Aspire Academy Trust

Aspire Board

The Board of Trustees is responsible for the same three core governance functions performed by the governing body in a maintained school: setting the direction, holding trust leaders to account and ensuring financial probity. As trustees of a charitable company, they also ensure that the Trust complies with charity and company law requirements.  

In summary, trustees are required to -

  • set strategic vision, oversight and policies 
  • ensure effective governance and decision making 
  • set targets for the Chief Executive Officer 
  • oversee standards and educational outcomes 
  • review academy performance and budgets

Penny Shilston

Chair of Trust Board

Foundation Trustee 

Appointed 2nd February 2021

Penny is a retired primary school headteacher. For 18 years she worked in three very different primary schools in Cornwall - Constantine, Porthleven, and most recently at Archbishop Benson Church of England School in Truro, which became the first church school academy in the county in 2011.

On retirement, she took on the role of Vice-Chair of the Diocesan Board of Education.

During her 39-year teaching career, she developed a passion for special education and early years education. She was involved in multi-agency working and developing Children Centres both within the county and nationally, as well as partnership working with colleagues.

As a School Improvement Partner and a Local Leader of Education, she supported a number of schools throughout the county.

On a personal note, she believes that all children and young people in Cornwall are a part of the Diocese of Truro and should be given the opportunity to eagerly learn, develop their own skills, make progress and have memorable experiences within a high-quality dynamic curriculum.

She is an active grandparent to four young grandchildren educated and growing up in Cornwall.

The chair can be contacted c/o Aspire Academy Trust, Unit 20, St Austell Business Park,  St Austell PL25 4FD.

Michael Larsen

Member-appointed Trustee

Vice-Chair of Trust Board

Chair of Finance, Audit & Remuneration Committee

Appointed 16th December 2019

Michael Larsen is a Senior Managing Director at Harbert Management Corp, a privately-owned investment firm. During his 30+ year career in finance he has held a variety of senior management roles in Europe and the Middle East including 20 years with Citigroup/Citibank, joining HMC’s London office in 2004. A native of Los Angeles, California Michael received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Boston University and is registered with the UK Financial Conduct Authority. Michael is a Freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of the World Traders, where he is a member of the court and chairs the Education and Charity Committee. Michael is also a member of the South-West England Headteacher Board (HTB). He also sits on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee of a U.S.-based charity. Michael and his wife Corinne reside in Cornwall.

David Barton

Co-opted Trustee

Appointed 1st October 2020

David is a self-employed education consultant having retired in 2016 after fourteen years as a secondary school headteacher in Cornwall. After completing a music degree, he trained as a music and PE teacher and spent 35 years teaching in secondary schools across England, twenty-five of them as a senior leader. The majority of his consultancy work is with secondary schools, and he is currently the Executive Officer for Cornwall Association of Secondary Headteachers (CASH). David supports school leaders in their day to day work, organising conferences and representing them in many different forums both locally and nationally. In addition to his work with schools, David works closely with health providers across the county; he has a particular interest in Inter-Professional Collaboration and is committed to all agencies and schools working together with local communities to improve children's lives.

In addition to being a member of the Trust Board with Aspire, David is a Hub Councillor at St Breock Primary School and is Vice-Chair of Trustees at his local secondary academy in Wadebridge. He is also a Director and Trustee of Kernow Education Arts Partnership (KEAP).

Vanessa Bragg

Trustee - Ex-Officio Trustee and CEO

Appointed 1st September 2019

Vanessa Bragg is CEO of the Aspire Academy Trust, formerly Deputy CEO since 2015.  With over 30 years of experience in primary education, as a class teacher in both Yorkshire, Cornwall and Kenya, a Headteacher of seven Cornish schools including 15 years of Executive Headship responsibilities; Vanessa has also previously juggled roles as a School Improvement Partner, Chair of the Newquay Learning Partnership and performed various Headteacher Performance Management advisory roles.  She is presently part of the RSC Multi Academy Trust Development Group which has been instrumental in designing the MAT assurance framework, published recently by the DfE.

Vanessa has played a key role in the establishment of two Free schools in the south-west, writing the curriculum plans for both the Marine Academy Primary Plymouth which was graded outstanding in its first full Ofsted inspection and Cornwall’s first new-build free school, Nansledan School, Newquay.  On a personal note, Vanessa is a founder of the charity Aid4Orphans which focuses on providing education and healthcare for children affected by HIV, as well as providing grassroots projects for women and girls in the Likoni slum area of Kenya.

Mel Colton-Dyer

Co-opted Trustee

Appointed 1st October 2020

Mel is the Commercial Strategy Director and Town Clerk for Looe.

Cornish through and through (her father was working as a tin miner when she was born), Mel’s family have been in farming for many years. After previously working in a wide range of occupations including theatre, education and hospitality in both the UK and Europe, Mel was the Chief Operating Officer for Cornwall Chamber of Commerce before joining Looe Town Council.

Unashamedly passionate about business, people and  ‘proper pasties’, Mel is also a Director of Looe Radio, the independent Chair of the Connon Bridge Liaison Group, Chair of the Looe Valley Trails Design Panel and the Chair of iSight Cornwall – Cornwall’s oldest Charity which celebrates its 170th anniversary this year. She is also a member of Aspire’s Finance, Audit and Remuneration Committee and is the lead trustee for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Anna Corbett

Foundation Trustee 

Appointed 9th February 2021

Anna has a background in education and not-for-profit organisations. Having taught for a number of years, Anna became involved in grant-awarding for organisations including Grassroots Funding, Comic Relief, Sport Relief and a variety Cornwall-based social funds. Alongside this, Anna is currently a Partner in Tor Mark Publishing, with responsibility for editorial and product development. As a governor of three Cornish schools, two with Aspire and one in the independent sector, she has particular experience in financial turnarounds involving restructuring and rationalisation. Anna is a member of the Diocesan Board of Education, Cornwall Council’s SACRE and the Cornwall Community Foundation. She is particularly interested in pupil progress, the use of data to facilitate school improvement and safeguarding children and young adults. On a personal note, Anna is an enthusiastic supporter of dance involving young people and is Chair of the Board of Trustees for Duchy Ballet.

Ben Couch

Co-opted Trustee

Appointed 11th February 2021

Ben is a multi-disciplinary construction professional with a background in Quantity Surveying and Project Management.  He has his own practice (Taylor Lewis) with his business partner following an MBO in 2009. Ben’s business predominately deals with affordable housing with registered providers, facilitates land opportunities with land finders and initiates early discussions with developers to assist with providing land for schools, local businesses, and local housing opportunities.

Ben regularly attends the Developers Forums at Cornwall Council to assist with viability/feasibilities studies of sites and current construction costs and market trends. Ben did previously serve as an advocate for the Cornwall Construction Training Group of which Ben was as a member for over two years. Ben has extensive experience in both the professional and contracting disciplines of construction and has worked not just on the PQS side but as a CQS for the likes of Mowlem (Carillion), Kier and Midas Construction.

In Ben’s earlier career he worked overseas for a number of years spending much of his time working in Bermuda for high-end clients who owned hotel chains and properties that required refurbishment and expansion.

Jacky Swain

Co-opted Trustee

Appointed 1st October 2020

Jacky is the Commercial Estates Group’s Site Manager for the Carlyon Bay development.   She is also responsible for the corporate communication aspects together with the day to day running of a beach that is a part construction site with public access.  Once the development is up and running they calculate in excess of 450 permanent jobs and are keen to foster relations with all aspects of Cornwall’s education community. As part of this objective, they have produced a Charter with Cornwall College to develop partnerships and work together on setting up training courses, apprenticeships and upskilling opportunities.

Jacky has been a Young Enterprise adviser in the past and worked with the Education Business Partnership also as an adviser.

Together with the day job she is Chair of the Board for the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, sits on the Management Committee for the St Austell Chamber of Commerce and is a Trustee of the Wheal Martyn China Clay Museum.

Jay Trestain

Co-opted Trustee

Appointed 1st October 2020

Jay is a global, senior leader for IBM, a multi-national IT services organisation where she is responsible for the sales portfolio of services IBM takes to market with some of its largest strategic partners. Her career has enabled her to travel extensively, working with a diverse range of IBM customers and partners across all industries in a variety of technologies from large high-performance computers to the leading mobile device manufacturers. She is recognised as a ‘thought-leader’ in her area, is a regular external speaker and contributor to industry and technology publications and media outlets.

She is a passionate advocate for diversity and equality; she uses her experience to provide mentorship and coaching to women across business, technology and not for profit.  She is also the Hub Councillor for Padstow School where her daughter is a pupil, having also attended as a student herself.

Victoria Edwards

Lead Governance Officer

Victoria provides support to the Trust Board and the Hub Councils, providing procedural advice to Trustees and Hub Councillors. Victoria is the key advisor to the Board of Trustees on matters of governance and their duties as a Trustee. This includes dealing with conflicts of interest and managing the interests of the Trustees. Victoria is responsible for ensuring the Trust complies with their Articles of Association and that company documents are filed accordingly at Companies House.