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Trust Leaders

The Shire Multi-Academy Trust.

The Directors of the Trust and The Executive Headteacher has grown and established a team of leaders who inspire, challenge, motivate and empower colleagues and pupils to achieve their potential. As a collective they are strategic in their approach, effectively translate the vision into school developments and strive to achieve high standards of learning and attainment for all pupils within the Trust.


Judith Hirst - Chief Executive Officer

Judith’s career path spans the whole of the educational spectrum from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 4, mainstream and special educational provision. She held Leadership posts as Deputy Headteacher and Headteacher prior to her appointment as Headteacher of Sandhill Primary School. Other aspects of Judith’s career have included the roles of Ofsted Inspector, External Advisor and currently as a Local Leader of Education supporting both new and experienced Headteachers at the request of Barnsley Local Authority.

In all situations, Judith has worked with staff and governors to raise standards of attainment, educational provision and parental expectation. She believes in putting children first and that they can all succeed regardless of their starting points. As a leader she supports staff to try new ideas and methods in the classroom and aims to build a culture of confidence and self-belief. Her areas of expertise include developing skills in self-assessment, analysing data, setting targets and monitoring the quality of teaching and learning. She has supported a number of schools in special measures or at risk of being in special measures and has secured rapid and sustainable improvements in outcomes for children. Judith is well known for being able to overcome resistance and barriers, build a school’s capacity to improve and develop collaborative staff teams that embrace and welcome change.

Judith is one of the original founders of The Shire Multi-Academy Trust and provides professional and strategic leadership to the Trust and its Academies. She advocates high standards in all aspects of education and above all has the desire to create an outstanding educational organisation that ensures that all pupils and staff can flourish and reach their potential.

Sara Barnett - Head of School

Sara has a proven track record as an outstanding teacher and has a wealth of knowledge about how children learn. During her career she has had experience of working within several academy schools with a particular focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning and raising standards. She has provided support and expertise in increasing pupil outcomes at all key assessment points and believes that formative assessment lies at the heart of bringing about rapid and sustainable change. Sara has a confident understanding of the current government changes to assessment and the curriculum and has initiated bespoke systems to meet these needs within the Trust. For the past four years, she has worked as a local authority moderator and has provided additional support to schools in this area as required. Her other specialities include mathematics, the teaching of writing and differentiating the curriculum for pupils of all abilities.

Katy Beech - Head of school

Katy is a dedicated and keen leader, who takes pride in working cohesively with all stakeholders including the wider community to ensure that children are prepared emotionally, socially and academically to thrive. She joined The Shire Multi-Academy Trust after developing her leadership skills in a number of positions in three Local Authorities. Katy believes in a child centred approach and uses this in her work for The Shire Multi-Academy Trust to ensure continuous improvement for pupil outcomes and cultivate staff’s understanding of how children learn. She is a strong advocate for developing parents as partners. Katy has an extensive knowledge of safeguarding processes and procedures. She is a member of the Barnsley Safeguarding Forum; this gives The Shire Multi-Academy Trust a voice in developing and implementing policies at a Local Authority Level. On a Trust Level she aids the inclusion team to effectively implement and acquire appropriate support and strategies for families and children. Professional development for all is part of Katy’s core values. She creates development opportunities for others, using performance management to support others to fulfil their potential across all levels of staffing establishing high skilled qualified teams. Katy herself is currently participating in the NPQH programme.

Beverley White - Finance Director

Beverley started her career in Primary Education from the age of 18 firstly as a Teaching Assistant supporting teachers in the classroom environment and then moving into the school office when local management of budgets were delegated to schools. She has 26 years of experience working in finance and has worked her way up from Finance Officer to Business Manager and now Finance Director to The Shire Multi-Academy Trust. Beverley holds that Certificate of School Business Management and AAT qualification. She uses her in-depth knowledge of financial policies and procedures to support the schools and Trust in moving forward from maintained schools to Academy status.

Lynn Cook - Director of Strategic Improvement

Lynn qualified as a teacher in 2000 and began teaching in a large infant school working alongside experienced teachers, who nurtured and allowed her to grow as a professional. She moved in 2002 to a primary school where she Lynn took her first responsibility post. She developed exceptional interpersonal communication skill and confidence in her abilities to teach and lead others. Lynn has been part of The Shire Multi-Academy Trust since 2005 when she took up her first Senior Leadership position as Assistant Head. Since then her career has included responsibility for Teaching and Learning, Assessment, Curriculum and Inclusion. She has exceptional knowledge of child development and successfully led Early Years and Key Stage 1 departments for a number of years. Her knowledge and skills have been utilised to support primary schools in difficulties and in 2014 she set up her own Early Educators Consultancy. She has also had experience of being a Head of School within a three school Federation. Lynn returned to The Shire Multi-Academy Trust in September 2015 as Assistant Director and supports the Executive Head Teacher in the provision of professional and strategic leadership and in translating and implementing of the Trust’s Vision across its academies.

Abigail Pearce-Dyke - Director of School Improvement

Abigail has taken on a new role within the Trust which involves creating a shared model of school improvement to ensure that teaching and learning is at the very highest standard for all pupils and teachers. She is passionate about this position as it combines her experience as an outstanding practitioner throughout Key Stage Two (and particularly in Year 6) with her role as Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Teaching and Learning. Her previous experience of working for two local authorities in a variety of settings, including areas of high social deprivation and working with children with EAL, will contribute enormously to her new role. Abigail will be working across both schools in the Trust in order to further deepen effective pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning and to support the Trust on its journey to outstanding. She will continue to run successful staff meetings and twilight sessions regarding a wide variety of areas, for example, mathematics, the curriculum and assessment in addition to working with parents as partners so that they can support their child’s experience at school in the very best way. Abigail will also continue her work as a Specialist Leader of Education. 

Hayley Gunn - Deputy Headteacher - Inclusion and Safeguarding

Hayley is a knowledgeable and well established SENCo who holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Special Educational Needs Co-ordination. Her experience of teaching children from Nursery right up to Year 6 has provided her with an invaluable understanding of children’s needs at all stages of their primary development. Hayley’s thorough knowledge of the new SEND Code of Practice and has enabled her to develop bespoke systems to ensure that all children progress to their full potential through collaborative working and the meticulous support that she offers to all stakeholders. Hayley has had a wealth of success in developing positive and sustained relationships with parents as this is key part of her philosophy. She has also completed Lead Safeguarding Training and has expertise in providing nurture provision.

Sarah Lythe - Assistant Head

Since joining The Shire Multi-Academy Trust in 2015, Sarah has worked collaboratively with staff across the Trust to redefine and develop the teaching of Literacy. She has a deep knowledge and understanding of the Key Stage 2 curriculum and has used this to guide and support colleagues within the Trust, establishing and leading effective teams and developing rigorous procedures and practice. Sarah leads whole school and across-Trust training sessions around Literacy provision as well as the notion of depth and mastery within the new curriculum. In her role as Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Teaching and Learning, Sarah has used her expertise to strengthen the Trust’s bespoke curriculum and assessment procedures, she is an outstanding teacher and she often provides exemplar lessons for colleagues.  Sarah's passion for teaching coupled with her desire to guarantee the best possible experiences for the children is at the heart of her approach to leading and improving achievement across the Trust.

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