NACE associates and Challenge Award assessors

NACE associates and Challenge Award assessors are experienced practitioners and consultants who work with NACE on the development and delivery of research, CPD and Challenge Award accreditation. Their broad range of expertise allows NACE to offer tailored support to meet the requirements of each school.

We are currently seeking experienced education practitioners, consultants and school leaders to join our network of associates and assessors. To find out more, email

Jane Branson

Jane Branson brings over 20 years' experience to her work as an education consultant and trainer. In schools, she's been a classroom teacher, an Advanced Skills Teacher, a 'gifted and talented' coordinator and a head of department. She worked for nine years as a local authority consultant and adviser, is an ITT trainer, a long-serving Chair of Governors and the writer of a range of books and online titles for Oxford University Press and other publishers. She provides training and support to schools and governors, with a special interest in primary and secondary English, particularly reading, grammar and writing. She is also a trained Philosophy for Children facilitator.

Rosemary Butcher
Alongside her work as a NACE associate, Rosemary is currently a Secondary Teaching Fellow at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Professional Education. She joined the university in 2015 working on a project with IGGY, the university’s gifted and talented web portal, and has also worked for the university’s widening participation department.

As well as having experience as a secondary English teacher in both British and French schools, Rosemary has previously worked at the University of Cambridge and for the London Borough of Lambeth Children and Young People's Service.

At Cambridge, she was Head of Widening Participation. From there she moved on to advise and monitor primary and secondary schools in Lambeth, including their provision for able and talented learners under the Excellence in Cities programme. In this role she worked with NACE and other partners, and trained as a Challenge Award assessor.
Sarah Carpenter
During her 20-year career in education, Sarah has taken on a variety of roles in the early years and primary sectors. Alongside working as a class teacher, she held local authority advisory roles in science and in provision for able learners, leading her school to become the fourth nationally to achieve the NACE Challenge Award.
Sarah moved on from deputy headship to work with an international company, first as a literacy consultant and then as the maths consultant for the UK and Europe. She returned to West Berkshire local authority as early years adviser, focusing on communication, language and literacy, and later became the school improvement adviser for SEND.
More recently, Sarah has reignited her passion for literacy and numeracy, becoming West Berkshire’s school improvement adviser for primary maths and English. In this role, she is the central provider of CPD, and oversees standards in 65 primary schools.
Christine Chen
An experienced consultant with expertise in the pedagogy of English and more able learners, Christine has a strong track record of supporting school improvement, having helped hundreds of schools across a diverse range of contexts since 2002.

Her experience includes leading Kingston’s More Able, Gifted and Talented networks (from which she formed the Primary Outstanding Learning network); originating Kingston’s Sharing Best Practice networks (Y1-6); and leading English Leader networks in Surrey. She also writes and series edits for a number of educational publications.

In her capacity as a NACE associate, Christine provides in-school CPD and leads workshops at NACE events.
Karen Christofi
Karen Christofi is headteacher of Trellech Primary School, Monmouthshire, with over 25 years’ experience of working in and with schools in Wales. She has been in her current post since 2012, previously working as a School Improvement Officer for Monmouthshire LA with specialisms in literacy, assessment and MAT provision.
Trellech Primary School is a Curriculum Pioneer School, and Karen is strongly involved with the design of the new Welsh curriculum. The school is also a Learning Network school for literacy, providing guidance and support to others within the Education Achievement Service (EAS) consortium.
As a NACE associate, Karen has been a lead assessor for the NACE Challenge Award since 2010, as well as providing training, guidance and support for schools within and beyond the EAS consortium, and presenting at NACE conferences. She is also an Estyn peer inspector and a partner Challenge Advisor for EAS.
Heather Clements
Following 11 years as a primary headteacher, Heather become a local authority adviser and subsequently a senior advisor. After working as head of school improvement in Harrow, Heather become director of schools, developing a systematic approach to school improvement support.

Through her consultancy, Heather continues to deliver school improvement services both directly to schools and in partnership with other organisations. She has supported, developed and delivered programmes relating to school leadership, outstanding teaching, self-evaluation and peer review, and delivered training nationally on all aspects of school improvement.  

Heather has worked with NACE since 2003. She co-wrote the original Challenge Award school self-evaluation framework, has trained schools, advisers and assessors throughout England, and has developed a wide range of supporting materials to help schools improve their provision. 
Julie Elliott
Julie first began working with NACE in 2011, contributing to the development of the More Able and Talented (MAT) Training Pack (NACE/Welsh Government), which was distributed to all state schools in Wales in October 2012. Through her ongoing work as a NACE associate, she delivers consultancy on MAT education, and conducts NACE Challenge Award assessments.
Julie has worked in education for over 20 years. Originally a primary teacher, she now works as a Partnership Inclusion Officer, supporting and challenging over 30 primary, secondary and special schools in all aspects of additional learning needs. In addition, she leads on MAT policy and provision for Cardiff, working to support schools across the city and the CSC consortium.
Since March 2016, Julie has been the Seren Hub coordinator for Cardiff, establishing and coordinating a support programme for Year 12 and 13 students with aspirations to attend selective universities in the UK and further afield. 
Barbara Firth
An associate of NACE for over a decade, Barbara advises on more able review work, delivers bespoke CPD within schools, and carries out consultancy and assessments for the NACE Challenge Award, both in the UK and abroad. Her international portfolio includes training teachers in Saudi Arabia and The Hague, and professional development assignments for NACE in countries including Chile and Malta.
Having held senior positions both in schools and for a local authority, Barbara is currently an independent education advisor with expertise in the early years foundation stage (EYFS), teaching and learning, and leadership and management. She was a lead inspector for primary schools for seven years, and a team inspector for secondary and special schools. In addition, she is a governor of a secondary academy and an assessor for the Basic Skills Award.
Caroline Gaitely
Caroline has been the More Able and Talented Coordinator at Southend High School for Boys for approximately 15 years. Leading on more able provision across the school, she coordinated the school’s successful application for NACE Challenge Award accreditation in 2007, reaccreditation in 2011 and third accreditation in 2015.

She has also contributed to developing more able provision in other local schools, developing and chairing local more able networks, and sharing her school’s experience of working towards the Challenge Award regionally and nationally.     

As a NACE Challenge Award assessor, Caroline has undertaken initial and reaccreditation assessments for primary, independent, middle school and senior schools. She is also the coordinator for the NACE Research and Development (R&D) Hubs in England, overseeing the development of this initiative in which NACE member schools are collaborating to identify and share effective approaches to support more able learners.  
Tracy Goodyear
NACE Associate Tracy Goodyear is Head of English at King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls in Birmingham. Tracy has specialised in more able education since she qualified in 2008, supporting and leading projects across 20 schools in the West Midlands. She regularly features as a speaker and trainer for trainee teachers, offering guidance on how to cater for the more able in classroom settings and across the curriculum. She is also a Fellow of and Assessor for the Chartered College of Teaching.
Pauline Hinchliffe
Pauline started her career as a secondary teacher, working in an inner-city borough in London for 26 years. She then spent 14 years as a local authority consultant, with responsibility for gifted and talented provision in both primary and secondary phases. In this role she provided CPD focusing on the use of questioning and the development of higher-order thinking skills, in order to develop a classroom culture where all children are challenged and relish being challenged.

During this time, she became interested in Philosophy for Children (P4C) and the impact it can have on learners and teachers, going on to become a Sapere-accredited Level 1 trainer. She is also interested in the work of Carol Dweck, the implications of having a growth or fixed mindset and how this affects the way in which learners of all abilities respond to challenge.

Pauline has worked for NACE for over a decade. She undertakes Challenge Award assessments and consultancy, provides in-school CPD, and leads NACE workshops.
Renata Joseph
As of April 2019, Renata is Headteacher of St Cecilia's C of E School in London. Prior to taking on this position she was a geography teacher and Deputy Headteacher of Canons High School. While at Canons, she led the school’s People and Professionalism Team, including the Canons Park Teaching School Alliance and Staff Professionalism. She had previously served as an Assistant Head with responsibility for Teaching and Learning.

Renata’s previous experience also includes eight years as Curriculum Leader for Learning at an inner-city London school, with responsibility for More Able and Talented, EAL, SEN, and Learning Mentors. Her areas of expertise and interest include pedagogy, school review and improvement, and approaches to developing staff to meet the needs of more able learners.

As a NACE associate, Renata delivers CPD to help schools improve areas of more able provision. She is also a trustee of NACE and chairs the charity’s education committee.
​Rhiannon Jenkins
Rhiannon Jenkins is NACE Associate, Wales. In this role she focuses on delivery and networking, building on the extensive work that NACE has developed in Wales. A bilingual speaker, Rhiannon works within various educational settings, delivering consultancy work, CPD and INSET days whilst also assisting on the promotion of the NACE Challenge Development Programme throughout Wales.
She has held positions as a deputy head, advisory teacher (Welsh and English) and a university lecturer in all aspects of literacy. Having contributed to a number of national initiatives relating to Welsh-medium provision, she is currently the Welsh first language subject specialist for Welsh Government. She has taught in the Welsh-medium sector throughout her teaching career, and has worked throughout Wales as an independent trainer and consultant.  
Rhiannon was a key player in the Welsh medium provision of the Pisa Intervention Project that disseminated quality teaching practice across Wales. She was also instrumental in developing the elements and aspects of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework in Welsh. She commissions and monitors Welsh medium resources for schools for the Welsh Government. In addition, she has worked as an independent external mentor for newly qualified teachers (primary and secondary).
Rob Lightfoot
Rob Lightfoot has worked as a teacher of mathematics for 25 years, teaching students across Key Stages 3, 4 and 5. He joined Haybridge High School and Sixth Form in January 2001 as Head of Mathematics. He has worked as part of the school’s senior leadership team for 16 years and has led on curriculum and teaching and learning. Rob has coordinated more able provision at Haybridge since 2009 and has also worked nationally as a lead practitioner with the Specialist Schools Trust on curriculum design.

In 2017-18, Rob led the launch of one of the first NACE Research and Development (R&D) Hubs at Haybridge – an initiative which is bringing together NACE member schools to share expertise, research and resources to improve provision for more able learners. Rob is contributing to the development and delivery of NACE's new three-day course for those leading on more able, and is undertaking training to become a NACE Challenge Award assessor.
Hilary Lowe
Having first became involved with NACE as a member, and then as a trustee, Hilary is now the charity’s Education and Challenge Award Adviser. In this role, she leads on the NACE Challenge Development Programme and supporting resources; oversees the NACE Essentials series of guides, case studies and policy bites; and contributes to NACE’s wider development and work at regional and national levels.

Hilary’s career spans senior posts in comprehensive schools, teacher training and university lecturing. She has served as Associate Dean at the Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes University, and as Director for the Excellence in Cities National Training Programme for Gifted and Talented Coordinators. She has also been a member of several education advisory groups, and has written and presented widely on the education of more able learners, and on education leadership and professional development.   
Katie Magee
French and Spanish teacher Katie Magee is SLE for CPD at Canons High School and for the Canons Park Teaching School Alliance. She has previously worked as a Head of Languages. A strong advocate of practitioner-led enquiry and collaboration for school and system improvement, Katie works closely with colleagues both within Canons and at other schools, with a focus on developing professional learning opportunities for staff. As a NACE associate, she leads INSET in a variety of schools, focusing on challenge for more able learners.  
Amarpreet Marwah-Kang
Amarpreet Marwah-Kang is the Head of Faculty of English at Challenge Award-accredited Canons High School in the London Borough of Harrow. Prior to taking on this role in September 2018, she spent three years as the school's KS3 Lead in English, an SLE for assessment and System Leader of Challenge and Talent.

She has experience as a KS3 and KS4 lead in English, AQA English examiner, and whole-school literacy coordinator. Her areas of expertise include pedagogy, teaching and learning, with a particular focus on assessment and behaviour for learning.
Judith Mason
Education consultant Judith Mason has over 30 years’ experience working with a wide range of schools, and holds national accreditation as a School Improvement Partner and a Local Consultant for Improvement. Recently, her work has focused on providing support and professional challenge for school leadership teams – including support for whole-school improvement and training on school governance.

Judith has experience as a local authority school improvement adviser, overseeing standards in over 50 primary schools. She has supported schools in challenging circumstances to gain improved Ofsted outcomes, and worked with good and outstanding school leaders to secure further improvement.

Specialising in English, Judith has served as an English consultant for the National Literacy Strategy, written teachers’ notes and designed teaching games for the Scholastic publication Literacy Time, and delivered CPD for the teaching and leadership of English, including work with groups of teachers to facilitate collaborative approaches.  

As a NACE associate, Judith provides consultancy and CPD for schools working to improve provision for the more able, offers specialist guidance on support for more able learners in English, and leads workshops at NACE conferences.
Dr Ann McCarthy
Dr Ann McCarthy joined NACE as an associate in 2017, with a focus on developing the charity’s more able school review work and guidance on the use of data to support more able provision. She is currently overseeing NACE’s action research programme in partnership with the University of Winchester’s Expansive Education Network, and is involved in the development of NACE’s wider research programme.

Her career has included teaching and leadership in both primary and secondary schools, including selective and comprehensive education. She has a wide experience of leadership coaching, including work as a primary consultant headteacher, and provides advice, training and leadership on school curriculum, self-evaluation, standards and school improvement.  

In her current role as Improvement Director for a multi-academy trust, Dr McCarthy works with primary and secondary school leaders to raise standards; to identify opportunities for innovation, development and training; and to raise aspirations and develop inter-academy collaboration. She develops educational policy, promotes professional subject networks and the development of events and projects, and provides support and advice to other schools, academies and trusts as they too develop.
Sue Mordecai
Having started her career as a history teacher, Sue Mordecai has worked in both primary and secondary schools, moving on to roles as head of school improvement in a local authority, associate tutor at Oxford Brookes University, and as an adviser to the International Charles Darwin Trust.

Currently a director on the board of a multi-academy trust, Sue has contributed to national materials commissioned by both Welsh and English governments, represented NACE on government advisory bodies, and authored many articles and resources related to more able learners, as well as contributing to the editorial board of the journal Gifted Education International. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. 

A former chair of NACE, Sue currently serves as a trustee and a member of the charity’s education committee. She also delivers the popular "Challenge in the everyday classroom" seminar series. 
Beatrice Moreau-Gray
Beatrice started her career as a modern foreign languages (MFL) teacher in a large comprehensive school in Oxfordshire, and has taught in both the state and the independent sectors. She then moved to higher education where she worked on developing and delivering teacher training programmes.

Passionate about languages and language teaching, Beatrice places a strong premium on teachers not accepting prevailing standards when these are insufficient, and on the need to offer genuine challenge to learners at all stages. Addressing the needs of able linguists and motivating them to excel is at the forefront of her ongoing work as a teacher educator.

As a NACE associate, Beatrice is developing and delivering  MFL professional development programmes and MFL resources, committed to the goal of improving outcomes for all learners.
Jon Murphy
Currently serving in his third headship, at Llanfoist Fawr Primary School, Jon has over 30 years of experience working in education. As well as teaching in both Wales and the United States, previous roles have included Principal School Improvement Officer for Monmouthshire Local Authority and Challenge Advisor Partner for the South East Wales Education Consortium. 
In 2007 Jon joined NACE as a Challenge Award assessor, and over the last 10 years has undertaken assessments and consultation in primary and secondary schools in both the state and independent sectors. He is also the NACE Research and Development (R&D) Hub Coordinator for Wales.
Jon is also currently a team inspector for Estyn, and an ambassador for the SkillForce Prince William Award. As a Visiting Fellow of the University of South Wales, he is working with the University of South Wales Newport and Cardiff Metropolitan University on the strategic transformation of initial teacher education in Wales.   
Ann Nelson
Ann has worked with NACE for over 10 years, as a Challenge Award consultant and assessor and providing CPD for schools. She previously worked as a Strand Coordinator for a large London borough for the Excellence in Cities Gifted and Talented Programme, and has also worked for Thurrock, Newham and Cambridge Local Authorities supporting the needs of more able learners.

Ann’s work as a NACE associate focuses on providing schools with advice and support for provision for more able learners – for example supporting self-review of provision, action planning and professional development to ensure teaching staff are able to meet the needs of learners and to identify and tackle underachievement at all key stages.

She has worked successfully and with demonstrable impact with a wide variety of schools, and has an excellent understanding of the practical needs of teachers and the strategic objectives of senior colleagues.  
Jules Offord
Jules has worked with NACE as a Challenge Award assessor since 2006. He has over 30 years’ experience as a teacher, consultant and adviser, having been involved in developing more able learner practice and provision for the past two decades.
During this time he has been involved in leading programmes and strategies to support more able learners at local, regional and national levels. He also works as an independent consultant and researcher, developing programmes to improve learning environments, collaborative and personal learning in schools and academy trusts.

Jules also has many years’ experience of developing and delivering training on a range of classroom strategies including questioning, deepening learning, metacognition and enabling independent and collaborative learning. Additionally, he has significant experience of working with teachers and schools to design and deliver strategies which most effectively support EAL learners in succeeding at the highest levels.

He enjoys supporting teaching professionals and school communities in developing and refining practice and provision to enable all children to become successful end enthusiastic learners.
Stefan Pearson
Stefan has taught in primary settings in England and China. Currently, he is a teacher at Holybrook Primary School in Bradford, having worked previously at Challenge Award-accredited Copthorne Primary School. Alongside his role as class teacher, Stefan is responsible for more able and challenge and works as an Evidence-Based Practice Coordinator for the Exceed Academies Trust. 

He has great experience of leading the provision of more able learners and his teaching practice benefited greatly from working at Copthorne Primary School during its Challenge Award assessment. In his role as more able and challenge coordinator, Stefan ensures provision across school for more able learners is appropriate. As an Evidence-Based Practice Coordinator, Stefan writes blogs that provide teachers across the Exceed Academy Trust with evidence-informed recommendations to use in their classrooms. Stefan believes that all learners are capable of succeeding and that high expectations and challenge should be the foundation of their successes.

As a NACE associate, Stefan assists in research visits to Challenge Award-accredited schools, helping to identify and share examples of effective provision for more able learners.  
Lindsay Pickton
Lindsay first became involved with NACE when asked to lead a workshop at the “English for the More Able” conference in 2016.

He was a Leading Teacher for the London Borough of Richmond, before becoming the Literacy Advisor for the Royal Borough of Kingston. In this role, he developed a reputation for high-impact support and training, and effective school improvement. He led popular Literacy Leaders meetings and KS1 and KS2 moderation.

Now an independent advisor, Lindsay has led Inset sessions and spoken at conferences across the country and internationally, and has supported school improvement across London and the South East. With fellow NACE associate Christine Chen, he co-writes for a number of educational publications.
Linda Prestidge
Linda has been a member of NACE for over 25 years, and has also served as a trustee of the charity. As well as conducting assessments for the NACE Challenge Award, she also provides training on provision for the more able in English and on identifying and supporting more able learners.

Alongside her work with NACE, Linda is currently a Learning Support Teacher at a secondary school in Buckinghamshire and a dyslexia specialist in a sixth-form college. Prior to this she worked as a consultant for gifted and talented provision in Luton, where she developed programmes with a number of partners to challenge more able learners. She is particularly passionate about supporting able young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and those with dual exceptionality. 
Elaine Ricks-Neal
Elaine Ricks-Neal is a NACE associate and NACE Challenge Award Adviser. Her connection with NACE dates to 2006, when she co-authored the original NACE Challenge Framework for school self-evaluation and improvement in provision for more able learners. She has undertaken numerous Challenge Award assessments, as well as supporting schools to improve more able provision – including working with school leaders at all levels to help schools to move from requires improvement to good, and good to outstanding. She also undertakes school reviews, with a focus on improving challenge in the classroom, school self-evaluation, action planning and improving outcomes for disadvantaged learners.

Elaine is currently Director of the Berkshire Teaching Alliance. She spent her early career in secondary education as a Head of English and Drama, moving on to school senior leadership positions. This was followed by other roles, including County English Adviser for Buckinghamshire and Secondary School Adviser, Ofsted Inspector, and Senior Regional Adviser for the South East of England with the National Strategies. In West Berkshire, she was also a School Improvement Adviser to a group of primary schools and responsible for cross-phase English and more able provision. Until recently she was Associate Principal Adviser for School Improvement and Governance at West Berkshire Council.
Claire Robinson
Claire works with NACE as a Challenge Award assessor and also presents at NACE workshops and conferences. She is currently in her second headship, at the NACE Challenge Award-accredited Holme Grange School, having gained leadership experience in both state and independent schools, and been a School Improvement Partner in four local authorities.

Claire leads NQT training in her school as a regional centre for the Independent Schools Teacher Induction Panel (IStip). She has presented at number of conferences and worked with Reading University on their Education Leadership Programme. She has also led Section 48 Inspections of church schools.

In January 2015 Holme Grange was awarded Excellent judgements in all areas of the school. It regularly shares its practice with other schools and hosts visiting teachers from the UK, Norway and India.
Christabel Shepherd
With over 30 years’ experience of teaching in both primary and secondary settings, Christabel Shepherd is currently Executive Headteacher of Bradford’s Copthorne Primary and Holybrook Primary Schools, having previously served as Headteacher at Copthorne Primary since 2012. 

She is also a National Leader of Education, leader of the Exceed SCITT English programme, facilitator for the NPQSL, Pupil Premium Reviewer, and a system leader of school-to-school support. She has extensive experience of leading on school-wide provision for more able learners, having used the NACE Challenge Framework to audit and develop provision in two schools, with both going on to achieve the NACE Challenge Award.

In her role as a NACE associate and trustee, Christabel has contributed to the development of NACE’s new three-day course for those leading on more able policy and practice, and will lead on the delivery of this training programme for practitioners working at primary level.
Michelle Spirit
Emotional resilience adviser Michelle Spirit has worked as a child and adolescent mental health nurse, careers advisor, clinical hypnotherapist, HR practitioner, and research and evaluation consultant.

As well as being a NACE associate, she is a Fellow of the CIPD, expert adviser for Skills for Care, and an associate of Mind, with whom she has worked alongside the University of Oxford’s Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma to help those in blue light occupations cope with pressure.

Drawing on her experience in mental health, careers guidance, hypnotherapy and research, Michelle specialises in translating complex research into lively, evidence-based and memorable learning, with a focus on reducing cognitive burden. 
Ed Walsh
Ed Walsh is an independent consultant in science education for the primary and secondary sectors, having been a secondary head of science, a county science adviser and a regional and senior adviser for the Secondary National Strategy. He has a wealth of experience and a successful track record in supporting schools to improve, develop and innovate in science teaching and provision. 

Ed has published widely on science education and produced teaching materials, student text books and multimedia resources. He has developed and delivered numerous professional development events for teachers and heads of science and on behalf of organisations such as ASE and AQA.

As a NACE associate, Ed designs and delivers programmes on teaching more able learners in science, as well as writing for the NACE Essentials series on more able learners in science.