Executive Leadership Team

Gary Chown

Chief Executive Officer

Gary is one of the founding members of Ventrus (formerly The Primary Academies Trust). Gary is committed to Partnership working and prior to his current role he led the Devon Association of Primary Headteachers whilst also developing his own partnership of improving and successful schools. He has extensive school leadership experience and a strong, proven track record of school improvement. As an Executive Headteacher Gary has led five different schools through seven full inspections. At every one of those inspections the schools grading improved from its previous inspection grade. Ofsted have described Gary as an “exceptional Headteacher”. Gary has been commissioned on many occasions by the Local Authority to support and lead schools that are under-performing. Gary also has a great deal of multi-agency experience and his work as the strategic Lead for a cluster of children centres has been described as “inspirational” by the Chief Executive of Barnados. Gary has a passion for teacher training and development and he still finds time to act as a visiting lecturer on PGCE and BEd programmes for the University of Plymouth.

Lynne Hyland

Director of Finance

Lynne is a Fellow of the Chartered Certified Accountants, qualifying in 2002. Lynne is a strong believer in delivering high quality business partnering to non-finance colleagues for effective financial management, alongside effective supplier contract management to ensure the highest impact when funds are limited, delivering improved outcomes for pupils. Lynne and her team will be working to ensure that Ventrus is a financially sustainable environment to both learn and work.

Lynne has held a number of senior financial roles, including Head of Finance for the Business and Research section of Plymouth University, Finance Director for environmental charity the Westcountry Rivers Trust and finance advisor to the national charity, The Rivers Trust and most recently Interim Finance Director for Delt Shared Services, a spinout company jointly owned by Plymouth City Council and NHS N.E.W. Devon Clinical Commissioning Group where she implemented all the finance systems and procedures for this new start-up company to enable them to trade commercially and facilitation £1m of savings in their first full year of trading.

Claire Baillie

Director of School Improvement

Claire was the Headteacher of The Duchy School, Bradninch, which is part of Ventrus Multi-Academy Trust, from 2007 - 2017. She had previously taught Modern Foreign Languages in a large Comprehensive School in Nottinghamshire, before moving to Devon and transferring into the Primary Sector. Under her leadership, The Duchy School was rated as ‘outstanding’ across all areas by Ofsted in 2015.
In her role as Director of School Improvement, she is responsible for raising and maintaining standards in all of the Ventrus schools, which includes working with school leaders and teachers on identifying their school priorities and supporting them with the creation of effective school improvement plans and self-analysis tools. Claire has extensive experience of supporting schools with the creation of effective professional development programmes.
Claire was appointed as a National Leader in Education in 2015 in recognition of her success in raising standards in schools and she has a proven track record of leading improvement in schools across Devon and in neighbouring Local Authorities.
As strategic lead for the Ventrus Teaching School Alliance, Claire works to ensure that we are able to recruit and train the highest quality teachers for Ventrus schools in the future.
Her past experience of working as a senior commercial underwriter for one of the principal national insurance companies, supports the Trust in its risk management processes.

Ashley Leeson

Director of School Improvement

Following a varied career in banking and a family business, where she managed the finance and accounts systems, Ashley moved into teaching with a specialism in early childhood development. She has a passion for developing a practical and engaging curriculum, accessible to all children and is driven by a commitment to keeping children’s wellbeing at the heart of school practice.
Prior to becoming the deputy headteacher of a large primary school, where she led on assessment and curriculum development, she was a special educational needs co-ordinator and Primary Link Teacher for PE in Torbay. In this she worked collaboratively with colleagues in local secondary and special schools to develop a network of inclusive after school sport clubs. Ashley joined Ventrus in 2013, when she was appointed as the first Head of School of Woodwater Academy and strategic lead of the Ventrus SEND Best Practice Network. Shortly before moving into Executive Headship, Ofsted judged Ashley's leadership to be outstanding at Woodwater's first inspection.
In her role as Director of School Improvement, Ashley uses her particular strengths in system leadership, assessment and school improvement to contribute to the improvement in all Ventrus schools. She works with Headteachers to strengthen leadership and systems of accountability and has provided executive leadership to our secondary school, since they joined the Trust.