About Optimus

Since 1997 we have been helping primary and secondary school leadership teams to manage staff development efficiently and effectively, stay compliant and drive whole school improvement.

Our Impact

We believe that high-quality professional development is one of the most powerful routes to school improvement. Read our case studies to find out how we work with our members to improve pupil outcomes, raise the bar of staff performance and save time and money on training.

Our contributors and experts

We are a range of expert contributors, innovative trainers and school-based practitioners from across the UK and beyond. For more information about some of our talented and passionate people, please do get in touch.

John Viner
John Viner
John is a full-time writer, teacher trainer and consultant with Adept Education Associates. He served for 28 years as a primary headteacher and has led five schools including a successful training school and a large coastal school. He has inspected for Ofsted for well over a decade.
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Josephine Smith
Josephine Smith
Josephine Smith is currently headteacher of a secondary school in Lincolnshire and formerly vice principal and head of English and director of Key Stage 4 in schools in Leicestershire and Rutland.
Josephine holds NPQH, is a Research Associate for the National College and has presented at several national conferences on partnership working, promoting parental engagement, cost effective CPD and performance management.
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Katie Michelon
Katie Michelon
Katie Michelon is a solicitor in the education team at Browne Jacobson LLP.
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Paul Ainsworth
Paul Ainsworth
Paul K. Ainsworth is a former head and currently an academy advisor for a multi-academy trust. His books include The Senior Leader's Yearbook: A handbook for implementing outstanding school systems.
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Abi Clay
Abi Clay
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Alan Mackenzie
Alan Mackenzie
For 7 years Alan Mackenzie was the Service Manager at Lincolnshire County Council managing all IT services for around 350 schools as well as being the e-safety lead for Children's Services raising initiatives for schools, police and the third sector. Alan then left the local authority to establish his own consultancy to work with schools and others as a specialist ICT and e-safety adviser.
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Alison Thomas
Alison Thomas
Alison Thomas is co-editor of the Special Children magazine.
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Anita Devi
Anita Devi
Anita Devi is a special educational needs consultant, policy developer, strategist and trainer with experience from early years to postgraduate provision in the UK and overseas.
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Ann Raymond
Ann Raymond
Ann is director of The Child Protection and Safeguarding Consultancy. Formerly a NSPCC Education Adviser and national lead Education Adviser for safeguarding disabled children, Ann has extensive experience in supporting children’s services to meet their child protection and safeguarding responsibilities.
Ann has taught in several special and mainstream schools and was deputy principal in a 52-week residential school for children and young people with complex needs. Ann is the author of The Child Protection and Safeguarding Handbook for schools and Safeguarding Children and Young People with Disabilities and Special Educational Needs.
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Cate Hart
Cate Hart
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Chris Moyse
Chris Moyse
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Christopher Robertson
Christopher Robertson
Christopher recently retired from being a lecturer in inclusive and special education at The University of Birmingham. He has had extensive experience of teaching children and young people with physical and/or severe learning difficulties, and profound and multiple learning difficulties. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of education policy, international perspectives on special and inclusive education, the coordination of provision for children and young people with special educational needs, pupil/student participation, and all aspects of teacher education.
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Dai Durbridge
Dai Durbridge
Dai is a Partner in the education team at Browne Jacobson solicitors and specialises in safeguarding. Dai provides advice and training to teachers and other education professionals on relevant legal and practical issues. Dai has a particular focus on safeguarding issues, having written numerous articles on information sharing, handling allegations against staff, the new vetting and barring scheme and the Protection of Freedoms Bill. Dai provides advice to schools and colleges on policy drafting, implementing procedures for the safeguarding of children and regarding admissions and exclusions.
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Elizabeth Burns
Elizabeth Burns
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Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth taught in secondary schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex before leaving full-time teaching to write in the fields of education and health.
Over the last ten years, Elizabeth has had many books published including The NQT Handbook, FAQs for NQTs, Teacher Well-being: Looking after yourself and your career in the classroom, What Next After School? and FAQs for TAs. She contributes editorial content for British Qualifications and British Vocational Qualifications.
Elizabeth has a specific interest in the well-being of both teachers and pupils alike and ensures that this theme runs through all that she writes and speaks about.
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Gareth D Morewood
Gareth D Morewood
Gareth is director of curriculum support (SENCo) at Priestnall School, which was awarded an ‘outstanding’ judgement by Ofsted in June 2011. He has worked voluntarily supporting parents and carers with SEN legislation and in preparing cases for SENDIST. Gareth is a passionate advocate of inclusive education, has written extensively and regularly speaks at national conferences, particularly on provision within mainstream settings for students with complex needs.
Gareth’s ground-breaking eBook, The Role of the SENCo: an insider’s guide was published by Optimus in 2010.
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Gill O'Donnell
Gill O'Donnell
Gill has written many articles for Optimus Education. Her book, ‘Practical Health and Safety in Secondary Schools: A whole-school resource’ was published by Optimus in 2012. Gill was a teacher for 13 years working in the state and private sectors and has worked with nursery pupils through to adults. Since leaving teaching she has worked as a community project coordinator, education researcher, freelance writer and an H&S advisor with Spot On Health & Safety, working on international and national exhibitions and events as well as providing practical support to schools, small businesses and charities.
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Heather Mitchell
Heather Mitchell
Heather Mitchell is an employment lawyer in the education team at Browne Jacobson. She provides advice and training to Head Teachers, SLT, Governors and other education professionals on all staffing issues. She has acted for schools in tribunal claims from unfair dismissal to equal pay. Heather provides HR services and legal guidance to schools and academies on day to day staffing issues including managing sickness absence, investigations, dismissals and how to manage industrial action.
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Ian Warwick
Ian Warwick
Ian Warwick is the founder and senior director of London Gifted & Talented and previously taught in inner-city comprehensives for 20 years. LG&T have worked with more than 3,000 schools and 8,000 teachers across London. Ian now also works with networks of schools across the UK, Europe and worldwide.
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Jean Gross
Jean Gross
Jean Gross is a national expert on inclusion and frequently acts in an advisory capacity to government. She has been a teacher, an educational psychologist and head of children’s services in a local authority. As Director of the government’s National Strategies she led work on overcoming barriers to achievement, including the influential SEAL approach to developing children’s social and emotional competences. She is the author of books on children’s issues, including Beating Bureaucracy in Special Educational Needs and Time to Talk. She was awarded a CBE in the 2011 New Year’s honours list, for services to education.
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Jo Facer
Jo Facer
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Micon Metcalfe
Micon Metcalfe
Micon Metcalfe is the director of finance and business at Dunraven School. She is a specialist leader of education and was one of the first 100 to be awarded the Advanced Diploma in School Business Management. Micon has worked in schools across the 4-19 age range and has wide experience in maintained and academy school finance, HR and capital programmes. She is also experienced in change management and is interested in how school business professionals can contribute to the changing educational landscape.
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Nickii Messer
Nickii Messer
Nickii Messer was a school business manager for many years in three school phases, including seven years on the SLT. She now works as a consultant and, in recognition of her strategic leadership experience, is Anglia Ruskin’s operational lead for their SBM programmes. Nickii is passionate about the training and development of school and academy support staff; her support staff middle leadership course has been particularly successful. Messer was SBM for many years in three school phases, including seven years on the SLT. She now works as a consultant and, in recognition of her strategic leadership experience, is Anglia Ruskin’s operational lead for their SBM programmes. Nickii is passionate about the training and development of school and academy support staff; her support staff middle leadership course has been particularly successful.
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Ruth Agnew
Ruth Agnew
Ruth has experience as a governor, chair and interim executive board (IEB) member across four schools over the last ten years. She was designated a National Leader of Governance (NLG) by the National College in April 2012 and has been involved in the management of local authority governor support services since 2007. She is actively involved in the National Co-ordinators of Governor Services network and sits on the National Co-ordinators of Governor Services national committee. Ruth is also a qualified and experienced HR professional.
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Ruth Powley
Ruth Powley
Ruth Powley has been teaching for 22 years in a variety of roles including head of department, senior leader and senior leader consultant. She is currently the deputy headteacher at Wilmslow High School in Cheshire.
Ruth is passionately committed to enabling the teaching profession to reclaim its pedagogy.
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Sophie Chalmers
Sophie Chalmers
Sophie Chalmers is co-editor of Special Children, focusing on practical, proven advice to make SENCOS' lives easier.
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Sue Birchall
Sue Birchall
Sue is an experienced business manager with knowledge across the sector both in maintained and academy through all phases. She has also worked as an assessor for the DSBM, written for various sector publications and contributed to training manuals. She is currently a specialist leader in education and is registered as an associate trainer for the NASBM.
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Suzanne O'Connell
Suzanne O'Connell
Suzanne O'Connell has more than 25 years' teaching experience, 11 years of which were as a junior school headteacher. She has a particular interest in special needs, child protection and extended services and is currently a writer, editor and trainer.
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Tom Fay
Tom Fay
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Torsten Payne
Torsten Payne
Torsten Payne is the G&T coordinator at St Luke’s Science and Sports College in Exeter. Torsten also writes, consults and lectures on G&T provision across the UK.
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The Optimus Team

Sara Boomsma
Conferences manager
Sara Boomsma
Sara Boomsma has been with Optimus Education since 2011 and is the conference production manager. She is responsible for the production side of the conference division and ensuring the highest possible standards in programme research, development and execution.
She has a particular interest in the fields of special educational needs, supporting vulnerable learners and school leadership.
In her spare time Sara loves to sing and can be found performing with Starling Arts.
Contact Sara on sara.boomsma@optimus-education.com and find her on twitter at @saraboomsma.
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Lisa Griffin
Content lead
Lisa Griffin
Lisa Griffin is content lead at Optimus Education, focusing on leadership and governance.
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Jamie Maw
Events producer
Jamie Maw
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Liz Worthen
Head of content
Liz Worthen
Liz Worthen taught English at a London comprehensive school before getting engaged in the world of CPD through roles at London Gifted & Talented and Teachers TV. Now head of content at Optimus Education, Liz oversees the development of resources for our Knowledge Centre and In-House Training subscribers.
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Peter Kealy
Senior Account manager
Peter Kealy
Peter has been an account manager with Optimus since March 2013. Peter is responsible for looking after Optimus members, helping them to achieve value for money for the life of their membership. In his spare time, he likes to attend rock concerts and festivals in the UK and around Europe.
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Margaret Garrard
Acting MD
Margaret Garrard
Margaret Garrard has been with Optimus Education since 2010, and currently leads the strategic and operational direction of OE’s professional development offering across live and digital formats.
Margaret has worked in publishing, events and training for 15 years and is passionate about lifelong learning. She is also responsible for developing key partnerships for the business and is always interested in new collaborative project opportunities.
In her ‘spare’ time, Margaret is proud to be on the Board of Governors of a primary school on the southeast coast.
Please get in touch margaret.garrard@optimus-education.com
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Alex Masters
Content lead
Alex Masters
Alex Masters is content lead at Optimus Education, focusing on school business management. She has a particular interest in HR, innovation and pupil premium funding.
Prior to working at Optimus, Alex worked as a Business Editor at Informa and, before that, as an English teacher at an academy in Kent. Twitter @BusinessOE
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Emily-Jane Ganney
Customer support
Emily-Jane Ganney
Emily-Jane Ganney has been with Optimus Education since 2013, and currently leads the customer support team.
Emily-Jane has worked within customer services for 10 years and is passionate about delivering the highest possible standard of support to all customers.
In her spare time, Emily-Jane enjoys playing netball for her local league.
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Katie Renton
Conference operations exec
Katie Renton
Katie Renton is the conference operations executive here at Optimus, sourcing venues and running our live events.
Contact Katie at katie.renton@optimus-education.com.
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James Allen
Senior events producer
James Allen
James has been with Optimus Education since 2014 and is now a senior conference producer. He is responsible for a wide portfolio of events from early research stages, through to programme development, speaker acquisition and ensuring the event runs smoothly on the day.
James currently focuses on school safeguarding and child protection in education, ensuring schools are provided with updates on the latest legislation and practical safeguarding solutions.
Outside of work, James enjoys exploring London’s parks and pubs, watching sport, and talking about going to the gym without ever actually doing it.
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Optimus Education is a part of Prospects Education.