Executive Leadership Team

Gary Chown

Chief Executive Officer

Gary is one of the founding members of Ventrus and has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Trust since 2013. Gary is committed to partnership working and system leadership; he has worked across the South-West of England as an Education Advisor for the Department for Education and he is also a serving OFSTED inspector. He has extensive school leadership experience and a strong, proven track record of school improvement.

Lynne Hyland

Chief Financial Officer

Lynne is a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants, qualifying in 2002. Lynne is a strong believer in delivering high quality business partnering to non-finance colleagues for effective financial management, alongside effective supplier contract management to ensure the highest impact when funds are limited, delivering improved outcomes for pupils. Lynne and her team will be working to ensure that Ventrus is a financially sustainable environment to both learn and work.

Lynne has held a number of senior financial roles, including Head of Finance for the Business and Research section of Plymouth University, Finance Director for environmental charity the Westcountry Rivers Trust and finance advisor to the national charity, The Rivers Trust and most recently Interim Finance Director for Delt Shared Services, a spinout company jointly owned by Plymouth City Council and NHS N.E.W. Devon Clinical Commissioning Group where she implemented all the finance systems and procedures for this new start-up company to enable them to trade commercially and facilitation £1m of savings in their first full year of trading.

Ashley Leeson

Director of School Improvement

Following a varied career, Ashley moved into teaching with a specialism in early childhood development. She has a passion for developing a practical and engaging curriculum, accessible to all children and is driven by a commitment to keeping children’s wellbeing at the heart of school practice.
Prior to taking up her post in the Trust in 2013, as Woodwater Academy's first head, she was a SENDCO and the deputy headteacher of a large primary school, where she led on assessment and curriculum development. When she joined Ventrus, she led the Ventrus SEND Best Practice Network and continues to hold executive oversight of the network. Shortly before moving into Executive Headship, Ofsted judged Ashley's leadership to be outstanding at Woodwater's first inspection.
In her role as Director of School Improvement, Ashley uses her particular strengths in system leadership, assessment and school improvement to contribute to the improvement in all Ventrus' schools and has supported schools in delivering remote learning. She works with Headteachers to strengthen leadership and systems of accountability and has provided executive leadership to our secondary school, since they joined the Trust.

Andrew Finney

Director of School Improvement

Andrew was appointed to his role as Director of School Improvement following 25 years' worth of experience working in both state and independent secondary schools. He has held two headships in Devon and also worked in Brisbane, Australia at an accredited Personalised Learning Community (PLT) school with over 3000 students. During his headships he achieved the highest progress data for disadvantaged students in Devon and has also successfully led a new secondary school build project. Andrew believes that by facilitating a collaborative culture and a collective effort to foster high expectations schools can drive improvements for students. Andrew holds a Masters degree from the University of Exeter in Education.

Fran Brinicombe

Trust SEND & Safeguarding Lead

Francesca started her career in education over 30 years ago and has worked in a range of primary school settings; teaching pupils across EY, KS1 and KS2 both in London and also in Devon. Fran is a qualified SENDCo; she held this role for many years in small and large primaries and is passionate about improving outcomes for pupils with SEND, ensuring that they are able to thrive within truly inclusive environments.
In addition, Fran has spent almost 15 years as a Primary Headteacher and as such was involved in all aspects of school improvement and development. She led St David's Primary school through 3 successful Ofsted inspections and was commended for passionate provision of an inspiring and inclusive curriculum that developed all pupils’ love of learning. Fran's experience in schools also included the role of Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL); she embraced a multi-agency approach in order to ensure that pupil well-being and welfare was always at the forefront of practice. Fran is committed to Inclusion, Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people to ensure the best possible outcomes at all times.