Mark Hamblett

CEO, Zest Academy Trust
Headteacher, Waterloo Primary Academy

Mark started his teaching career in 2002.  Originally from Bolton, Mark began teaching in rural Cumbria.  He taught in good and outstanding schools in Cumbria and Lancashire, before becoming Deputy Headteacher and SENCo at Bolton-le-Sands CE School in 2009.  Mark took up post as Headteacher of Kirkland & Catterall St. Helen’s, Garstang in 2012 and remained in post for three years before moving to a two-form entry school in Bolton in 2015.  Throughout these two headships, Mark also inspected schools under Section 48 (SIAMS) on behalf of  the Church of England throughout the Blackburn Diocese.

Mark began his current role as Headteacher of Waterloo Primary Academy, Blackpool and CEO of Zest Academy Trust in 2017.

Philip Thompson

Chair, Zest Academy Trust
Trustee & Member

Phil joined Waterloo Primary Academy as a parent governor over nine years ago and has been involved in a number of school initiatives and improvements.  Phil has been Chair of Governors for Waterloo for a number of years supporting the school through two ‘good’ OFSTED graded inspections and has recently become Chair of Zest.

Phil has a wealth of education experience, his teaching career starting in early 2000s and he has held a number of teaching and leadership positions across the education sector. Phil has experience in teaching secondary and post 16 education including Further and Higher Education.

As well as being a qualified teacher, Phil has post graduate qualifications is Engineering, Human Resource Management and has a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Management specialising in SEND. Phil brings a significant amount of education experience around pastoral care, safeguarding and SEND to the board and is currently employed as the Head of SEND for a local council.

Susan Darbyshire

Vice Chair, Zest Academy Trust

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.

Hemant Asher


Hemant is a fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants and throughout his working career has worked for large multinationals, undertaking finance governance/risk management roles as well as head of operations/finance roles at international subsidiary operations.

During his working career to date, he has have been able to build a broad skills base not only in finance but also looking after the full requirements of running international subsidiary operations. He would like to be able to contribute to the Trust by making use of his experience.

His career to date can be looked at in three brackets:

2004 – 2018: Mainly undertaking internal controls/finance governance activity at a regional level covering the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Some of the specific projects undertaken include:

· Working with the global team to roll out processes and controls to meet the requirements of the US Foreign Corruption Practice Act, to the approximately 60 operating entities in the region. The requirements of the UK Bribery Act were also covered.

· For the UK entities, ensure  processes and controls met the requirements of the Senior Accounting Officer as detailed by HMRC.

· Integrated 6 acquired entities.

· Worked with finance transformation teams to ensure control requirements were included in the work instructions of the new teams based in the shared service centre.

1990 – 2004: Operational roles at international subsidiaries, either as operational or financial head at the international subsidiaries of Fujitsu in UAE, India, Malawi and Zambia.

· In UAE he transitioned the activities of the local entity from mainly provision of IT hardware installation and support, to undertaking IT turnkey projects as well as ERP implementation at customers.

· In India, transitioned the software division to a legal entity and sold 26% of this entity to a financial institution for $ 50 million.

· In Malawi, within 12 months turned a £ 450K loss to a £ 250K profit, during a period of severe scarcity of foreign exchange and rapid currency devaluation.

· In Zambia, stabilised the local operations during a period of hyperinflation and there after put in place a three year plan which would enable a smooth transition of the local activities to an agent, ensuring minimal impact to the reputation of the global entity.

1983 – 1990: Coopers & Lybrand Zambia, starting as audit semi-senior and progressing to audit partner. As an audit partner he was responsible for:

· 60 audit clients including the University of Zambia.

· Responsible for the professional training needs of the Zambia practice.

· Partner responsible for providing technical guidance.

· Undertaking peer reviews at other regional firms

Rebecca Foxton


Becky has worked in Blackpool education, and particularly school administration, throughout her occupational career. Whilst she is currently employed as a Business Manager in a large primary academy, she has also worked as a Business Manager in a large secondary academy which was a part of a successful multi academy trust.

Given the continually changing landscape of education and requirements of schools she has continually developed her experience, skills and knowledge to support her role. She has undertaken the CSBM, CIPFA Accounting for Academies, AAT Foundation Cert in Accounting and is currently studying AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting – Level 3.

Having always worked in Blackpool education, Becky has an understanding of the social and economic challenges faced in a Blackpool schools particularly.

Over the course of her career as a Business Manager she has also gained a significant amount of knowledge relating to school governance.

Michelle Kirkham


Michelle is a qualified lecturer and Human Resource Manager with experience of HRM and HRD within the public and third sectors. Michelle holds chartered membership of the CIPD professional HR body and membership of the Chartered Management Institute.

Key achievements include a change of career to lecturer and CIPD programme leader in 2008 at Blackpool and The Fylde College and achieving an award for outstanding success rates in 2009. Promotion to Curriculum Leader for professional courses in 2011 and achieving grade 1 status for the CIPD provision, which has been maintained to this date. Guest speaker at the CIPD annual national standards conference in 2012.

Successfully achieving a Masters in HRM with distinction and an award for outstanding performance in 2016. Michelle continues to manage and lead on the CIPD and other professional programmes. Lecturing expertise in HRM, management, leadership and professional studies across a range of provisions: BA Honours Degree, Diploma and Certificate in Management and Leadership, Foundation Degree in Management, Foundation Degree in Business and Finance and bespoke work. Michelle is passionate about supporting individuals to achieve through learning and development and holds a keen interest in the field of equality and diversity, having previously held a role training people with disabilities and supporting them into employment.

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