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Central Team

Senior Leadership Team

Justin Smith

Chief Executive Officer

Before joining The Primary First Trust, Mr Smith was the Executive Head Teacher of a Federation of Schools in South London. One of the schools has gone from Special Measures to Outstanding and another reversed a three year falling trend to become the highest performing school in its borough and was also graded Outstanding by Ofsted. Mr Smith has a history of managing change in difficult circumstances both in new schools and schools in challenging circumstances. In 2010 he led the Most Improved School in the Country, a school in an area of high social deprivation. He is a published author in the field of Behaviour Management and currently works very closely with the Regional Schools Commissioner and the Department for Education on MAT development.  He is a mentor for MAT CEO's and is part of the pilot project on evaluating the effectiveness of Multi Academy Trusts.  He is currently undertaking a doctoral study in educational leadership.



Katherine Powell

Director of Education

Before joining The Primary First Trust Katherine was the Executive Head Teacher of The Barnehurst Federation. She has a history of managing successful change in different contexts and is an Inspector with Ofsted under the current framework (September 2015) and leads on the four functions of The Primary First Trust; Children’s Outcomes, Leadership Development, Teacher Development and Curriculum Enrichment. Katherine was the school leader that led Barnehurst Infant School through its Outstanding Ofsted. She has significant experience working with schools in a number of different contexts and has enabled and secured the improvements in outcomes for children across the Trust.  Katherine is also a National Leader of Education.





Richard Cox

Chief Finance Officer

Richard brings significant experience in the field of managing multi academy trusts from a business perspective. He is driven by the opportunities that The Primary First Trust gives to impact significantly on children’s lives in the community in which they live. Although a relatively recent appointment he has already identified significant savings across the Trust and individual schools. 






Leading Head Teachers


Penny Jones

Leading Head Teacher

Penny joined the Trust following successful headships in a range of schools and has a history of working with schools to improve the quality of their offer to children. Penny leads on the four functions of the Trust in specific schools which are Children’s Outcomes, Leadership Development, Teacher Development and Curriculum Enrichment.  Penny is a Local Leader of Education.








Claire Eskelson

Leading Head Teacher

Claire has a successful history of school improvement as a Head Teacher of schools within London.  She is passionate about improving outcomes and the life chances of all children within primary schools. Claire is also a former IEB member and now governor of a school in challenging circumstances.  Claire is a Local Leader of Education.


Head Teacher Leads

Rachael Flaherty

Curriculum Lead



Sheena Hamilton

Teaching and Learning Lead

Sheena has been a teacher for 29 years, working in schools in Greenwich, Bexley and Medway. She has taught in all three Primary Key Stages and has over time, taken the lead in English, Maths, MfL and Science. She was also a SENCo for twelve years.

She has taken on the headships in two schools that have been in difficulty, and has quickly secured improvements in outcomes for children in both.

This year, her role within the Trust is to take the lead upon Teaching and Learning. This will include developing a shared pedagogical understanding of teaching and learning across the partnership, and to work with a team of four talented Associates to provide Continuing Professional Development across the Trust for support staff, teachers and leaders.



Monique Harlin

Assessment Lead

Monique Harlin joined the PFT team in January 2017 as the head at the Academy of Cuxton schools. Since joining Cuxton, she has been part of the team that have ensured that the schools are externally judged as being securely good with outstanding features by Ofsted. Prior to this she worked as the Deputy Head and subsequently the Head at a large primary school which included a 12 place unit for Children with ASD, in Tilbury, Essex. She led the team in Tilbury to gain a ‘Good’ in July 2016, this was a historic moment as it was the first time since Ofsted started inspecting schools that this had happened. She has also worked in Bromley as a Deputy Head in a school with a 24 place base for children with ASD, so has particular experience of working with children who have complex needs. She is particularly keen to ensure children enjoy a creative and fulfilling curriculum, enabling them to leave Cuxton well equipped to deal with everything life brings their way.



Cassie Malone

Coaching Lead

Cassie Malone is the Headteacher of the Barnehurst Federation of schools. She joined the Infant school in 2011 and moved from the position of Deputy Head to the Headteacher of both schools in 2015. Since becoming Head Teacher she has led the Junior school through an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted. During her teaching career she has taught in KS1 and KS2, led Science, English and whole school curriculum development and has been a moderator for the local authority. Cassie has created an English curriculum focused on creativity and high standards in Literacy across the federation. She believes strongly in the role of creativity and developing the ‘whole child’ . Cassie has also written a unique curriculum at Barnehurst that provides children with the opportunity to experience wonder in extracurricular activities. She is committed to high standards for all children supported by a strong community ethos. Cassie is currently running a coaching programme for the trust that focuses on leadership development through bespoke CPD and personality analysis.




Kate O'Connor

PFT Pledge Lead

Kate O'Connor is the HeadTteacher of Lessness Heath Primary School and has been in post since September 2016. Before joining the school, she worked in the London Borough of Greenwich for 16 years and held many senior positions including a Head of School role.


Kate has a strong commitment to working in challenging schools and leads her staff to ensure all children reach their potential. She insists on high standards and has a strong moral drive to ensure all children in her school succeed. She believes in giving all children the very best start to their educational careers in all areas of the curriculum.


Kate leads the Primary First Pledge which she believes will give all children in the Trust exciting and rewarding experiences outside of the classroom in a collaborative way; an ethos she strongly believes in.

Business Support and Administration



Sarah Thompson - PA to the CEO


Sarah supports the work of the Trust by her highly professional and tenacious approach to problem solving. Her huge range of skills allow the Trust's work to flow seamlessly.










Jane Hingston - Senior Clerk to the Governing Bodies


Jane provides hugely respected support to Governing Bodies in all of the schools. She has brought an increased level of professionalism to the governance processes within the Trust.










Hardeep Hullait - HR Lead


Hardeep has enabled the Primary First Trust to have a far more professional and employee focused approach to HR.  Schools value her accurate and rapid response.






Victoria Harrington - Finance Assistant









Sarah Bates - PA to the Director of Education









Jennie Edwards - Clerk to the Governing Bodies