Our Trustees

Philip Thompson

Chair of Trustees, Member

Phil joined Waterloo Primary Academy as a parent governor over nine years ago and has been involved in a number of school initiatives and improvements.  Phil has been Chair of Governors for Waterloo for a number of years supporting the school through two ‘good’ OFSTED graded inspections and has recently become Chair of Zest.

Phil has a wealth of education experience, his teaching career starting in early 2000s and he has held a number of teaching and leadership positions across the education sector. Phil has experience in teaching secondary and post 16 education including Further and Higher Education.

As well as being a qualified teacher, Phil has post graduate qualifications is Engineering, Human Resource Management and has a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership and Management specialising in SEND. Phil brings a significant amount of education experience around pastoral care, safeguarding and SEND to the board and is currently employed as the Head of SEND for a local council.

Mark Hamblett

Chief Executive Officer, Trustee

Mark started his teaching career in 2002.  Originally from Bolton, Mark began teaching in rural Cumbria.  He has taught in schools throughout Cumbria and Lancashire, before becoming Deputy Headteacher & SENCo at Bolton-le-Sands CE School in 2009.  Mark took up post as Headteacher of Kirkland & Catterall St. Helen’s, Garstang in 2012 and remained in post for three years before moving to a two-form entry school in Bolton in 2015.  Throughout these two headships, Mark also inspected schools under Section 48 (SIAMS) on behalf of  the Church of England throughout the Blackburn Diocese.  Mark was appointed as Headteacher of Waterloo Primary Academy, Blackpool and CEO of Zest Academy Trust in 2017.  In September 2022, Mark took up the position of CEO on a full-time basis.

Mark is also the Vice Chair of Governors at Bay Leadership Academy (11-16), Morecambe and is the Chair of Governors (Foundation appointed) at St. Patrick’s CofE Primary School, Kendal.

Mark is an Elder at Kendal United Reformed Church, where he is

Hemant Asher

Trustee, Chair of Finance, Audit & Risk (FAR) Committee

Hemant is a fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants and throughout his working career has worked for large multinationals, undertaking finance governance/risk management roles as well as head of operations/finance roles at international subsidiary operations.

During his working career to date, he has have been able to build a broad skills base not only in finance but also looking after the full requirements of running international subsidiary operations. He would like to be able to contribute to the Trust by making use of his experience.

His career to date can be looked at in three brackets:

2004 – 2018: Mainly undertaking internal controls/finance governance activity at a regional level covering the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Some of the specific projects undertaken include:

· Working with the global team to roll out processes and controls to meet the requirements of the US Foreign Corruption Practice Act, to the approximately 60 operating entities in the region. The requirements of the UK Bribery Act were also covered.

· For the UK entities, ensure  processes and controls met the requirements of the Senior Accounting Officer as detailed by HMRC.

· Integrated 6 acquired entities.

· Worked with finance transformation teams to ensure control requirements were included in the work instructions of the new teams based in the shared service centre.

1990 – 2004: Operational roles at international subsidiaries, either as operational or financial head at the international subsidiaries of Fujitsu in UAE, India, Malawi and Zambia.

· In UAE he transitioned the activities of the local entity from mainly provision of IT hardware installation and support, to undertaking IT turnkey projects as well as ERP implementation at customers.

· In India, transitioned the software division to a legal entity and sold 26% of this entity to a financial institution for $ 50 million.

· In Malawi, within 12 months turned a £ 450K loss to a £ 250K profit, during a period of severe scarcity of foreign exchange and rapid currency devaluation.

· In Zambia, stabilised the local operations during a period of hyperinflation and there after put in place a three year plan which would enable a smooth transition of the local activities to an agent, ensuring minimal impact to the reputation of the global entity.

1983 – 1990: Coopers & Lybrand Zambia, starting as audit semi-senior and progressing to audit partner. As an audit partner he was responsible for:

· 60 audit clients including the University of Zambia.

· Responsible for the professional training needs of the Zambia practice.

· Partner responsible for providing technical guidance.

· Undertaking peer reviews at other regional firms

Steve Farndon


Steve is a former teacher who has worked across a number of secondary schools, both in London and the North West.  He was also head of research and development at a primary-led teaching school hub which meant sustained collaboration with local primary schools.  He now works for a national education charity providing professional development to teachers and school leaders (Ambition Institute), where he designs and delivers programmes.  His work history means he has experience of the challenges facing primary school teachers and leaders and some of the evidence-informed strategies that might help.  He has also led programmes in Blackpool and Lancashire more widely, so has awareness of the demands of working in this region.  His particular interests are evidence informed teaching and school leadership and how this can be used to address inequality in educational opportunity.

Rebecca Foxton


Becky has worked in Blackpool education, and particularly school administration, throughout her occupational career. Whilst she is currently employed as a Business Manager in a large primary academy, she has also worked as a Business Manager in a large secondary academy which was a part of a successful multi academy trust.

Given the continually changing landscape of education and requirements of schools she has continually developed her experience, skills and knowledge to support her role. She has undertaken the CSBM, CIPFA Accounting for Academies, AAT Foundation Cert in Accounting and is currently studying AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting – Level 3.

Having always worked in Blackpool education, Becky has an understanding of the social and economic challenges faced in a Blackpool schools particularly.

Over the course of her career as a Business Manager she has also gained a significant amount of knowledge relating to school governance.

Ross Knaggs


Ross is the headteacher of a primary school in Kendal, Cumbria and CEO of a primary Multi Academy Trust.

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