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Who We Are

Trustees |  Executive Team | Education Team

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

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

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.

Dame Sally Coates

Dame Sally Coates

Director of Secondary Academies

Sally Coates joined United Learning in September 2014. Her previous role was as Principal of Burlington Danes Academy an 11 – 18 Ark Academy in Hammersmith & Fulham. The school has 67% pupil premium and mostly serves the very deprived White City Estate. The school results in the last two years have almost doubled and this year the GCSE results including English and Maths were 80% 5A* - C.

She was acting as Executive Principal at Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton until July 2012 and Executive Principal of Ark Putney and West London Free School until July 2014. Prior to that, Sally was Head of Sacred Heart School an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ VA school in Camberwell, London Borough of Southwark. She has always worked in inner city schools in London and has been in teaching since 1976. Sally started work as an English Teacher in Peckham Girls, now The Academy at Peckham.

Sally chaired The Review of the Teaching Standards and most recently chaired the Skills Test Review. She also served as a member of the Key Stage 2 Test Review Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Bew. Sally was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2013 New Years Honours List.

Darran Ellison-Lee

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

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.

Dominic Norrish

Dominic Norrish

Chief Operating Officer

Dominic is an experienced teacher, school leader and educational researcher with a career spanning the private and public sectors, having taught a range of subjects from Key Stages 2 to 5. 

He joined United Learning as Group Director of Technology, having led the development of technology-enhanced cultures across two new-build academies within the group, implementing Learning Platforms and a one-to-one tablet strategy. Prior to this, Dominic spent five years working as an ICT Consultant for Becta and various Academy and BSF projects nationally, supporting schools from Cumbria to the Isles of Scilly in the development and realisation of their visions for technology. This was preceded by ten years teaching in schools, with the last four as a Deputy Head teacher. His Master’s degree in Education focused on School Leadership, with a research-based thesis examining the impact of ICT on pupil motivation. 

Dominic stepped into his current role in September 2019, taking responsibility for Technology, HR and Marketing.

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