Our Central Team
Our Central Team and school-based staff work closely together to achieve our shared goal of providing the best possible educational experiences for all our children and young people.
Please click on a photo to learn more about each team member.
Trust Leadership Group
Our Central Team (ID 1099)
Gary WilkieChief Executive Officer
In his 25 years as a school leader, Gary has gained extensive knowledge and understanding of how successful schools work. Amongst his credits are membership of the NLE Fellowship in 2015 and the NAHT School Improvement Commission in 2020. He was a member of the DfE Expert Advisory Group on Wellbeing.
He was the founding CEO of the Learning in Harmony Trust originally set up by two Newham schools Sheringham Primary School and JFK special schools. The trust now has ten schools across London and South East Essex.
Jennifer NaishChief Operating Officer
Jennifer NaishI have been working in the public sector since 2001 in a variety of roles from a national charity dedicated to supporting individuals to protect their rights through free advice and advocacy, to local government positions within Children's Services and Education and Learning departments. I have been a director of a local charity as well as a governor of a large primary school. I joined Learning in Harmony in 2017 as Head of Governance, Risk and Compliance, and as the Trust has grown and centralised services my role has grown too; I am now the COO and oversee the Director of Finance, Director of HR, Head of IT, Estates and Facilities Management, Governance and Media and Communications Officers.
Ashley EastwoodExecutive Leader
I was a headteacher for over 15 years, leading my second school through a process of expansion, amalgamation and ultimately academisation by joining the Learning in Harmony Trust family of schools. I've always loved working in highly collaborative, creative and nurturing environments and have been involved with coaching and mentoring headteachers and other leaders over many years. I became an executive leader at Learning in Harmony in 2019 and have had many different responsibilities, although most of my time is now spent working in SEND. I am the executive leader working with JFK Special School and am leading the project to build our new Special School, Connaught. I also work strategically on SEND across all our schools and am the executive headteacher of New North Academy in Islington
Darren WoollardDeputy CEO
I have been a head teacher (and Executive Head Teacher) for over ten years, initially at Blenheim Primary School in the City of Southend, and more recently at other schools within our Trust. I am passionate about improving the Quality of Education for all pupils through my work as an executive leader, and I lead on curriculum development. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to work with school leaders in a range of contexts. Â
In Southend, I chair the Primary Heads' Association and the School Performance Group (part of the Education Board); I am a Local Leader of Education, NAHT branch secretary for Southend and a coach for head teachers.
Jim JohnsonExecutive Leader
I have over 15 years experience as a headteacher. I strongly believe that culture is at the heart of school improvement therefore, in my schools, I always aimed to create an environment which fostered collaboration, innovation, distributed leadership and professional development. What attracted me to Learning in Harmony was that the Trust lives and breathes these values. Throughout my career, I have been committed to system-wide leadership. To this end, my roles have included: Local Leader of Education, School Improvement Partner and Director of School Improvement at Southend Primary Teaching School Alliance. As an executive headteacher, I have oversight of Upton Cross and Drew in Newham, and Edwards Hall in Southend; a significant element of my role is mentoring and coaching colleagues at these schools. In addition to this, I am responsible for leadership development across Learning in Harmony. I am a strong believer in the value of ongoing learning and I lead by example, having completed an Advanced Diploma in School Improvement, the NPQH, and a Masters in Leadership.
Emma GleesonExecutive Leader
I became the Head Teacher at Drew Primary in 2012 and moved the school into the Learning in Harmony Trust in 2018. The decision to do that sat heavily in my belief in collaboration. I believe that a culture of collaboration and a drive for continuous improvement should be at the heart of all schools. I have come from a family of educators and believe that a great education can change lives. The Learning in Harmony Trust values aligned with mine and the community I was working with. Since joining the Trust I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of Deputies supporting them into a role as Head of School and then into Headship along with Leadership teams to continually improve their schools. Over the last 18 months, I have been working with a school and Leadership team where rapid improvement is needed. I also Lead on Safeguarding in our Trust.
I also believe strongly that learning is a lifelong journey for everyone. I have enjoyed the challenges truly working collaboratively presents and have learnt more about leadership over the time within the Trust than I ever have in any other position I have held. I continue to learn on a daily basis and do this through leading by example and have therefore completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Education Leadership along with an NPQEL.
My heart also sits with improvements in Teaching and Learning and always striving to become better practitioners by collaborating and learning together, keeping up to date with current research along with having an interest in school finances and ensuring we are using the money available to support the pupils in the best way possible.
Raheema PatelBusiness and Infrastructure Lead Officer
Raheema PatelAt the Learning in Harmony Trust, I have been part of the Central Team since it was established in September 2014. I am responsible for Estates, Multiple Sites Facilities Management, Managing Construction Projects, Health and Safety Compliance.I have over 20 years of experience working in schools carrying out business management functions with a strong concentration in organisational leadership, strategic and critical thinking, innovation, effective communication, and project management.I work with cross-functional teams in our schools to provide clearly defined goals, guidance and resources to improve our estates and energy reduction. To enhance performance and outcomes in a manner that incorporates our vision and culture.
Louise PragnellHead of IT
I have over 20 years of experience in Education ICT and first started my journey as a school-based technician for a Local Authority. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to fulfil various roles within this field such as ICT Learning and Resources Manager, ICT Operations Manager and am currently the Head of IT.
I joined the Learning in Harmony team in 2015 and am proud to be part of such a values-driven organisation. As Head of IT, I have overall responsibility for the strategic and operational direction of IT across the Trust, including ICT support service delivery, and am passionate about enabling the best possible educational outcomes for our students and staff.
Sarah TylerHR Director
As HR Director for Learning in Harmony Trust, I have strategic responsibility for the Human Resources and Payroll function across the organisation. This incorporates all aspects of HR, including employee relations, policy development, recruitment and retention and HR metrics. The HR team manages the payroll function for approximately 1000 staff and is continuously developing systems and processes to create efficiencies and enhance the employee experience.
David WatlingInterim Finance Director