Board of Directors



Ann Smart OBE (Chair)

Ann is Fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (FCCA) who worked in the National Health Service (NHS) for 40 years.  For  20 of these, she was a Director of Finance or held equivalent posts at board level.  Ann has experience of working in provider services (NHS trusts), commissioner services and strategic management, most recently having been appointed as a Director of Finance for the North East London Strategic Health Authority.  She is familiar with structural change, having supported 10 re-organisations during her career.  Ann’s responsibilities have extended beyond financial management to include information and communications technology, estates, capital projects (including the Private Finance Initiative (PFI)), contracting (as a provider), commissioning, performance management and family practitioner services.  Ann has also participated in risk management committees and audit committees, and spent three years acting as professional adviser to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) remuneration committee.  She was awarded an OBE for services to the NHS and community in north east London.

Ann sits on the Governing Body at Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls and has over 20 years’ experience as a school governor, including acting as Responsible Officer (Finance) and Vice-Chair of Governors.  She was part of a small governor group that worked on a school PFI project to consolidate the premises onto a single site, and she was on a steering group overseeing conversion to academy status.  She has experience of dealing with school human resource (HR) issues, including appointments and staff grievances.


Julian Dutnall  (CEO and Executive Headteacher Secondary)

Julian studied law at Exeter University and qualified as a barrister in 1996.  After a year working as a Crown Prosecutor, he completed a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at Anglia Ruskin University and he has taught in five state-funded schools across three local authorities; Essex, Hertfordshire and Havering.  At Chelmsford County High in Essex he was Deputy Headteacher when the school was judged by Ofsted to be ‘outstanding’ and gained the highest GCSE results in England in the January performance tables.   He is in his seventh year as Headteacher at Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls, judged by Ofsted in January 2016 to be ‘good’.  Julian holds a First Class honours degree in English, a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and the National Professional Qualification in Headship (NPQH).  He is a committee member of the Association of State Girls’ Schools, has chaired the cross-phase Havering Education Strategic Partnership and writes for the National Education Trust.


Louise Douglas (Vice Chair)

Louise is a consultant and trainer working in a variety of settings across the world, many of which are schools.  Her activities include leading HR consultancy for a federation of schools in an inner London borough, training and development activities, safeguarding audits, policy development, support and advice.   Louise has strong relationships with many schools across the country and regularly supports them with employment issues and safeguarding activities.  She also works with solicitors, doctors, social workers and other professionals in safeguarding.

Louise has worked at senior levels for over 20 years and was, for a number of years, a trustee of YMCA training.  Louise has successfully developed child protection strategies for many third sector organisations, gaining much of her experience in this area whilst a director of a high profile youth development charity.  She also supports voluntary organisations with training, audit and consultancy activity and works with a large London-based young learners’ training provider.  Louise is a director of Graffham Consulting Limited, a leading consultancy focused on safeguarding, learning and development.

Louise holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management Practice and is particularly interested in learning and management.  She is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and often combines her child protection expertise with specific HR activities, particularly to support schools with allegations made against staff, senior team recruitment processes and in formulating staff documentation.

Her interim and management consultancy work has included major change management projects for national and international organisations, focusing on people and organisational culture.  Louise is also the independent reviewer for the Bishop of Chelmsford, scrutinising personnel and clergy files in line with current statutory requirements, and she is the safeguarding adviser to the national Cathedral and Choir Schools Safeguarding Group.


Michael Debens

Michael holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Management Studies (DMS) from London Guildhall University and has practitioner accreditation in Managing Successful Programmes.  Michael was a manager in the Metropolitan Police for 31 years, until retiring in 2011.  The post included managing teams in specialist areas such as analysing accident claims and injury liabilities to assess the accuracy of data on criminal records and arrest and conviction reports.  Michael was a Business Manager for the police in the Borough of Tower Hamlets involving, among other things, budget control, recruitment, promotion, discipline and oversight of the local estate and Michael has experience of chairing various HR-related boards.

At a more senior level, he was a Programme Manager on corporate change programmes such as Metropolitan Police Modernisation, balancing the demands of local community expectations for safer neighbourhood teams against more specialist requirements, such as anti-terrorism, sexual offences and fraud.  Michael became Director of Business Strategy, setting out annual and longer-term strategic business plans in conjunction with the Senior Leadership Team, the Metropolitan Police Authority and, latterly, the London Mayor's Office.

Since he retired, Michael has joined the Parent Staff Association at Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls in Havering and chaired this group until he became a Parent Governor in 2014.  As a governor, he has recently been elected Chair of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee and is also the link Governor for attendance.


Sophia Malik

After reading law at University and winning a scholarship to the Bar, Sophia was ‘called’ to the Bar in 2001.  She has developed a successful career as a commercial lawyer, both in-house and in private practice working with United States multi-national utility companies.  She acted for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Limited on the procurement of telecommunications and technology infrastructure for the 2012 Olympics.

Sophia is a qualified solicitor and holds an International Practice Diploma in Intellectual Property Law.  She is Vice-President and Head of Legal at Colt, a multi-national technology company.


Toni Burrowes-Cromwell

Toni is a management consultant and a Doctoral Researcher and Associate Fellow of Higher Education Academy (UK) at Manchester Metropolitan University.  As the former International Director of one of the UK’s largest non-government organisations (NGOs), she has specialist experience in social development policy reviews, national programme management, including child-care and safeguarding protocols, and young people’s participation.  Her background spans: high-level missions with ministries; corporate through to small enterprises; local government; and town partnerships.  These initiatives often helped to support local governance and business enterprise for social transformation.

Toni is a recipient of a Government of Canada Presidential Star Award (Canadian International Development Agency, 2005).  As a former Consultant Coordinator to the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (Eastern Caribbean), Toni has worked extensively with international donors, including the Department for International Development, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Organisation of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank.  Her most recent work on youth enterprise and non-formal learning in the UK was included in a European Union-funded (Support, Advanced Learning and Training Opportunities) publication (2014).  Toni is accustomed to cross-cultural settings and maintains an active research interest in relational

business models and youth enterprise.


David Denchfield (Executive Headteacher Primary)

After working in banking for five years, David returned to full time education where he completed a BA(Hons) in Business Studies and a PGCE.  He has taught in six state-funded primary schools across two local authorities.  Whilst working as Deputy Headteacher at Great Berry Primary in Essex, the school was judged by Ofsted to be ‘outstanding’ for the first time and is widely recognised as a lead primary in Basildon.  The school also successfully converted to an academy during David’s time there.

Upon completion of the NPQH, David secured his first headship at Benhurst Primary in Havering.  Within his first year of headship, David successfully led the school from requiring improvement to being judged to be ‘good’ by Ofsted.  Three years on, the school is now firmly working towards a judgement of ‘outstanding’.  Benhurst Primary is now widely known for its forward-thinking ethos and it has worked extensively with many local, national and international schools and businesses in its constant drive for excellence.  David also held the position of Executive Headteacher for another local school in Havering during a period of prolonged absence of the substantive Headteacher.

David is an active member of the local cluster group, has been a governor in four schools and holds a position on the Schools’ Funding Forum for Havering.


Steve Odart

Steve has held sales and business development roles within the information technology sector since the age of 18.  From his early years as a salesman on the road, through a high-profile career in one of the world’s largest technology companies and culminating in his founding of his own business in 2004, he has accumulated a vast and wide-ranging set of skills in public relations and marketing, business development, leadership and setting a culture and charisma of success.  Steve is a visionary and a pioneer, recognised as a key influencer in the world of education and learning technology adoption and digitisation.

Steve is the founder and director of Ixxus Limited, a global data systems integration and knowledge engineering company, employing 160 staff across four global offices in the United States, London, Spain and Romania.   It works with over 40% of the world’s largest educational publishers in undertaking digital transformation programmes.  After its sale, Steve continues to work with it in a consulting capacity.