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Our Executive Team

Dr John Wm Stephens CBE
CEO of Bright Futures Educational Trust

Dr John Stephens was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Bright Futures Educational Trust in January 2017.

Formerly a headteacher and director of children’s services, John spent five years as a senior civil servant in the Department for Education.  He was responsible for teaching schools and system leadership, including National Leaders of Education and National Leaders of Governance.

Throughout his career, John has engaged in research into pedagogy, inclusion and leadership. He has undertaken post graduate study at the Universities of Leicester and Manchester and at MMU.

John served as a school governor in primary and secondary schools for over 20 years, 10 of them as Chair. He was also a director of an academy trust.

He is a volunteer with St John Ambulance and leads the north regional safeguarding team and chairs two community charities in Salford and East Manchester. John has a lifelong interest in music and the arts. He is president of a local choir and is chair of the Greater Manchester Music Hub Advisory Board.

In 2016 John was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours recognising his contributions to education and charity. In 2021 he was admitted as an Officer in the Order of St John in recognition of work undertaken in safeguarding.

Edward Vitalis FCCA DipCG
Deputy Chief Executive

Edward is the Deputy Chief Executive of Bright Futures Educational Trust, overseeing Governance, Finance, Human Resources, Digital Technologies and Estates.  He is also the Vice Chair and Chair of the Business & Finance Committee of a North West based Multi Academy Trust.  Edward has over 20 years’ experience as an Executive in education.

Since qualifying as a Chartered Certified Accountant at the end of 1999, Edward has held various lead finance and corporate service executive roles in the charity, public and private sectors, where he specialised in transformational change management in education, health and social care.

Edward is a National Leader of Governance (NLG) designated by the DFE.  He has a history of carrying out corporate governance reviews including reviews of charities in parts of West Africa, South Africa and Germany as well as the UK.

Edward is currently a Non-Executive Director of an NHS Mental Health Foundation Trust in Greater Manchester where he is also the Audit Committee Chair. He is the Chair of the newly established Greater Manchester CAMHS Lead Provider Collaborative Commissioning Committee.

Edward is a former Non-Executive Director for an NHS Clinical Commissioning Group in the North West where he was the Audit Committee Chair, Commissioning Board Chair and Joint Chair of a North West based city council’s Public Health and Wellbeing Board. He has a strong commitment to improving life chances demonstrated throughout his career with a focus on education, supporting those facing disadvantage, health and social care.

Lisa Fathers
Director of Education & Partnerships

Lisa is the Director of Education & Partnerships and part of the Executive Team at Bright Futures Educational Trust. She has over 25 years’ experience in education and has held a number of Executive Leadership Director-level roles. Lisa is a National Leader of Education (NLE) designated by the DfE and she is also an effective School Improvement Partner (SIP) for other schools/MATS.

As an executive leader, Lisa works closely with our schools, providing leadership, strategic oversight, support and challenge to our Headteachers. She also provides strategic leadership for the Bright Futures Professional Development Institute, which is central to the Trust’s People Strategy and includes two large scale Teaching School Hubs, a Maths Hub, a SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training), a SEND Outreach service, an Early Years Stronger Practice Hub and Bright Futures Training. Lisa oversees improvement work/professional development in over 600 schools making a huge impact on teacher development across the region. Lisa leads school improvement work for the Trust, leads our SEND/Inclusion strategy as well as leading on Communications, Marketing and PR.

Lisa’s particular areas of expertise and passion are school transformation/school turnaround, school improvement, teacher development, change leadership, wellbeing and partnership working. Lisa has coached and supported Executive Headteachers and Headteachers and leads on partnership working and Growth for the Trust, working alongside other MATs and schools and organisations such as Teach First, Ambition Institute, the Youth Sport Trust, the Chartered College, and Mental Health First Aid England.

Lisa has had a number of Non-Executive Governance roles having been a MAT Trustee, a Trustee of a national charity and was on the executive level Strategic Health and Wellbeing Board. Lisa enjoys contributing to the wider system such as her Co-Chair role for Greater Manchester’s Mental Health in Education Board and the Chair for a national multidisciplinary Wellbeing Board. Lisa was a National Mental Health First Aid trainer and led the successful and ground-breaking cross sector Greater Manchester Mentally Healthy Schools Programme and is a Fellow at the Chartered College of Teaching. Lisa is a champion of collaboration and whole system working across Greater Manchester, the wider Northwest region and nationally, and currently sits on the GMLP Executive Team and on the Mayoral Reform Board in Greater Manchester.

Gary Handforth
Director of Education and Executive Principal

Gary Handforth, BA Psychology (Hons) MA (Process Consultancy), is an Executive Principal and Director of Education for the Trust. He has a wealth of experience in education having been a teacher and school leader for over 27 years which included a headship over two schools in central Manchester.

Gary has been a Chair of a Local Governing Body for six years and both a Trustee and senior partner of Challenge Partners, a national network of over 400 schools. He is also the North West Senior Partner. Gary has worked closely with Manchester local authority for many years and within a broad range of work, largely focusing on disadvantaged families, e.g. Troubled Families and Early Help as well as being the Chairperson of regional groups.  He currently attends the Manchester Local Authority Inclusion Strategy Steering Group.

For the past nine years Gary has also been a Local Leader of Education (LLE) in the North West and has been a facilitator of training workshops for LLE for five of these.

Gary is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts as well as an Associate and Fellow of Leeds Beckett University. He has a strong interest in research and philosophy as well as a passion for organisational psychology, consultancy, coaching and mentoring methods and collaborative practices.

Lynette Beckett MCIPD
Director of People and Strategy

Lynette’s role sits on the Executive Team at Bright Futures. Prior to joining Bright Futures in 2014 to establish and lead the HR function, Lynette held a number of senior human resources posts in the commercial sector. She is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development (MCIPD).

Lynette has a broad range of HR and executive leadership experience ranging from a deep specialist knowledge of employee relations, employment law, change management, employee engagement, operational and strategic HR, governance, performance management and workplace culture.  She also collaborates as part of the HR network for multi-academy trust’s (MAT’s) HR leaders and contributes valuable insight and best practice from and to Bright Futures, through this forum.

It is a non-negotiable for Lynette to work for an organisation that holds the same values as her. She is proud to play a part in bringing to life Bright Futures’ values of community, integrity and passion through the HR policies, practices and systems introduced.

Proud to part of the Bright Futures Education Trust
The Hub
144 Irlam Road, Flixton
Manchester M41 6NA