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Meet the team

Strategic direction for the Trust is shaped by a productive partnership between those in governance (members, trustees, and local advisory board members) and senior leaders.


Benedick Ashmore-Short

Benedick Ashmore-Short - Chief Executive 

Benedick has had a career in education spanning two decades and has an unrivalled track record of school transformation in numerous roles including Primary and Secondary Headship, Executive Director of Education and Chief Executive Officer.

In 2014 he was named Pearson 'Headteacher of the Year' winning a coveted Plato due to a significant school transformation that led to the school being a catalyst for community cohesion and moving from ‘Special Measures’ to Good in under two years. He has led 21 schools through inspections all with positive outcomes- the majority moving forward two Ofsted grades.

Benedick has been described by Ofsted as ‘inspirational and forward-thinking’ -he is a highly motivational leader who believes in empowering teaching staff and pupils to achieve beyond their dreams. His passion has always been teaching and he has continued to teach throughout his career, regardless of position, and has the rare experience of teaching all year groups from Reception to Y13. 

Benedick's areas of specialism are due diligence, financial turnaround, management of risk, inspection readiness and strategic, sustained school improvement. He has led numerous training, development and leadership programmes and has recently specialised in developing Executive Leaders across the UK working with Ambition School Leadership.

He is delighted to have joined TPAT as Chief Executive Officer during this important stage of our strategic journey.

James Nicholson
James Nicholson

James Nicholson - Director of Finance & Operations-Deputy CEO

James joined The Park Academies Trust in January 2023. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and has a wealth of experience in Finance, ICT, Estates, group procurement and legal issues.

He has previously worked in large academy trusts and was instrumental in having a previous organisation’s Financial Notice to Improve lifted just 12 months after joining them. At another he turned around a history of multi-million pound annual losses into an annual surplus whilst at the same time the educational team raised pupil outcomes.

James has been an academy trust Chief Financial Officer since 2003 and a Trustee since 2007. At various points he has also worked with the Department for Education and The Education Skills Funding Agency on finance and governance issues.

Rachel Surch
Rachel Surch

Rachel Surch - Primary Executive Principal 

I am an experienced primary practitioner and have spent 18 years in leadership and 9 years as the headteacher at Red Oaks. I am very proud to be part of the TPAT family and I strongly believe in inclusion and raising standards through an exciting and broad curriculum that optimises fun and challenge.

I love my job and consider myself privileged to have the opportunity to shape the future of Swindon children. TPAT primary schools are always striving to be creative and dynamic; often found to be leading new initiatives and encouraging fresh opportunities.

I am fortunate to work with a wonderful primary team who are keen to share ideas and be at the forefront of education. TPAT primaries work alongside our secondary colleagues who are like-minded in realising the potential of primary and secondary collaboration and developing a seamless transition for pupils.

I look forward to welcoming and working with new primary partners with whom to continue this exciting journey towards excellence.

David Williams
David Williams

David Williams - Director of Inclusion

David Williams (Executive Director of Inclusions for The Park Academies Trust) has a BSc (Hons), a PGCE, and a research Master’s degree in Learning and Teaching specialising in student well-being from the University of Oxford. He completed the National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordination in 2014, and the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) in 2019 and he is qualified to test for JCQ examination access arrangements. In 2017 David completed the Master’s level Attachment Lead qualification.

David was a trustee of the British Dyslexia Association from 2010 to 2020, and was joint non-executive Chair of the Management Board and Chair of the Trustees from 2018 to 2020.  David is currently a Trustee for the Wiltshire Dyslexia Association and since 2018 he has contributed to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Specific Learning Difficulties. In 2007, he received an international scholarship for his research into the use of mindmapping techniques with ASC students, and in 2011 was named Dyslexia Teacher of the Year.  David is frequently invited to speak to groups of SENDCos both locally and nationally. 

David is a member of the Swindon Strategic Special Educational Needs Board and sits on the Swindon and North Wiltshire Professional Leaders Network for the Clinical Commissioning Group. David chairs the Swindon Sendco Champions and the Secondary Sendco working group.

Jon Young
Jon Young

Jon Young - Principal – Abbey Park School

Senior Leadership experience in two schools.  Deputy headship of 10 years with an emphasis leading on Teaching and Learning, contributing to the success of Lydiard Park Academy.  This experience provided Jon with the educational understanding and skills to support and improve the outcomes for young people. 

Currently, into his fourth year as Principal with the Park Academies Trust, leading on the changes and improvements at Abbey Park School delivering much improved outcomes.  Jon is very passionate about an educational experience of high quality for the young people of North Swindon.  Outcomes for pupils are now the highest they have ever been and public confidence in the school is reflected in the school being over-subscribed.

Gary Pearson
Gary Pearson

Gary Pearson - Principal – Lydiard Park Academy

An experienced secondary school leader whose background in Senior Leadership prior to headship focused upon the Pastoral side of education. He is the Principal of Lydiard Park Academy, the founding school in The Park Academies Trust. During the MAT transition period restructured the Senior Leadership Team and guided the academy to its highest progress levels at both GCSE and A-level.

Oversaw the transition from LPA Sixth Form to The Park Academies Trust Sixth Form that is dedicated to promoting the highest educational outcomes for the pupils of both West and North Swindon. The success of the Sixth Form is reflected by the increased numbers of pupils from the area going to University.

Ruth Lee
Ruth Lee

Ruth Lee - Head Teacher - Orchid Vale Primary School

Since 1997, I have gained great satisfaction and fulfilment from teaching and leading in three very different Swindon primary schools.  My previous role was as Head of School for seven years before joining the team as Head Teacher of Orchid Vale Primary School in September 2019.  I am passionate about school improvement and creating a broad and challenging curriculum that improves outcomes for all pupils.

I am extremely fortunate to work with a committed team and together, we are looking forward to developing practices and knowledge that benefit our pupils both now and as they move into secondary education and beyond.

Being part of the Park Academies Trust brings further strength and opportunity to all members of our school community in providing the very best education for the children of Orchid Vale.

Emily Maxfield
Emily Maxfield

Emily Maxfield - Head Teacher - Red Oaks Primary School

Since starting at Red Oaks Primary School in 2008 as an NQT, I have been offered some incredible opportunities which I believe have made me the teacher and leader that I am today; from working in other schools to completing my NPQH. As a member of the senior leadership team for over 8 years, I have helped to shape and develop an inclusive curriculum which provides the most incredible experience for our children.  I believe passionately about the future of the school, wider Trust and the exciting opportunities which lay ahead.

I enter our primary school every day with a desire and commitment to ensure the learning is creative and innovative and that every pupil enjoys their learning experience. I am incredibly proud of the dedication and passion both our pupils and primary colleagues bring to the team. I am always seeking ways to ensure our teaching and learning is of the highest standard and working in partnership with others to ensure consistent practice across Trust schools and beyond.

Executive Team Structure (122KB)

Organisation chart showing TPAT executive team structure