Executive Team

Our executive team are experienced leaders with a passion for their specialist area within the education sector. They come from a variety of different backgrounds, but share the same vision: to bring out the best in every staff member and student in United Learning.

Sir Jon Coles

Group Chief Executive, ULT Trustee

Sir Jon Coles

Group Chief Executive, ULT Trustee

Since January 2012, Jon Coles has been Group Chief Executive of United Learning. Prior to this, he spent much of his career in the Department for Education, including four years on the Board as Director General for Schools and then Director General for Education Standards.

Previously, as Director of 14-19 Reform, he led work to raise participation post-16 and attainment at 19 and reduce NEET numbers.

As Director of London Challenge, Jon was responsible developing and implementing the strategy to improve secondary education in London, which also led to similar approaches in other parts of the country.

In his career, Jon has been responsible for various Green and White Papers and for taking the 2002 Education Act through Parliament. A qualified secondary teacher, his previous jobs included implementing the infant class size pledge and, on secondment to the Cabinet Office, developing a strategy for e-government.

Anna Paige

Director of Strategy and Performance

Anna Paige

Director of Strategy and Performance

Anna joined United Learning permanently in February 2017, having previously spent a year on secondment to the organisation as Head of Strategy and Performance. Prior to joining United Learning, Anna was a senior civil servant, most recently in the Home Office, where she led on drugs, alcohol and firearms policy. For 14 years Anna worked in the Department for Education. She led the recent reforms to GCSE and A level qualifications, and held responsibility for aspects of curriculum and assessment policy. Her other roles as a senior civil servant included leading policy for financial support and careers education and guidance, and taking legislation to raise the participation age through its consideration in the House of Commons. She also led on aspects of the London Challenge programme, including coordinating bespoke support for the ‘keys to success’ schools.

Benjamin Antell

Director of Secondary Academies

Benjamin Antell

Director of Secondary Academies

Ben Antell currently works as Director of Secondary Academies in United Learning. Before taking up this post, Ben worked for four years as a Secondary Regional Director supporting schools across the country. Ben has previously held Executive Principal and Principal posts in a number of schools before his appointment as Regional Director. Ben holds an honours degree from the University of Exeter. His wider interests include keeping fit, playing a variety of sports and providing a taxi service to his two teenage sons. 

Darran Ellison-Lee

Director of Primary Education

Darran Ellison-Lee

Director of Primary Education

Darran has a wide range of achievements in Education, including leadership in both Primary and Secondary phases as well as in Special Education. Darran was a National Leader of Education, leading one of the first national teaching schools and a federation of primary schools in the North of England. The teaching school under his leadership provided a wide range of school improvement work and was one of the first schools providing training for Schools Direct.

Darran has overseen growth of our primary schools, which now includes 18 Academies and 12 Independent Prep schools. Darran’s leadership of improvement work has secured enhanced quality of teaching, resulting in schools moving from Special Measures to Good, at times requiring him to step in as Exec Head or acting Principal to support. Under Darran’s leadership, 10 United Learning primary schools have maintained or secured a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating for overall effectiveness. In addition, Darran is Director with responsibility for the Trust’s support, challenge and accountability on Safeguarding, ensuring that United Learning meets Statutory requirements and that Safeguarding processes across the Group are robust and effective.

Louise Johnston

Chief Financial Officer

Louise Johnston

Chief Financial Officer

Louise joined United Learning in June 2014 having previously worked at Travelex, the leading global foreign exchange provider, most recently leading their Shared Service Finance centre in Peterborough, managing the UK and European finance, operational and facilities teams.

Louise qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1998 training at PwC, managing the audits of both private and public sector clients.

Louise is now responsible for the financial management of the United Learning group together with company secretarial and legal governance, group procurement and freedom of information compliance.

She is also a governor at her local primary school.

Lauren Thorpe

Chief Transformation Officer

Lauren Thorpe

Chief Transformation Officer

Lauren joined United Learning in September 2023 as Chief Transformation Officer. Prior to this, Lauren was the Director of Standards & Performance at Ark Schools. During her 6 years at Ark, Lauren led on data and insights, assessment, digital learning and overall education strategy, as well as the trust’s approach to supporting school improvement through monitoring, co-ordinating central education services, and evaluating the impact of strategic priorities.

Prior to joining Ark, Lauren was the Principal of a secondary free school in South East London, leading the school to achieve its first GOOD rating from Ofsted. Lauren holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Science, a master’s degree in ICT in Education, she has sat on the DfE EdTech Advisory Board and Workload Review Panel and is an Ofsted Inspector.

Fiona Boulton OBE

Director of Independent Schools

Fiona Boulton OBE

Director of Independent Schools

Fiona became Director of Independent Schools in September 2022. She originally joined the organisation in 1995 when it was the Church Schools Company; it later became United Learning. She was Head of Guildford High School from 2002 – 2022 and is currently the Executive Head there. Guildford High became a Teaching School in 2013 and Fiona was appointed an NLE, leading the United Learning Teaching School Alliance from 2013 – 2020. She has a variety of Governance roles; she is an Associate Director of Cumbria University (since 01.06.21), she is on the Governing body of Epsom College (since 01.11.09) and St Ives Prep School (since 15.07.13) and she is a member of the ‘Learning Partners Academy Trust’.

Fiona is on the Advisory Board of a new charity called the School Partnerships Alliance and she has helped to establish the West Surrey Partnership of all the state and independent schools in the Guildford area. She was Chair of HMC in 2019-2020, and on the Advisory Council of the Institute for Ethical AI in Education (IEAIED) (2018 – 2021).

In 2023, Fiona was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list for services to education.

Suzanne Howard

Director of Professional Development

Suzanne Howard

Director of Professional Development

Suzanne joined United Learning in 2012 following five years working on policy development and implementation at the Department for Education. She has held various roles in the Group, including Head of Operations for our Partnership Fund which focused on education with character, and Deputy Director, Strategy and Performance. Suzanne set up our new Professional Development team as Director in 2020 and is passionate about all school staff having access to training and opportunities to excel in their role and progress in their career.

Suzanne holds a degree in Social and Political Science from the University of Cambridge. She lives in south London with her husband and two children.

Kate Bradley

Director of Human Resources

Kate Bradley

Director of Human Resources

Kate joined United Learning in August 2020 from her previous role as Director of Human Resources at the University of Leicester. Prior to moving into the higher education sector, Kate worked in several senior NHS roles completing 25 years as Director of Human Resources at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

Kate is delighted to have had the opportunity to join United Learning having started her career as a primary school teacher. Kate is a Trustee at LOROS Hospice.

United Learning comprises: United Learning Ltd (Registered in England No: 00018582. Charity No. 313999) UCST (Registered in England No: 2780748. Charity No. 1016538) and ULT (Registered in England No. 4439859. An Exempt Charity). Companies limited by guarantee.
Registered address: United Learning, Worldwide House, Thorpe Wood, Peterborough, PE3 6SB.

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