Meet our School Leaders


Matthew Crawford 

Matthew has six and a half years of headship experience and several years of working as a leader in schools. He is currently Executive Head of Embark Federation in Derbyshire which consists of Richardson Endowed Primary in Smalley and Kilburn Junior School. The Federation launched in January 2017 and he has been headteacher at Richardson Endowed since September 2011. 

Matthew has been designated a National Leader of Education in February 2017 as a result of his work as a system leader and Richardson Endowed Primary became a National Support School. 

Matthew has worked as an Associate School Improvement Adviser for Derbyshire County Council over the last three and a half years supporting nine schools and their leaders in a wide variety of school improvement activities. All nine schools now have good or better Ofsted judgements. 

Matthew has also recently enjoyed working with a ‘coasting’ school in his role as NLE which was assigned by the RSC team. 

He believes that schools are ‘stronger together’ and enjoys sharing practice whilst also learning from others and helping to improve the federation. He also believes that schools should be at the heart of their communities and give their children the best possible education. 

Both schools in the federation have an exciting curriculum which is accompanied by a rich diet of wider opportunities in Music, Sport, Science and the Arts. The federation has excellent leadership in both schools and very good capacity to support others. 

Prior to his work in Smalley, Matthew taught for nine years in two Derby City schools and then for four years as a Deputy Head in Nottinghamshire.



Philip Searson 

Philip has ten years of headship experience from posts at two different schools and several years of working as a leader in schools prior to that. He is currently Headteacher of Longford Church of England Primary School in Derbyshire where he has been for seven years. 

Philip was designated a National Leader of Education in June 2017 as a result of his work as a system leader and Longford Church of England Primary became a National Support School. Prior to this Philip has also supported one school in his role as LLE which was assigned through the Derbyshire Teaching School Alliance. The brief for this work was to support the school to gain a ‘good’ Ofsted grading which was achieved in July 2016 and to support the newly appointed leadership of the school in continuing to raise standards. 

Philip has worked as an Associate School Improvement Adviser for Derbyshire County Council over the last three and a half years supporting a total of eleven schools and their leaders in a wide variety of school improvement activities. All eleven schools now have good or better Ofsted judgements. 

To enable this role to be undertaken Philip has reduced his teaching commitment at Longford from 2.5 days per week to 0.5 days and coached a middle leader who became Deputy Headteacher in 2016, therefore strengthening the leadership structure within school. 

This leadership is now strong and will enable Philip to be out of school and to facilitate school improvement work in the future.  As a result of this leadership development within school Philip has been asked to support the LA ‘Aspirant Head teacher’s programme’ by hosting visits from delegates. 

He believes in schools working together to share practice and learn together and has made numerous links with other schools to improve practice through collaborative work to develop assessment, the quality of teaching and learning etc. Longford Church of England Primary School also hosts an annual ‘Teaching and Learning Conference’ open to any school. Over the last 9 years a range of highly regarded educational speakers have been invited to lead this day. 

Longford Church of England Primary School has an exciting curriculum focussing on achieving high quality outcomes and includes a good balance of opportunities in both visual and performing arts, sports, personal development as well as the core and foundation curriculum subjects. Aspects of this provision have been recognised and the school has been asked to share practice through leading training. Most recently, following achieving Outstanding Church School status in January 2017, Philip has been asked to contribute to Diocese Board of Education training on ‘child led collective worship’. 

Prior to his two Headships in Derbyshire, Philip taught for eighteen years in two Nottinghamshire schools and one Nottingham City school. This experience included the roles of SENDCO in a city primary school, Advanced Skills teacher for 4 years and Deputy Headship.



Jonathan Lynch 

Jonathan has 5 years of headship experience and several years as a senior leader before that. He is currently the head teacher at Heath Primary School and was previously Headteacher at Westhouses Primary. 

He has helped to support other schools as a senior leader both in his role as a Primary Maths Specialist and as a Lead Literacy and Maths teacher for Derbyshire.  

Jonathan believes strongly in developing the team in school to improve opportunities for pupils and staff within the school.  Staff at Heath Primary School work hard to contribute to their own development and enthusiastically share good practice both with each other and with other local schools. Staff regularly go ‘above and beyond’ to support children and help to move the school forward. 

Heath Primary has a significant role within the community and has over the past few years developed a strong pastoral and nurture provision; enabling the school to support families as well as the children who attend the school. The ethos of the school builds on this as well as raising aspirations for children, though a broad and balanced curriculum that celebrates all the achievements of our pupils from kart racing out of school to dance festivals and our annual community art exhibition. 

Prior to the above he worked both in the centre and north of the peak district for other Derbyshire schools, working in a range of schools both in size and demographic. 

Kate Mason

Kate has over 20 years of leadership experience in education. She is currently Headteacher at Richardson Endowed Primary school after previously fulfilling the roles of Assistant and Deputy Head there.

Richardson Endowed Primary is a National Support School and visitors are welcomed not only from our county but also from across the whole country.

Kate has worked extensively with over 20 NQT’s in both Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire as a Mentor and is passionate about developing highly skilled and motivated teachers. She also works in partnership with the University of Derby and is regularly on the interview panel looking for students for the BEd and PGCE programmes.

Kate is a musician and has directed many school productions at a primary school level giving the children a professional experience of performing with sound, lighting and a live band.

Kate has a passion for education and believes that confident children make the best learners and therefore strives to develop the whole child through the Embark Core Beliefs of Family, Integrity, Teamwork and Success.

Lynn Pilling .jpg
Lynn Pilling

Lynn is the Headteacher at Howitt Primary Community School. She took up a post as class teacher at William Howitt Junior Community School after teaching in an inner city school in Derby.

She soon took on many different responsibilities through the school from English subject leader to health and safety manager. She became assistant Headteacher at the junior school and acted as Headteacher on the retirement of the school’s Headteacher.

After William Howitt Junior Community School amalgamated with Mary Howitt Infant Community School in September 2007, Lynn became the Deputy Headteacher of Howitt Primary Community School supporting the Headteacher in drawing the stakeholders together during a large change for the school community. This was a non-class based role which Lynn enjoyed, as she was able to develop her leadership skills further in a large primary setting as well as support both children and teachers to achieve the children’s potential.

Lynn was seconded to a junior school to support the Headteacher in developing a positive ethos and driving standards forward.

In 2015, Lynn took the school through a very challenging time as Lynn became Acting Headteacher, after the sudden death of the Headteacher. She was appointed as the Headteacher in January 2016. The role has brought new challenges and experiences, which Lynn has relished and overcome with the clear and united support of the staff. All teachers, as well as teaching and learning assistants are committed and work so hard to achieve the best possible experiences and learning for the children in a safe and nurturing environment.

Lynn has been at Howitt Primary in a variety of capacities for over twenty-two years and is keen to continue to move forward and provide the very best learning environment for every child. She is very dedicated and passionate about developing the whole child and providing the best experiences and opportunities to achieve every child’s full potential so that they are ready for life after school.

Liz Peach

Liz has been the Head Teacher of Horsley Woodhouse Primary School for the past 6 years and has led the school through 2 highly successful Ofsted Inspections. Liz has 12 years experience of being a senior leader prior to securing her first headship. Liz has also been an Advance Skills Teacher in English and has supported many different schools in Derbyshire as part of her role.

Prior to becoming Head Teacher at Horsley Woodhouse, Liz was seconded by the Local Authority to be an Acting Head Teacher for 2 terms where she continued to develop her leadership skills. She was then seconded again to a struggling school for a year to support the Head Teacher with leading teaching and learning. Her Local Authority Senior Advisor at the time reported that she had done an extremely good job in unifying the whole educational team and helping to move the school forwards.

Liz is a Head Teacher who is passionate about teaching and learning and spends much of her leadership time in classrooms coaching and mentoring teachers and teaching assistants and supporting children with their learning. Liz strongly believes in educating the whole child with a rich and varied curriculum and has a firm belief that together we make a difference.

Liz and her team are very excited about maths mastery teaching and the school have received high praise from the Local Authority.  Many colleagues from other schools have visited Horsley Woodhouse to observe the delivery of teaching and learning in maths. Recently Liz and her maths subject leader were asked to present at the Maths Conference where they received glowing feedback about their maths mastery journey.

Liz has always been passionately committed to pupil inclusion and development and to providing equal opportunities for the progress of all - including pupils with SEND. She was a SENCO for 6 years as part of her management role as Deputy Head Teacher.

Robert Hull

Robert is headteacher of Kilburn Junior School where he has worked for 22 years, as class teacher, deputy headteacher, and for the last 18 months as headteacher.

Robert lead the school into its federation with Smalley Richardson in January 2017 and was a key member of the team who helped forge and shape the Embark Federation, its vision, core values and underlying principles.

Robert strongly believes in the need for schools to provide pupils with an enriching, stimulating experience, with a breadth of opportunity that will excite, motivate and prepare them for the future. He is committed to developing a rich and engaging curriculum whilst also providing opportunities beyond the classroom and school day that all pupils can access.

Robert has a wealth of experience as a teacher and senior leader and is passionate about teamwork, challenging and supporting staff to bring out the best in them and their pupils. He promotes collaboration within school and between the school and wider community but also considers the well-being of staff as being of paramount importance.

A keen sportsman, Robert gives sport and physical activity a high priority at school and has developed an ethos and culture that promotes this. He is also keen to promote the use of the outdoors, recognising it as an important tool in providing meaningful experiences for pupils beyond the classroom.

Overall Robert strives to provide a happy environment for the school community where stakeholders want to be. He is well-respected within the school community and endeavours to lead his team by example.

Kate Beattie 

Kate has been headteacher at Chaucer Infant and Nursery School for the last 13 years and she has had over 20 years’ experience in leadership roles. Prior to becoming headteacher at Chaucer, Kate was Deputy Head at Hasland Infant School in Chesterfield for 10 years where she helped to support other schools as a Lead Maths teacher for Derbyshire.  

Kate believes very strongly in the importance of developing well rounded, caring and responsible citizens. Our vision at Chaucer is encompassed in our motto Belong, Enjoy, Aim high, Respect. We aim for every child to feel valued and safe in our school, we want it to be a place where children can grow and flourish and we want the children to be eager to come in to school, happy and excited to learn.

Kate was SENDCo for the first 7 years of her headship at Chaucer and is committed to ensuring we are an inclusive school that has a desire to make a difference for all pupils in our community.

We are an Attachment Aware School, having taken part in a yearlong action research project, as part of Derbyshire’s Attachment Aware Programme. We were very proud in 2018 to receive the national Alex Timpson ARC Attachment Award which recognises and celebrates best practice in attachment and trauma aware schools and settings.     

We are also proud to have received our sixth Eco-Schools Green Flag which is an internationally recognised award for excellence in environmental action and learning.

Kate has a really dedicated staff who work extremely hard for the children in their care. We are an important part of the community and all staff go above and beyond doing their best to support our children and their families.

Anna Upton 

Anna  is the headteacher at Chaucer Junior School.   She started her teaching career in Nottingham City.  This is where her first leadership role was secured. She then moved to work as an Advanced Skills Teacher where she supported schools and teachers across Derbyshire.  She has also worked in various roles as an Associate School Improvement Adviser for Derbyshire County Council supporting schools and their leaders in a wide variety of school improvement activities. All schools now have good or better Ofsted judgements. 

Anna is a member of the Chartered College of Teaching and is currently completing her NPQEL after working as an executive leader to support an acting headteacher.  Anna really enjoyed the challenge of the executive leadership role and has enjoyed the opportunities that Embark have given her to develop this role further.

Anna’s school motto is ‘Dream, Believe, Achieve’.  She  leads an inclusive and happy school, that is ambitious for all it’s pupils.  She feels that her amazing team at Chaucer are key to the success of the school.  Every member of the Chaucer team is dedicated to improving the life of each individual child.  Nurturing their strengths, personalities and interests to bring out the best in them.

Chaucer Junior School  uses the THRIVE Approach to support and encourage the development of confident, curious, creative and capable children and young people who are open to learning and able to deal with life’s ups and downs.

Chaucer has a strong partnership with it’s community and  Anna has employed a community and gardening ambassador to ensure the school remains at the heart of its community.

Melanie Lawson

Melanie Lawson is Executive Headteacher at Aldercar Infants and Ladywood Primary. 

Melanie grew up and went to school in Derbyshire and trained to teach in Chester where she successfully completed her B.Ed. degree. 

After working initially in an amazing small school on the outskirts of Widnes she travelled abroad to continue her teaching career in Egypt. There were many highlights for her during this time but taking a Year 2 class on a local history trip to The Pyramids was certainly one of them. She then returned to the UK and worked in a number of schools in Burton upon Trent and Derby before she securing a Deputy Headship at Arboretum Primary School in Derby. Inclusive education became a strong feature of her practice as she was also SENCO and head of the ERS for Hearing Impaired Children at Arboretum. 

Completing her NPQH whilst Deputy Head was a crucial moment in her drive to continue with her leadership journey and soon after completing it she was appointed at Headteacher at Stanley St. Andrew’s in 2005. Stanley St Andrew’s was a happy community-based school where family and faith mattered. Whilst at this school she worked successfully with Behaviour Support and developed Derbyshire’s approach to Managed Moves enabling learners to have a fresh start and ensuring that the quote that it takes a village to raise a child was true. 

Melanie secured her second headship at Ladywood Primary School. Ladywood under her leadership has gone from strength to strength, team work is the key according to Melanie and she is proud of the part all stakeholders play in school improvement. At Ladywood everyone believes that all children should be able to Learn, Achieve and Thrive

She is excited to begin working with Aldercar in January 2020 and will ensure that the children in school are the stars. 

Melanie has been privileged to be involved in leading schools for 22 years and is still as committed as she was at the start of her leadership journey. She has supported a wide range of schools over the past 10 years and she currently supports schools as an Associate School Improvement Adviser for Derbyshire Local Authority and has also delivered content to aspiring heads as part of their NPQH. She is also Chair of Governors at a local secondary school. 

Every day is a school day for Melanie’s and she strives hard to make sure she continues with lifelong learning, with this in mind she is currently completing her NPQEL. 

She is proud to be a new member of the Embark Family and is excited about the collaborative approach the Federation have to school improvement. Melanie believes that you should grow where you are planted and her feet and heart are firmly rooted in Derbyshire. 


Denise Wells

Denise is the headteacher at Field House Infant School. She started her teaching career at Borrowood Infant School in Spondon, moving on to a small school where she was acting head at Eggington Primary School before taking on a Deputy Headship at a brand new primary school in Swadlincote. She moved to take on the headship at Field House Infant School in April 1989.

Over the last 30 plus years as a Headteacher Denise has seen an enormous amount of change- when she first took on the role schools were just having their budgets delegated and the National Curriculum was beginning to take shape! The challenges the role of Headteacher in our ever changing world is what motivates and enthuses her to continue in the role as she believes, wholeheartedly, in educating children to be confident in themselves for whatever the future holds.

Field House Family are a community who work together to inspire their pupils to reach their full potential through nurture and learning, building a solid foundation for the future. The school logo is Aspire, Believe, Achieve. Field House is an inclusive and happy school that is ambitious for all pupils. Staff are strong believers in developing children who are resilient and open to the challenges life offers. Following research work carried out with University Of the First Age in July 2018 on their Parent Programme- Helping My Child To Learn the positive words from those on the course led the school to  develop the THRIVE Approach.

 “If education was an insect, it would be a caterpillar, because it continues to grow and evolve into a butterfly- learning and changing. Each insect being unique”.

Denise and her staff truly believe that a whole education unlocks the opportunity for EVERY child to succeed, particularly those who face additional challenges. All our young people can make a difference in their lives and those of others given the right leadership, self-belief and approaches to learning.


To create 'stand out' schools at the heart of their community.

Reading with Rosie!

22 Apr 2021

Embark’s Fundraising and Events Manager Rosie Mclaughlin started recording a daily story to keep pupils entertained during the second lockdown. Rosie wanted to do something that would help her t...

Christmas isn't cancelled at Embark!

22 Apr 2021

Embark arranged a special treat for all our schools called ‘Christmas isn't cancelled for Embark schools!’ As part of that we arranged licences for all our children to...

Chatsworth House Partnership

15 Dec 2020

Howitt Primary School and Chaucer Junior School were lucky to experience a fantastic trip to Chatsworth House. Embark's partnership with the Chatsworth Estate and Lord Burlington's has begun with this...

EMBARK Trust Christmas Songs - Dec 2020

14 Dec 2020

Our fabulous @embarkfed family wanted to work together and create a few Christmas videos! Huge thank you @martin_whitemanfor putting these together so skilfully! #family #teamwork Click below to see t...

The Ultimate West End Day Trip!

03 Dec 2019

On Wednesday 13th November, Embark Federation ‘embarked’ on a trip of a lifetime for 42 of our children across 7 of our schools. After an early start of 6:30am from Derby, we travelled to...

Hot House Jazz Day!

03 Dec 2019

Please see below a press release following our day with Hot House: Over 100 children from Bondholder Embark Federation, came together earlier this month to work with the inspirational Jon Eno and his...

Embark Art Day 2019

08 Jul 2019

70 children from across our Embark schools came together this week for a fabulous Art Day.   They were so excited by the opportunity to work with the brilliant artist Sophie Edwards and the amaz...

Leigh Timmis' Tales Inspire Kilburn Junior

03 Jun 2019

Round the World cyclist, World Record holder, Adventurer and friend of Kilburn Junior School, Leigh Timmis, visited us today, captivating pupils, parents and staff with tales of his accomplishments an...

EMBARK Pupils Make History

13 May 2019

Pupils from four of our Academy Schools, Kilburn Junior, Horsley Woodhouse Primary, Howitt  Primary and Smalley Richardson Primary made history today when they planted the first of 250,000 trees...

West End Stars Visit

13 Apr 2019

Tuesday 9th April is a day that will live long in the memory for 70 children from Embark Federation, a trust of 7 schools across Derbyshire. Two stars from the West End, Victoria Farley and Sophie Isa...