Trustee Profiles


Michele Marr

Michele is a serving Headteacher in a twice outstanding large secondary school in Coventry. She is also the Chief Executive of The Castle Phoenix Multi Academy Trust which comprises three secondary schools and two primary schools. Michele has experience of building capacity to sponsor academies.

Michele’s background and experience has involved working as a local authority school improvement advisor in special, primary and secondary phases, during which she trained as an Ofsted inspector. Her subject expertise is Mathematics and ICT and she has significant experience developing these areas.

Since 2006, as a NLE, Michele has been involved in supporting other schools to become even better and as a System Leader for pupil premium. Michele’s interests and fields of specialism are developing outstanding leadership, quality assurance, and school self-evaluation. Michele is very proud of the team she has developed to drive forward the quality of teaching and learning and has initiated some creative approaches to promote effective learning.

Mark Friday

Mark is the Chair of the Trust Board and Chair of the Finance & Resource Committee. Mark is a qualified Accountant who works as a Project Director for the Department of Education supporting the government’s delivery for capital investment programmes into schools.

Mark was previously part of the Caludon Castle Local Governing Body from March 2009 as a community Governor.

Prior to joining the Governing Body, Mark worked for Coventry City Council. One of his main responsibilities was to monitor the PFI contract arrangements to ensure the delivery of an effective facilities management service by the private sector on a day to day basis. Mark worked closely with the school during this period and when leaving the Council was subsequently asked to join the Governing Body and continue supporting the school.
Much of Mark’s spare time is spent as the Chairman and manager of 2 football teams at Ernesford Dynamos Junior football club.

Matthew Hanmer

Matthew joined the Trust Board as a Trustee on 13 March 2019. Matthew sits on the Finance & Resource Committee and the School Improvement Executive Group. Matthew has global responsibility for MasterCard’s largest product line, mass credit. He previously held a number of senior product & commercial roles with Mastercard as well as Barclays & Citibank in a 20 year career in the Finance sector. Within these roles he developed significant strategy, finance, commercial, product & marketing skills & experience in both UK & global markets. Prior to this he worked in commercial roles in the Franchising & Insurance sectors. As well as Senior Management experience he sits on two Boards: Warwick Business School Board & as Trustee & Treasurer for Friends of Abington Park Charity. Matthew holds an MBA from Warwick Business School where he conducted research into behavioural economics within joint ventures and strategic alliances. He has an MA in Philosophy, Politics & Economics from Keble College, Oxford University. He is Founder of the Warwick Finance Network and was appointed an Associate Fellow of The University of Warwick in 2016.

Kate Ireland

Kate sits on the Trust Board as a Trustee and also sits on the School Improvement Executive Group.
Kate has worked with Caludon Castle school for many years; in her previous role as senior school improvement adviser for Coventry Local Authority and more recently in regard to Initial Teacher Education. Kate joined the governing body at Caludon Castle as community governor and is now in her second year as Chair of the Local Governing Body.

Kate has many years of experience of providing challenge and support to schools and has current and extensive experience of quality assurance and enhancement and the Ofsted inspection process. Kate brings to Caludon Castle and the Trust passion for the importance of learning and teaching, a commitment to exceptional quality of education and a drive to support and challenge the school leadership team to maximise the learning and educational experiences of all Caludon children and young people.

Professor Kate Ireland is Director at the Centre for Teacher Education at University of Warwick.

Academic Interests & Teaching & Learning Specialisms

  • Educational Policy
  • School Improvement and Effectiveness
  • Educational Leadership
  • System Leadership Organisational Change Culture

Publications & Projects between 2008-2018

  • Developing effective learners through Learning Conversations
  • Developing effective Initial Teacher Education Partnerships
  • Co-constructing and co-delivering effective subject knowledge and pedagogy
  • System Leadership development across Coventry Schools
  • Teacher Supply and Retention: A Partnership model

Neil Forrest

Neil joined the Trust Board on 18 October 2017 and sits on the Finance & Resource Committee. Neil is a qualified Solicitor who works as an in-house counsel for an IT company, supporting the full international legal requirements of the business for the sale of software into the financial services sector. Prior to qualifying as a solicitor Neil acquired 8 years industry experience in IT and Telecommunications. Neil gained experience as a software engineer, software architect, team leader and project manager working both within software houses and IT departments’ and telecommunications businesses.

Neil joined the Trust Board at Caludon Castle in October 2017 as a Trustee.

During his career Neil has worked across many industry sectors for major blue chip clients including telecommunications, utilities, automotive, airline, central government, manufacturing, financial services and education.

Neil’s spare time is spent partaking in and watching sport in particular rugby and cricket and looking after his two young children.

Peter Freeth

Peter joined the Trust Board as a Trustee on 13 March 2019. Peter sits on the HR & Governance Committee and the School Improvement Executive Group.

Peter has 17 years’ experience in developing leaders and organisational cultures, and prior to this, 17 years’ experience in the IT/telecoms industry, through the birth of both the Internet and mobile communication. Peter feels this gives him a rather unique perspective on human behaviour, and the impact of technology on society, both of which are vital in overcoming the challenges which lie ahead. He has written more than a dozen books on coaching, training, organisational change, leadership and management, and as he has charity trustee experience from a Midlands based musical charity, he feels he has value to add to Castle Phoenix Trust from a number of angles. Peter is also a Fellow of the RSA, a branch committee member of the CIPD and a keen traveller and photographer.

Paul Simpson

Paul joined the Trust Board on 31 January 2017 and is the Chair of the Audit & Risk Committee. Paul is a national process, compliance and risk manager for Royal Mail Sales.

Paul joined the Governing Body at Caludon Castle in January 2012 as a parent Governor and prior to joining Caludon, Paul had been a governor at Wyken Croft Primary School since October 2002 (10 years), covering all aspects of Primary & Early Years governance.

Paul utilises his knowledge of compliance and risk in the workplace to chair the Audit and Risk committee for the Castle Phoenix Trust, ensuring we remain vigilant against potential risks, ensuring we are compliant and able to function in a way conducive to the needs of the schools and the students, whilst remaining safe. Paul is a member of the Trust Board and also sits on Caludon’s Governor behaviour panel working with students and parents to create a plan of action to foster positive behaviour in school.

Much of Paul’s spare time is spent raising money for the local Charity, ‘Zoe’s Place Baby Hospice’ on behalf of ‘Strictly Christmas’, through dance and other forms of fundraising.

Mick Michael

Mick joined the Castle Phoenix Trust Board on 24 July 2020 and sits on the Audit & Risk Committee. In addition, he is an interim trustee at Whitley Academy, also based in Coventry.

Mick is a qualified accountant with broad ranging experience spanning finance, audit, risk and compliance, insurance, change and project management. He has operated at a senior level in risk and assurance for 20 years, in a variety of medium to large and complex businesses, in both competitive markets and regulated industries and across a number of sectors.

Mick has extensive knowledge of, and practical experience in, Enterprise Risk Management (ERM). He won the Strategic Risk ‘Enterprise-wide Risk Management Programme of the Year’ award in 2004 and was a finalist in 2009. He represented the UK Electricity industry on ERM at Eurelectric in Brussels from 2004-2006 and was a member of the ACCA Corporate Governance and Risk Management Committee from 2006-2008.

Mick is keen to utilise his experience to support the Castle Phoenix Trust Board and other senior leaders at a time of planned growth and development and is passionate about demonstrating the value that risk management can bring, when applied pragmatically, to educational settings.

Mick is now semi-retired and provides part-time consultancy services through his own limited company. He also volunteers at the Banbury network of foodbanks where he helps to manage all donations in/out of the large warehouse. In his spare time, Mick is a keen gardener and enjoys holidaying in Greece.

Rachel Wade

Rachel joined the Trust Board as a Trustee on 24 July 2020. Rachel also sits on the HR & Governance Committee.

Rachel is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and has skills ranging from technical know-how to strategic performance leadership.

Rachel has 25 years’ experience in a wide range of different industries, including energy, professional services, construction and property, water technology and vehicle exchange. Rachel has been instrumental in supporting and leading in organisations, from start-ups, SME’s and blue-chip FTSE listed companies.

What makes Rachel really stand out from others in her field is her personality and her passion. Rachel is amazing as what she does primarily because she genuinely loves working with people and businesses, and is committed to helping people to thrive.

The energy and enthusiasm Rachel has for her work makes Rachel an extremely effective partner for business owners and leaderships teams. Not to mention the advantage her incisive thinking and people-orientated creativity give her when it comes to designing practical and flexible HR strategies that are tailor-made for each individual business she works with.

Rachel’s passion and personality will drive strategic and operational HR solutions that are people focussed and impactful.

Jag Johal

Jag joined the Trust Board as a Trustee on 24 July 2020. Jag also sits on the HR & Governance Committee.

Jag has spent over 18 years in various operational HR roles for Jaguar Land Rover. He has worked on several large scale restructuring programmes, held global roles and led on multiple change projects during this tenure, which positions him well to support the HR and Governance Committee. Jag has a passion for building great employee experiences and recognising the value of humility and vulnerability in leadership.


Prudence Huddleston

Prue Huddleston is a member of Castle Phoenix Trust Board and is Emeritus Professor and formerly Director of the Centre for Education and Industry at the University of Warwick; she has a particular interest in 14-19 curriculum, focusing on vocational education and qualifications and work-related learning; she has published widely on vocational learning and applied pedagogy.  Before joining the University of Warwick she worked for many years within the FE sector, as a teacher and manager, also within community and outreach education.

She has run programmes of professional development for teachers, trainers and school/college managers as well as for Ofsted (formerly ALI) and Ofqual. She has completed research and evaluation contracts for government departments, businesses and charities both nationally and internationally. Her international work includes projects in: China, Hungary, Sweden, Latvia, South Africa, Israel, Spain and Egypt.

She is a member of AQA Research Committee; a member of OCR Strategic Advisory Board; a member of City and Guilds Quality and Standards Committee; a member of Ofqual Standards Advisory Group; a member of the Royal Academy of Dance Education Sub-Committee and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Vocational Education and Training.  She is Special Advisor to the Education and Employers Taskforce and a governor and Chair of Academic Quality and Standards Committee at Birmingham Metropolitan College.

Ashley Simpson

Ashley is a member of the Castle Phoenix Trust.

Ashley’s specialism is around PFI contract management, facilities management, school design and education legislation he has previously been involved in capital building planning and projects.

Ashley’s main areas of strength are in data analysis, recruitment and leadership.

Ashley is able to communicate well and has the ability to problem solve effectively. He is also skilled in procedure, project management and surveying consultation.

Vesh Taylor-Dowson

Vesh is a member of the Castle Phoenix Trust Board.

Vesh specialises in Sales Management at Director level with experience in data and technology. Vesh has a strong background in strategy development with excellent business knowledge. He has managed contracts with organisations such as GKS, Barclays Capital, Ford, Nationwide Building Society and Co-op Financial Services which build from his 20 years experience in sales. He graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a HND in Marine Electronics and Radio in 1983.

Lesley Hancock

Lesley is a member of the Castle Phoenix Trust Board and also chairs the HR & Governance Committee.

Lesley has been employed in Human Resources since 2009 and now works as a HR Manager for DHL. Lesley’s key achievements are project managing a relocation for 646 members of staff, designing and implementing a competency based successful recruitment programme and improving employee engagement at all levels. Lesley previously worked for Percepta Legal Ombudsman and graduated from the Birmingham College of Food and Domestic Arts.