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About Us

Executive Team

Dean Ashton

Chief Executive Officer


Dean Ashton is Chief Executive and Accounting Officer for Reach South Academy Trust. Dean has over 30 years’ experience working in education and children’s services. Prior to his role as Chief Executive Dean was Operations Director for REAch2, the largest primary MAT in the country.

He was Corporate Director for Children, Schools and Families in Cornwall leading a system with 31 Secondary schools, 235 primary schools and 4 special schools.

He has significant successful experience of working across all phases of education. In addition to this Dean has led several multi-agency partnerships including The Cornwall Children’s Trust, Youth Justice Board and Disabled Young People’s Transition Board.

Christopher Toye

Deputy CEO


Christopher Toye is the Deputy CEO and has previously worked as Executive Headteacher of Millbay Academy. He is an experienced educator having been a teacher, Head teacher and Executive Headteacher in South London for thirty years. He has led a number of schools that have been recognised as outstanding by Ofsted. The majority of his experience has been with primary schools including those with SEN resource bases (for children with speech and language impairment and autism).

He was appointed a National Leader of Education by the Department for Education in 2013 and has carried out many primary and secondary school improvement deployments throughout England. He is a Trustee of a designated free school (promoted by the Portuguese Embassy), governor of an outstanding secondary school in London and has led a Teaching School. He is a board member of the Lambeth Schools Forum. He has previously been an Additional Inspector for The Tribal Group (commissioned by Ofsted)


Chris Jones

Interim Director of Finance


Chris is Interim Director of Finance. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and has over 25 years' experience working in a number of different sectors and for large multi-nationals. He has significant successful experience in consolidated financial reporting, strategic financial planning, leading on financial systems implementations and team development.


He is part of the ESFA working group 2 on developing better financial reporting in the education sector and has worked with a number of MATs with this in mind.











Tom Kirk

Interim Chief Financial Officer


Tom Kirk is the Interim CFO, having held the position with the Trust on two previous occasions. He is an experienced Finance Director in the education sector, both within Academy Trusts and for intermediaries, as well as having a range of leadership experience in other industries.  He also has school governor experience.

He has overseen many stages of growth within the Trust since first working with the Trust in 2019.  He is a qualified Chartered Accountant (ICAEW) of 10 years and has been involved with Academies since the act was introduced in 2010, including his time with Bishop Fleming LLP where the firm established itself very early on as a market and thought leader in the field.





Ian Carnwell

Director of Operations


Ian is Director of Operations. The operations function of the Trust includes estate management, IT, project management, legal services, health and safety, GDPR, communications and public relations. Ian has over 20 years’ experience in architecture and is Chartered Architect with the RIBA and is a registered Architect with the ARB. He is highly experienced in all aspects of school buildings, from initial design to completion.

He has been responsible for a significant number of new school build projects and major additions to existing schools.

Mark Elms         

Director of Education


Mark is the Director of Education. Mark Elms has 30 years of Headship and Executive headship experience in London Schools; he led the first federation of England Primary Schools. Mark was a National Leader of Education and took a lead role in the team that developed the London Challenge Primary Programme. He led Tidemill School in London from special measures to outstanding.

Under Mark’s leadership, Tidemill became a National Teaching School, making a significant contribution to the development of London Schools. Mark was a founding Director of Reach2 Academy Trust.

Michael Peters

Specialist Educational Consultant


Mike is a Specialist Education Consultant. He has over 30 years' experience working in education. He is a former Director of Education for the City of York and Lambeth local authorities. He has significant experience in education and children services across the country and has supported areas to achieve strong Ofsted outcomes.

He has led on many education functions including School Improvement, SEND and Inclusion, Equalities, Resources, Education Capital Development, Admissions, Exclusions, and a range of education support services.  In the southwest he was Strategic Leader for Cornwall Council, leading on SEND and Inclusion and equalities services and has worked in similar range of services with Somerset and Bristol.

Olivia Frings

Director of People


Olivia is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel Development as well as a trained Mediator and Coach. She has two Postgraduate Diplomas in HR and Management and a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

She has 27 years’ experience working in HR and Business across the public sector of which 17 years has been in senior leadership roles which have involved the establishment of several organisations.

Polly Lovell

Deputy Director of Education and Inclusion


Polly is a member of the Executive Team and is a Deputy Director for Education and Inclusion. Polly is also a STORM trainer and delivers suicide prevention and safety planning across the Trust.

Polly brings extensive expertise in employer engagement, apprenticeships and vocational education in KS4 and KS5 and is also a trained SENCo and has extensive experience of Safeguarding.

Contact Us

Reach South Academy Trust, c/o UTC Plymouth, Park Avenue, Devonport, Plymouth, PL1 4RL

T: 01752 987060