Trust Improvement Partners

All Aquila academies are supported by an Improvement Partner. Their role is to support the continued development of the school, to provide advice and guidance through their skills and expertise and to offer appropriate challenge where improvements in practice could be made. All our Improvement Partners are specially selected by the Trust for their experience and expertise in providing robust and sustained improvement in other schools and academies within the county and beyond.

Wendy Simmons

Jdrew hres 190902img 1985As a former employee of Ofsted, and then as a senior inspector for Ofsted’s contractor ‘Tribal’, most of her work has involved evaluating the effectiveness of schools and children’s centres throughout the United Kingdom. Additionally, she has taken a lead role in training inspectors, monitoring report writing, and leading on new curricular developments. Currently, she works as an educational consultant monitoring and supporting schools in challenging circumstances. This includes being Chair of the interim Executive Board of a school that has made fast progress in being removed from Special Measures. Wendy has specialist expertise and passions for Primary education, including the Early Years Foundation Stage. Additionally, she has a wide range of experiences with Academies and education within high performing Independent Schools and several newly formed Free Schools. Above all, the needs and achievements of emotionally and socially vulnerable children drive her commitment to education, including those with disabilities and/or special educational needs. In the past she was a Headteacher in Inner London Schools, also working at London University, Goldsmiths College and the Institute of Education.

Sheila Wilding

P1060171 v1 currentaquilatrustsep2018Sheila started as a successful headteacher of two primary schools, both of which rapidly improved and acknowledged by Ofsted. Then as a Senior Adviser in Kent, she made a significant contribution to moving pupil progress in the Dover area from second to bottom in the 12 Districts in the Kent to first and pupil attainment from second to bottom to second. During her tenure, 98% of schools were judged as good or better by Ofsted, moving from 56% when the  post was taken up. As an improvement partner to a large number of schools across Kent she supported many in their move from RI to good and good to outstanding. Three schools in Special Measures, became good within 18 months.

Sheila Wilding and Simon Molony are the directors of Knights Educational. They are educational consultants of many years’ experience. Both are ex- Primary Headteachers, Ofsted inspectors and local Authority advisers who have a very successful track record in School Improvement. Their track record of raising standards in our academies is exemplary.


Sue Parkin

Jdrew hres 190902img 1999Following retirement after 18 years of headship in Church of England schools, Sue trained and then worked as a school improvement partner with schools in both Kent and East Sussex. She currently co-ordinates the work of two collaborations in Dover and Ashford and has been interim head in a number of primary schools, most recently last year at Victoria Road Primary a maintained primary school in Ashford.

Earlier in her career, she successfully trained and worked as an Ofsted inspector and also completed several SIAMs inspections. She was one of the original members of the Diocese School Improvement Board and worked with Temple Ewell supporting them in their journey to Good as a sponsored stand-alone primary and then joined the Aquila team to move the school to outstanding. She still works with DCACL with Christ Church Ramsgate – now Good. Sue supports Temple Ewell and Charlton for Aquila – one outstanding school and one Good and on the way to developing outstanding features. Both schools were graded outstanding in their recent SIAMs inspections. Sue has worked extensively with Governing Bodies, reviewing their effectiveness and impact, providing training and equipping them with the skills to challenge senior leaders within their schools. Subsequent Ofsted inspection has resulted in GB being praised as a strength of school leadership. Sue acts as an external advisor for the headteacher performance review in several schools.

Through her work with collaborations, she has provided training and support for middle leader development ensuring staff are equipped with the skills to impact on standards within their schools, has undertaken whole school reviews and led training for both teachers and support staff. Sue is a governor in a local secondary high school where she has particular responsibility for special needs and is the lead governor for their designated unit.

Elizabeth Pettersen

Liz has recently retired from being Executive Headteacher of a federation of two small rural primary schools both of which achieved outstanding gradings in Ofsted and SIAMs under her leadership.  She has also been a SIAMS inspector for the past eleven years. She is totally passionate about developing the spiritual dimension of church schools both for pupils and staff. A key part of her practice was to ensure that pupils were fully engaged in worship, developing a high level of spiritual understanding and an ability to lead worship.


She has led staff training on spirituality as well as the creation of interactive reflection corners both inside and outside the classroom. These sessions have demonstrated, through practical and do-able activities, how to establish engaging reflection spaces during a busy school day.  Feedback from these sessions has been very positive with staff being inspired to develop this area of their classroom.  Liz has also supported schools in developing high-quality self-evaluation documentation prior to SIAMS and ensuring that the evidence base is strong to support a SIAMS grading. Other assistance has included leading workshops with classes on reflection corners linked to the school’s values and helping develop pupil leadership in worship.


While working with the Aquila MAT Liz has achieved the following successes  - Kennington achieved Good overall at SIAMs for the first time in the history of the school. Charing and Brenzett both achieved Good gradings, having self-assessed as satisfactory a few months before her involvement. St Nick’s achieved Good overall at SIAMs with Outstanding for Leadership.

Simon Molony

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Simon was a primary Headteacher for sixteen years in two schools. After this he became a local authority primary school adviser for 12 years including two years as senior LA adviser for schools in Gravesend and Dartford. He has been an Ofsted Inspector from 2000 to 2007 and an educational consultant from 2012 to the present, working with contracts from the Kent and Medway LAs, Aquila as well as numerous individual school projects.

As an LA consultant, Simon has extensive experience of school improvement most recently in Dover, Thanet, Canterbury and Swale. This has included working with schools causing serious concern. When Simon was the LA adviser for Thanet, it had the highest percentage of primary schools above floor standard in Kent by 2012.  Progress in English resulted in Thanet being in 8th position from 12th, and 6th place in Maths from 12th in 2012

Sheila Wilding and Simon Molony are the directors of Knights Educational. They are educational consultants of many years’ experience. Both are ex- Primary Headteachers, Ofsted inspectors and local Authority advisers who have a very successful track record in School Improvement. Their track record of raising standards in our academies is exemplary.

Lorna Priddle

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As an Executive Headteacher in Kent, Lorna’s ability to transform failing schools into higher performers is proven by results: from special measures to requires improvement with leadership graded as good in 16 months (Archbishop Courtenay C.E. Primary School) from Notice to improve too good in two years (St Michaels C.E .Junior School) from cause for concern to outstanding in 4 years (St Michaels C.E. Infant School). In January 2014 her Infant school gained its third outstanding OFSTED in seven years.

Lorna achieved these results by having high expectations, mentoring and coaching staff to become good and outstanding classroom practitioners, having a passion and vision for excellence in education and growing leaders to enable sustainability throughout three schools that she has led. For example, four senior leaders from her former schools have gone onto headships and head of school in Kent schools. 

As a National Leader of Education from 2008-2015, she collaborated with schools across Kent Sussex and Surrey to improve standards of achievement and attainment. Classroom practitioners, Headteachers, and LA officers came to observe outstanding practice across the three schools but especially Key Stage one. She was also commissioned through the National College to go and support schools to improve standards. She supported leadership and management and teaching and learning in several schools over a period of 7 years. This required a high level of competence in interpreting data, the ability to hold challenging conversations with leaders in vulnerable schools, to conduct work scrutiny and lesson observations and be able to change a culture in a school to one of positivity and success.

Lorna has met with the DFE to discuss how to raise standards across the country and met with a previous Secretary of State, Michael Gove, regarding educational policy. In 2012, she completed the Pacific Institute Investment in Excellence facilitator training programme. This was an initiative by Kent to deliver a world-class programme for coaching and mentoring leaders in education. She successfully completed the programme and was able to put this into practice in training sessions across four schools in Kent.  

St Michael’s C.E. Schools Federation has been recognised nationally and internationally in a historic publication on the history of Parliament (2015). This book has been distributed to all members of the United Nations, UK and overseas embassies and Members of Parliament. This recognised the performance of the St Michaels C.E. Schools Federation and the role it played in leading by using the teachings of hope, faith and charity. St Michael’s was one of only 25 schools chosen to appear in this prestigious publication. It recognised excellence in education and the impact the school’s ethos and culture had on the community. 

As a School Improvement Partner for the Aquila she provide professional challenge and support for schools. She acts as a critical and professional friend to our schools, helping leadership teams to evaluate school performance, identify priorities for improvement and plan for effective change.

Margo Barraclough

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