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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.

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
Chief Operating Officer

Edward is the Chief Operating Officer 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 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’s continuing interest in corporate governance has seen him lead on organisational governance reviews for 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.

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.

Lisa Fathers
Director of Development, Partnerships and Teaching School Hubs

Lisa is the Director of Development, Partnerships and Teaching School Hubs and part of the Executive Team at Bright Futures Educational Trust, a Multi Academy Trust in the North West. She has had over 20 years’ experience in education, both as a teacher and in a variety of senior leadership positions including Associate Headteacher and Co-Principal.

Lisa is now an executive leader, serving on the Executive Leadership Team for Bright Futures. She also provides strategic leadership for the Bright Futures Development Network, which includes two large scale Teaching School Hubs, a Maths Hub, a SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) and the Alliance for Learning which provides school and teacher development across the region. Lisa co-leads school improvement work for the Trust as well as leading on Communications and Development.

Her particular areas of expertise and passion are change leadership, coaching theory and practice, wellbeing and partnership working. Lisa has coached and supported leaders at all levels and leads on partnership working for the Trust, working alongside organisations such as Teach First, Ambition Institute, the Youth Sport Trust, the Chartered College, and Mental Health First Aid England. She represents Education on the Greater Manchester Reform Board and the executive level Strategic Health and Wellbeing Board and has many Governance roles such as Co-Chair for Greater Manchester’s Mental Health in Education Board and the Chair for the national Well Schools Board.

Lisa is also part of the national training team for Mental Health First Aid England.  She was instrumental in the highly successful and ground-breaking 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 North West region and nationally.

Lynette Beckett
Director of HR 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