Local Leaders of Education

Meet our Local Leaders of Education:

Steve Wheeldon

I have worked in primary education for over twenty-five years and have taken on many varied roles and responsibilities.  I became a Headteacher back in January 2009 at Wilbraham Primary School in Fallowfield, Manchester.  With over 700 pupils and many different languages spoken, the school is in the heart of a vibrant multicultural setting and isn't without its challenges.   Since then I have been actively involved as a Chairperson for Manchester Central District Headteachers, as a guest speaker on the PGCE programme at Manchester Metropolitan University and more recently as both a mentor on the Thinking about Headship programme and as a Challenge Partner with other Headteachers and Principals.

I am the Chairperson for the Manchester PE Association and have been co-delivering Research School training around Leading Learning and Pupil Premium.

In my new role as a LLE, I am excited about the prospect of working with colleagues in different settings.  My approach is to be as supportive and helpful as I can, as taking on a new challenge can often feel quite daunting, however with the right guidance and advice along the way the road to success can be an enjoyable journey.  

Lisa Finnegan

In 2017, I was appointed Principal of Ash Grove and I have ensured through effective system leadership that the drive to maintain outstanding in all areas continues to be at the heart of all areas of school improvement. Each child at Ash Grove irrespective of background is given the opportunity to achieve. My most recent appointment as a Local Leader of Education will enable me to share that collective vision and the operational fundamentals that underpin the ultimate drive to impact positively on the attainment, progress and life chances of all children irrespective of starting points.

I began my teaching career in Year 2 and then moved through to upper key stage 2 the following year becoming the Year 6 teacher and Vice Principal in 2015. I am a Maths Specialist Teacher and was appointed a Maths Specialist Leader in Education in 2015. Following a month long secondment to Shanghai in 2016, I led the introduction and development of Mastery Mathematics focussing specifically on lesson structure and small step progression planning to aid conceptual development and depth of understanding. I have led the teaching and learning of Mathematics and Greater Depth learning through my role as Vice Principal, which has led to outstanding KS1 and KS2 attainment and progress in all areas.  As a Maths SLE, I have led school-to-school support initiatives and have devised a CPD programme to develop subject knowledge of mathematical pedagogy.

Prior to teaching, I worked in Media for 15 years, leading and directing strategy for sales, marketing and business development teams at Pearson, Microsoft and Reed Elsevier.  I joined Ash Grove Academy in 2012 and was in post on its journey through to Outstanding in 2013.

Kathy Nichol

I have worked in primary education since 1992.  I have taught in two London boroughs, Singapore and Cheshire East; working in primary, 3-19 and special education.   I became a Headteacher at Puss Bank in September 2010.  Puss Bank is a two-form entry primary school, with a large Nursery providing provision for children aged 2-4 years, and a resourced provision for children with autism. 

In the last few years, I have also joined Ofsted’s workforce as a serving practitioner Ofsted inspector.  It has been a privilege to be able to see how other schools in the North West work whilst carrying out this role.

I am delighted to have become an LLE with Aspirer.  I love working alongside colleagues to achieve the best for all children


Lisa Hesmondhalgh

I have been Principal at Peover Superior Endowed Primary School since September 2013. Peover is very small, rural school in the heart of Cheshire and headship has been a diverse, challenging but extremely rewarding role.

As well as Principal, I have several other roles. I am currently seconded as Director of English for the Aspire Education Trust and I am a Local Leader of Education and an Evidence Lead in Education for the Aspirer Research School. I have also recently qualified as an Ofsted Inspector.

As an ELE I have lead several cohorts through the EEF course ‘Leading Learning’ and engaged in a range of training courses from the Education Endowment Foundation, ensuring I keep my skills and knowledge as up to date as possible. Using evidence informed practice, Peover Superior moved from Special Measures in January 2014 to Outstanding in November 2017. As Principal, I ensure that all the staff at Peover Superior are fully drenched in opportunities to learn and develop their practice, using a sound evidence base.  The team work collaboratively with other schools to share good practice and carry out our own research trials.

My secondment as Director of English enables me to work with all the 11 schools in the Aspire Educational Trust to support the strategic improvement of English. This role has proved particularly diverse and has involved: monitoring the quality of the curriculum, supporting the improvement of early reading and phonics, delivering training for evidenced based interventions and moderation at KS1 and KS2. The role also given me the opportunity to lead the Reading for Pleasure initiative across the trust, working closely with Professor Teresa Cremin and engaging with her research to develop Teachers as Readers and ensure that every child across our schools develops a lifelong love of reading.

Previously, I worked in a large primary school in Wigan as Assistant Head teacher, working across each Primary Phase from Year 1 to Year 6. I also have experience of working with children with complex special educational needs in a specialist setting.

As well as English, my specialist strengths lie in music and performing arts; I have enjoyed leading many school productions, choirs and music ensembles over the years – a tradition which now continues to grow at Peover Superior Endowed Primary School.

In my free time, I like to keep fit and I relish a challenge. I really enjoy being outdoors; being a keen mountain-biker and winter sports lover. I am also a keen musician:  I play the piano, flute and several other musical instruments.