Our Team | newschoolsnetwork.org

Our Team


Educated in Iceland, Sweden and England, Sigrun has an extensive background in IT, Finance, Business Management and HR. She graduated from The Commercial College of Iceland in 1993 and started her own .com business which she ran until she moved to England in 2003. Arriving in London, she joined a start-up company that focused on social technology and remained a core member of staff for five years until she decided focus on her love for helping start companies and organisations. During this period, she studied Social Science and was awarded CIMA certifications.

Sigrun joined NSN in early 2011 and since then has looked after the internal operation, finances, HR and IT as well as acting as Company Secretary.



Each group we work with is assigned a dedicated adviser who will provide personal support including giving advice, information and resources; setting up meetings with NSN specialists; giving detailed and comprehensive feedback on draft application forms before submission to the Department for Education (DfE).

Prior to joining NSN in 2014, Unity worked for a further education college coordinating the delivery of vocational training programmes across the South East to car manufacturing clients such as BMW and Rolls-Royce. Unity holds a BSc (Hons) in Politics from the University of Bristol and an MA (Hons) in Contemporary British History from King’s College London. During this time, she conducted research into the history of the academies policy in England.

As Head of Applicant Programmes, she manages the support NSN offers to groups on the Development Programme. She represents NSN on the National Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Forum.

Unity oversees the work that NSN does with special free schools and AP schools.


After graduating from the University of Exeter, Jennifer was awarded a scholarship to study an MA in Political Philosophy (The Idea of Toleration) at the University of York. Following this, Jennifer completed a Secondary PGCE in Religious Education and taught R.E. History and Sociology to pupils across Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 in Sussex schools. Most recently before joining NSN, Jennifer worked for Floreat Education Academies Trust where she helped to develop the Floreat Character programme.

During her time at NSN Jennifer has supported mainstream, special and AP applicants through the Development Programme and the universal service. Jennifer leads on NSN’s work with faith schools and faith organisations. She responsible for the Advisory Team’s resources and funding for Development Programme groups.


Hannah graduated from the University of Oxford University with a degree in Modern Languages in 2016. While at university, she was heavily involved in school outreach and taught English in schools across Paris on her year abroad.

Prior to joining NSN, she worked as a translator while continuing to volunteer at local schools. She is part of NSN's Advisory team providing support and guidance to free school applicants.


Prior to joining NSN in May 2018, Sam worked as a registered speech and language therapist throughout schools in London. In her previous role, she supported students with special educational needs in mainstream and alternative provision primary and secondary free schools. Before relocating to London, Sam practiced as a speech and language therapist in state schools throughout Hawaii and Chicago. She graduated with an MS in Speech and Language Therapy from Rush University in Chicago in May 2015.


Tim graduated in 2017 from the University of York. During his studies, Tim undertook an internship with a free school trust, supporting the construction of what was a successful Wave 12 application in his home town.

Tim supports applicant groups on the Development Programme and generates leads for new free schools across the country.


Catherine graduated from the University of Winchester in 2015 with a degree in History. Catherine has experience working in a special school and worked with a charitable organisation that provides legal advice to parents and carers of children with SEN.

Prior to NSN, Catherine worked as programmes Officer for a student charity at the University of Southampton and the University of Winchester.

In addition to supporting applicant groups, Catherine manages our use of external specialists. Catherine sits on a local governing body for a MAT in Greater Manchester.


Sarah studied psychology at Newcastle University, graduating in 2010. After, she worked on child development projects, investigating child language acquisition at the University of Manchester how executive function skills are involved in learning maths at Loughborough University. Following this, she completed a PGCE and worked as a primary school teacher before going on to manage a community project which delivered computing CPD to schools in a deprived part of Manchester and ran creative computing clubs and events which raised the aspirations of local children.    


Sophia graduated from the University of Bristol in 2017 with a BA in History. Following this, she completed an MA in US History & Politics at UCL where she conducted research with students, parents, teachers, and policymakers in New York City.

During her studies, she volunteered with Jacari, a charity which provides free home tutoring to children who speak English as an additional language, and campaigned for the development of more diverse and inclusive school and university curriculums. 


Will graduated from the University of Birmingham in July 2017 with BA in Geography and German including a Distinction in Advanced Spoken German. Prior to joining NSN in May 2018, he worked as an Intern at the Centre for Social Justice, supporting the work of the Education Unit, and in the External Relations team at the Trussell Trust. Will is bilingual in English and German and the former producer of an NFL Podcast.


Yasmin graduated from the University of Sheffield with a degree in Politics and International Relations in 2018. In her final year at university, she completed a placement as a Grants Support Officer at a youth charity called the Element Society in Sheffield. She has also volunteered for a youth charity in Warwickshire which supports young people with mental health issues.


Natasha graduated with a BA (Hons) in Global Development and Politics from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2013. Following this she completed an MA (Hons) in Human Rights at the University of Manchester where she conducted research regarding Roma inclusion in education.

During her studies, she volunteered with the University of Manchester’s Equality and Diversity Team and was later elected Diversity Officer at Manchester Students’ Union. More recently Natasha coordinated the Future Leaders programme in the North West, a leadership development pathway for aspiring headteachers working in challenging schools.


External Relations

Our External Relations team encourage groups to consider opening a free school; they also raise the profile and support for the free school programme. Potential groups are identified through data analysis; completing in-depth research; building relationships with different organisations, such as universities and youth organisations; running social media campaigns targeted at existing school leaders; organising events; fundraising. 

Phil joined the New Schools Network team from The Future Leaders Trust, a charity that provides training and development for senior leaders and headteachers in challenging schools. There, Phil managed the charity’s expansion into the South West, developing a network of school leaders across the region.

Phil graduated from the University of Exeter with a degree in English Literature. 


Samuel graduated from the University of Brighton in 2013, after which he joined London Academy of Excellence (LAE), a 16-19 free school in East London. At LAE, Samuel managed the marketing and admissions activities and a Head of House, responsible for 104 students. During this time, applications rose to 3,000 for 240 places and LAE was named Sunday Times Sixth Form of the Year 2015.

Samuel joined NSN as Campaigns Officer, becoming Communications Manager in 2017.


Sarah graduated from the University of York in 2015 with a degree in History. Prior to joining NSN, Sarah interned at a non-partisan think tank and worked as an office temp.

While at NSN, Sarah has worked across multiple free school areas, including promoting and publicising the free schools programme through press, communications and interactions with parliamentarians, organising events with free school leaders and stakeholders, and maintaining the NSN website.

In 2018, Sarah became NSN’s Events Manager.



After their application has been approved, many free schools continue to work with NSN's Delivery team. The NSN Delivery Programme, our exclusive programme of advice, support and project management offers support in the pre-opening phase. NSN’s Delivery team also supports all open free schools by providing advice, training and networking opportunities.

Sophie joined NSN in 2015 and is responsible for NSN’s support for all open and approved free schools, including its Delivery Programme for free schools in pre-opening.

Sophie is a qualified secondary English teacher and a Teach First Ambassador. Prior to NSN, Sophie worked as a teacher in both London and Barnsley; she also has experience of working in other third sector organisations, including other education charities.

Sophie is currently on maternity leave, until late 2019.


Kurt Joined NSN in May 2017 after five years with Ambition School Leadership (formerly Future Leaders). There, he oversaw the delivery of highly successful leadership development programmes in some of the most challenging schools in the North East and Yorkshire & Humber and worked intensively with leading MATs and local authorities on their leadership development strategies. Kurt has also worked at the University of Bradford as a research associate and assistant lecturer. For three years, Kurt served as deputy chair of governors for a primary school in East Yorkshire.


Sam joined NSN in 2018 and is the interim Head of the Delivery Programme at NSN. He is responsible for NSN’s support for all open and approved free schools.

Prior to joining NSN, Sam took on a wide array of roles within the education sector: as a teacher, tutor and course facilitator at the Harris Federation; as an external examiner for OCR; and, as a Leadership Fellow at The Schools, Students and Teachers network (SSAT). Sam has also undertaken multiple research roles within the political, social and economic spheres, including his role supporting the research and events of non-partisan think tank ResPublica, as well as working on audience research and analysis for NBCUniversal.


Ellie graduated from Royal Holloway University of London in 2016 with a degree in History. She then worked for her local council in Dorset before moving to Taiwan to become an English Language teacher. She currently volunteers for an education outreach programme where she helps to deliver interactive workshops and activities in schools and youth centres in London. Ellie joined Academy Ambassadors in July 2018 before moving to the Delivery Team in January 2019.


Joceline graduated from the University of Geneva in 2016 with a BA in International Relations. Following this, she completed an MA in Education: Culture, Language and Identity at Goldsmiths College where she conducted research about interprofessional collaborations in education.

During her studies, she taught French to asylum seekers in Geneva, volunteered with educational charities promoting global citizenship and self-directed learning. At NSN, she assists the Delivery Team in supporting open and approved to open free schools.



Ka-yee studied an undergraduate degree in International Business at the University of Kent. Ka-yee has worked in Hong Kong, completed an internship with the London Cycle Hire Scheme and has supported operations for a private education provider for two years.

Ka-yee works with the Advisers at NSN to provide admin support for groups on NSN’s Development and Delivery Programmes.


Vanessa joined New Schools Network in October 2017 following a career break.

Vanessa has a physics degree from Imperial College and has spent most of her career in banking.

Vanessa worked for over a decade at UBS bank on the Investment Banking side, in institutional derivative sales and trading. Latterly Vanessa moved over to the private banking side of the business, in the role of an investment specialist at UBS Wealth Management. Vanessa also worked at Dresdner Bank, where she headed up a pan European equity derivative sales team.

Most recently Vanessa built a Wealth Management business for a boutique headhunter, leveraging from contacts and knowledge acquired over many years in the banking industry.


Academy Ambassadors

Academy Ambassadors is a not-for-profit programme matching business leaders and professionals with multi-academy trusts looking to strengthen their boards. Find out more about Academy Ambassadors here

Prior to joining Academy Ambassadors in June 2018, Amy completed a BSc in Sociology and Anthropology from Oxford Brookes University. Amy is commencing a MSc in International and Social Public Policy at London School of Economics and Political Science in September 2018. Amy has seamless international experience living and working in both the US and UK from a young age.

As the London Region Intern, Amy supports communications with non-executive directors, multi-academy trusts and corporate partnerships in the three London regions. 


Charlie graduated from Loughborough University with a BA in Politics in 2017. Since then, he has started studying part-time for an MSc in International Development at the University of Manchester and is due to graduate in December 2019. During his studies he has undertaken fieldwork in Uganda, working with a Slum Dwellers International Federation, with a focus on community empowerment.

Alongside his studies, Charlie has previously worked in both insurance and financial services recruitment. He has also undertaken several voluntary positions, such as the role of grants fundraiser for an international development charity.


Since graduating from the University of Chester in 2009, David has worked across a range of sectors, including education, agency, local authority and latterly sports with British Cycling, as Partner Marketing Manager for the ‘Sky Ride’ recreational cycling campaign, in conjunction with Sky and Sport England. This was the biggest sports participation campaign the UK had ever seen, aimed at getting people on bikes for fun and recreation; it received a prestigious ‘Partnership Marketing’ award from The Chartered Institute of Marketing in 2015. With a strong communication thread running through his career, engagement and communication forms a central part of his approach to projects. Having previously worked with large stakeholders including Hewlett Packard, Vodafone, The British Heart Foundation, Ordnance Survey and Transport for London across various roles, David has enjoyed success in delivering high-value campaigns. David maintains a strong interest in and passion for volunteering, holding roles with parkrun UK, formerly as an Area Ambassador for the North West, as well as with local social enterprises with an environmental focus near his home in the North West.


Kirsty Watt has been Head of the Academy Ambassadors programme since October 2014 and has been responsible for the growth of the organisation into a high-calibre board recruitment programme which recently appointed its 900th non-executive director.

Before joining Academy Ambassadors, Kirsty was Head of the Academies and Funding Policy Project team at the Department for Education and was responsible for scope and delivery of Ministerial priority reforms. Kirsty has also worked in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Cabinet Office. Prior to this, she worked in a private PR practice with Colman Getty PR on arts campaigns and on social and business issues for clients including Waterstones and the National Portrait Gallery.


Louise has 10 years’ experience in the charity sector. She spent seven years in various roles at youth charity, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE). She worked with schools and local authorities to deliver the programme to over 10,000 young people each year across London. Her role included managing regional activities, projects and programmes with the aim of increasing the number of young people starting their DofE, double the proportion of young people taking part from disadvantaged backgrounds and ensuring at least half of all young people starting their DofE achieve their Bronze, Silver or Gold Award. Prior to joining the Academy Ambassadors team in February 2016 she worked for Arthritis Research UK in the corporate partnerships team.

She currently leads the Corporate Partnerships strategy at Academy Ambassadors, engaging with companies across England to promote non-executive director roles to their staff. She also supports non-executive director recruitment and trust engagement in three regions.

Louise is a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Educators and Middle Warden for the Guild of Young Freemen of the City of London.


Melanie graduated in 2014 with an honours degree in Law and Business Studies from Warwick Business School, The University of Warwick. Since then, she has worked as a marketing assistant in the legal sector – producing creative marketing copy, conducting in-depth research and analysis of target markets, and organising large-scale projects and events. Melanie has worked with children, as a volunteer, from a young age, and enjoys using her professional skills and experience to engage with qualified business people, and develop academy boards, in order to improve the quality of education throughout the UK’s Northern regions.


Sophie started out as an events organiser for communications-led charity CharityComms where she developed and managed a wide range of events focussed on the needs of communicators in the charity sector. She moved to South Korea to become an English Language teacher and volunteered for a charity which helps North Korean defectors re-integrate into modern society. After the success and enjoyment of teaching, she went on to teach students of all ages and backgrounds in the UK and eventually in Spain. Sophie joined Academy Ambassadors in October 2017 and now manages the communications, the alumni network and supports with non-executive director recruitment in the South West.


Tom graduated from the University of York with a BA in Education Studies in 2016 before moving on to complete his MA in Global Development and Education at the University of Leeds. Alongside his studies, Tom was part of a group research project into young offenders with City of York Council. He also co-founded a philosophy-for-children programme that was carried out across several primary schools in York.

Tom joined Academy Ambassadors in August 2018 after a period of working for the NHS. As Partnerships Assistant, he supports and engages with multi-academy trusts, non-executive directors and corporate partners.