's outcomes in 2017.

David Holtham

Executive Principal: Post 16 Education

David was appointed as our first Principal of Elliott Hudson College which opened in September 2015. During that time he has overseen the development of ...Read More

David Holtham

Executive Principal: Post 16 Education

David was appointed as our first Principal of Elliott Hudson College which opened in September 2015. During that time he has overseen the development of a position whereby Elliott Hudson College is viewed as one of the very best in the country. What is particularly impressive is the performance of disadvantaged students, many of whom have come to us following significant under-performance in their own secondary school. David is now leading the development of all aspects of Post 16 education across the trust.

Fiona McNally

Partnership Director: Teaching

Fiona McNally joined TGAT in 2015 and is a Director of Teaching across the Trust. Fiona has been a Headteacher of a primary federation of ...Read More

Fiona McNally

Partnership Director: Teaching

Fiona McNally joined TGAT in 2015 and is a Director of Teaching across the Trust. Fiona has been a Headteacher of a primary federation of two schools in Bradford, one of which was Outstanding, the other which had been judged to be Inadequate. The latter received a Good judgement in 2012, where leadership and management were judged to be Outstanding as a consequence of the excellent and rapid improvements made.

Fiona has also worked in the secondary sector; she is an MFL specialist, having taught French, Spanish and German for many years and having been Head of Year, Assistant Headteacher overseeing Key Stage 4 and Assistant Headteacher: Director of Sixth Form before becoming senior Deputy Headteacher in a large, successful secondary school in Wakefield.

Anne-Marie Garnett

Partnership Director: Teaching

Anne-Marie joined Morley High School in 2003 as Assistant Headteacher having previously been Assistant Headteacher at Rhodesway School (now Dixons-Allerton Academy) in Bradford. Promotion to ...Read More

Anne-Marie Garnett

Partnership Director: Teaching

Anne-Marie joined Morley High School in 2003 as Assistant Headteacher having previously been Assistant Headteacher at Rhodesway School (now Dixons-Allerton Academy) in Bradford. Promotion to Vice Principal in 2009 led to Anne-Marie becoming Associate Principal and then Principal at The Morley Academy in 2011 following Sir John’s support, and ultimately leadership, of failing schools within the Leeds area. Under her leadership with Sir John The Morley Academy was re-designated as Outstanding by Ofsted in May 2013. Her leadership roles have covered many areas, including CPD, ITT, teaching and learning and pastoral support.

In May 2015 Anne-Marie became Principal at Bruntcliffe School (now Bruntcliffe Academy) when it joined The GORSE Academies Trust at a critical time in its history and following a period of enormous instability and falling standards. In just over two years she worked tirelessly to turn round the reputation and success of the school and it now faces its first Ofsted inspection from a position of great confidence.

In September 2017 Anne-Marie joined the Trust’s central team as a Partnership Director and she works in both primary and secondary phases. Anne-Marie has been an English teacher for more than 30 years.

Nicola Cornfoot

Partnership Director: Teaching

Over the last 13 years Nicola has worked across three Secondary academies in The GORSE Academies Trust. Nicola has helped to drive and maintain high ...Read More

Nicola Cornfoot

Partnership Director: Teaching

Over the last 13 years Nicola has worked across three Secondary academies in The GORSE Academies Trust. Nicola has helped to drive and maintain high standards as a Mathematics AST, Assistant Principal and Vice Principal. She played an integral role in The Farnley Academy’s Outstanding judgement, December 2013, leading on Post-16 and curriculum and The Ruth Gorse Academy’s Outstanding judgement, July 2017, leading on teaching and professional standards.

Nicola joined the TGAT central team in September 2017 as Director of Teaching across the Trust.

Judith Shore

Chief Operating Officer

Judith joined Morley High School as its Finance Manager in 2005. Prior to this she was a Senior Finance Officer for Leeds City Council working ...Read More

Judith Shore

Chief Operating Officer

Judith joined Morley High School as its Finance Manager in 2005. Prior to this she was a Senior Finance Officer for Leeds City Council working with a range of schools across the city.

Judith has considerable experience in all aspects of educational budget control and has worked with schools in financial difficulty developing robust procedures and financial plans which have ensured long term viability.

The conversion of Morley High School to academy status required her to take on a lead role in this important area of the organisation’s development, this has continued as additional academies have joined the Trust. More recently Judith has played a key role in the delivery of successful Free Schools from application to opening.

As the Trust has expanded Judith has taken on additional responsibilities and now has oversight of a number of areas including Finance, HR, Admissions, Governance, Health & Safety and Project management.

Judith is an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Saba Mir

Partnership Director: Teaching and Assessment

Over the last nine years Saba has worked across two Secondary academies in The GORSE Academies Trust. As an AST in Science, Assistant Principal and ...Read More

Saba Mir

Partnership Director: Teaching and Assessment

Over the last nine years Saba has worked across two Secondary academies in The GORSE Academies Trust. As an AST in Science, Assistant Principal and Senior Assistant Principal, Saba has worked relentlessly to drive and maintain high standards in education which result in excellent student outcomes. She played an integral role in The Farnley Academy’s Outstanding judgement in December 2013, leading on teaching and learning, and The Ruth Gorse Academy’s Outstanding judgement in July 2017, leading on Assessment. Within these roles, Saba has also worked in collaboration with Trust academies to develop a rigorous and comprehensive approach to Assessment and Examination Rubric.

Saba joined the TGAT central team in September 2018 as Director of Teaching and Assessment across the Trust.

Tina Dunderdale

Director of Trust Projects

Tina joined Ryecroft Primary School in 2006 as Business Manager. Prior to that she was a Sales Manager at Debenhams, White Rose. Whilst at Debenhams ...Read More

Tina Dunderdale

Director of Trust Projects

Tina joined Ryecroft Primary School in 2006 as Business Manager. Prior to that she was a Sales Manager at Debenhams, White Rose. Whilst at Debenhams she led a team of 72 staff and successfully met sales targets ranging from £4 - £6 million per annum.

Ryecroft Academy joined The GORSE Academies Trust in 2014 and Tina successfully facilitated the conversion with the help of Trust colleagues. Tina has an experienced business background of team leadership and complex project organisation. Tina’s current work within the Trust has enabled her to foster strong relationships with all stakeholders and to inspire a shared vision amongst others.

Tina joined The GORSE Academies Trust team in April 2016 as Director of Trust Projects. In her role she liaises with Principals on the development, funding and management of projects and works closely with the Director of Finance, Director of Health & Safety and the Operations Manager to ensure that all projects are delivered within the required timescales and within budget.

Alan Marshall

Director of Health and Safety

Alan Marshall joined The Morley and Farnley Academies as Operations Manager in August 2012 at the end of a very successful 30 year career in ...Read More

Alan Marshall

Director of Health and Safety

Alan Marshall joined The Morley and Farnley Academies as Operations Manager in August 2012 at the end of a very successful 30 year career in the British Army. Having completed an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer in The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) in 1984, Alan served in Germany, Northern Ireland, Kuwait, Iraq, Canada, Denmark and the former Yugoslavia. Throughout this time he gained experience in Managing Health and Safety, Project Management, Construction and Engineering which culminated in him being responsible for 800 military vehicles and 150 staff.

Alan was awarded a Queens Commission into the Royal Engineers in 2005 and took up post managing the careers of soldiers undertaking specialist training. In 2007 he assumed the role of Squadron Quartermaster responsible for the management of logistics, health and safety and equipment care. During this time, Alan organised the deployment to Cyprus to perform a number of construction tasks, including the building of a 500m road, the first built by Royal Engineers in non-conflict situations, for over 30 years. As part of Project Talisman, Alan was instrumental in the development and inception of support for a Route Proving and Clearing capability and was responsible for the logistical move and health and safety of the equipment and personnel to a training Exercise in Jordan and subsequently the deployment of the first Talisman Squadron to Afghanistan in 2010.

Since Alan’s arrival in 2012, he has overseen the development of estates, health and safety and has successfully led in over 30 capital projects across the Trusts estate. Alan has introduced and developed systems to assist individual academies to manage their buildings and estates in a more efficient and cost saving way. Under restructuring, Alan has assumed the role of Director of Health and Safety and will be responsible for the development and implementation of Health and Safety across the Trust in raising awareness of all staff and ensuring that the Trust complies with statutory legislation.

Sally Sharp

Director of Human Resources

Sally joined The GORSE Academies Trust in September 2014 at a time of rapid expansion. Prior to that she worked for 32 years with Leeds ...Read More

Sally Sharp

Director of Human Resources

Sally joined The GORSE Academies Trust in September 2014 at a time of rapid expansion. Prior to that she worked for 32 years with Leeds City Council’s Department of Education, Education Leeds and Leeds Children’s Services.

During her time with Leeds City Council she worked as a HR Schools Business Partner to many schools including The Morley Academy, The Farnley Academy, Bruntcliffe School and Hillcrest Academy. She worked closely with Sir John and his team during critical interventions at Rodillian School in 2007 and Farnley Park High School in 2009.

Sally was the local authority’s lead officer on School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions and responsible for the development and review of the Model Pay Policy, and other HR policies, for schools in Leeds.

Steve Bland

Director of Finance

Steve joined Morley High School in October 2010, prior to conversion to Academy status in January 2011. He played a significant role in the setup ...Read More

Steve Bland

Director of Finance

Steve joined Morley High School in October 2010, prior to conversion to Academy status in January 2011. He played a significant role in the setup of the financial systems required by an academy. These included developing a new financial ledger, setting up bank accounts and VAT reporting along with the associated ICT system. He has subsequently had a major involvement with the all financial aspects of academy conversions as the Trust has expanded.

Prior to joining the Trust Steve held several roles within the Education Department of Leeds City Council since the introduction of Local Management of Schools in April 1990. This culminated in the role of Senior Finance Officer (Schools) where he was responsible for all aspects of financial management for a dedicated number of schools covering Primary, Secondary, Post 16 and Special School sectors.

Earlier in his career Steve worked for a number of Local Authorities and has experience in Payroll, Pensions, Internal Audit and Revenue Collection.

Richard Amos

Strategic Lead Officer

Richard joined The GORSE Academies Trust in 2018. Prior to this, Richard held several roles within Leeds City Council, including Sufficiency & Participation Lead, responsible ...Read More

Richard Amos

Strategic Lead Officer

Richard joined The GORSE Academies Trust in 2018. Prior to this, Richard held several roles within Leeds City Council, including Sufficiency & Participation Lead, responsible for ensuring sufficient and appropriate learning provision across Leeds. In his role, Richard is the Strategic Lead across the trust for areas including Admissions, GDPR compliance and Governance. Further to this, he plays a key role in any additions or changes to the academies within the trust.

Richard has over 20 years’ experience in the education and training sector covering areas such as school place planning, SEN provision, Early Years Provision, Post 16 learning, Apprenticeships and CEIAG.

Richard is also the Chair of Governors at a Secondary School in Kirklees.

Christine Watson

Director of Administration and Personal Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer

Christine was appointed by Sir John as Headteacher’s PA at the then Morley High School in February 2004, having worked previously in Early Years, Primary ...Read More

Christine Watson

Director of Administration and Personal Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer

Christine was appointed by Sir John as Headteacher’s PA at the then Morley High School in February 2004, having worked previously in Early Years, Primary and Secondary education in Kirklees and Leeds authorities.

Christine’s role expanded considerably to include Office Manager at The Morley Academy until 2012 and latterly as PA to the Chief Executive Officer/Director of Administration for The GORSE Academies Trust.

Her role complements the wide vision of Sir John and his commitment to education and the dissemination of Positive Discipline and his work with other specialist schools, education establishments and Ofsted. Christine liaises extensively with the Principals, senior leaders and governors across the Trust along with other companies and authorities at all levels.