Attain Conference 2020 - Speakers

Building on the success of Pressburst Live, the Attain Conference is a communications strategy conference for Heads and senior staff focused on the challenges facing the sector in the year ahead: political challenges, public perception, parental demands, affordability, and greater accountability.

Rt. Hon. David Laws

Between 2010 and 2015, David served in the Coalition Government as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Schools' Minister and Cabinet Office Minister. Whilst Schools' Minister he was responsible for policy areas including all capital and revenue funding, the Pupil Premium, accountability and policy on teachers and leadership. David was Member of Parliament for Yeovil from 2001 until 2015. He graduated from King’s College, Cambridge, with a double first class honours degree in economics and worked at J.P. Morgan and Barclays de Zoete Wedd. Since 2015, he has been the Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute, an independent, impartial and evidence-based research institute that aims to promote high quality education outcomes for all children and young people, regardless of social background.

Professor Tanya Byron

Professor Tanya Byron is a consultant clinical psychologist specialising in child and adolescent mental health. She has an NHS career spanning twenty years working in many areas of mental health. Tanya broadcasts on TV and radio with notable appearances on television shows Little Angels and The House of Tiny Tearaways. She has a weekly column in The Times and a monthly column in Good Housekeeping. Tanya is an independent national and international government advisor on children, young people and the digital media. In 2008, she published The Byron Review: Safer Children in a Digital World and it’s follow up review, Do We have Safer Children in a Digital World (2010) and sat on Lord Carter’s Digital Britain advisory board (2009). Tanya is the patron of the charity Prospex and chancellor of Edge Hill University. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a trustee of the Family and Parenting Institute. She is also a Trustee of the NSPCC. In 2008 Tanya was made Professor in the Public Understanding of Science. She has been awarded honorary doctorates at York University and the Open University. She is also Honorary Professor of Psychology at Shandong Normal University, China.

Tim Hands

Dr Tim Hands became Headmaster of Winchester College in September 2016 having previously been the Master of Magdalen College School, Oxford. Born in London and educated in the state sector, he comes from a family of teachers – an ancestor was schoolmaster on board HMS Victory. Tim has extensive experience in the independent sector: as a boarding housemaster at King’s School Canterbury, Second Master at Whitgift School, and Headmaster of The Portsmouth Grammar School. He was Chairman of HMC from 2013 – 2014, and for seven years previously the Chair of its Universities Committee.

Felicia Kirk

Dr Felicia Kirk has been Headmistress at St Mary’s Calne for seven years and is a passionate advocate for girls’ education. She has 25 years’ experience of teaching and managing at a senior level in independent day and boarding schools in the UK (Ipswich High School for Girls where she was Head of Sixth Form, Director of Higher Education at Wycombe Abbey and Head of Modern Languages at Royal Hospital School, Suffolk). An American citizen, Felicia was educated in Maryland, USA and has a BA Summa Cum Laude in French and Latin (University of Maryland) an MA in French Studies with Latin (Brown University, Rhode Island) and a PhD in Romance Languages and Literature. Out of school, Felicia is a keen equestrian and enjoys recreational riding and playing tennis.

James Priory

James Priory was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, where he was the recipient of an Assisted Place. His first teaching post was at Bradford Grammar School, where after two years he became Head of Year 7. He moved on to Portsmouth Grammar School, being appointed as Head of English in 2000, and was subsequently promoted to Senior Teacher and then Assistant Head with responsibility for the Sixth Form, before becoming the first internally appointed Headmaster in almost 200 years. He was appointed Headmaster of Tonbridge in 2018.

Shaun Fenton

Inspired by the life-changing education he received, Shaun has spent years in leadership roles at some of the UK's leading independent and state schools. His experience in top senior schools and turned-around state schools has been underpinned by a strong belief in the power of education to open doors of opportunity. Fundamental to Shaun’s approach to education is the conviction that young people must be supported with the very best of pastoral care to enable them to embrace and achieve academic and extra-curricular success. Shaun has been Headmaster of Reigate Grammar School since September 2012, his third headship having previously led Pate’s Grammar School and Sir John Lawes School. Shaun is currently Vice Chair of HMC, having served as Chair last year.

Heather Owens

Heather Owens has been Headteacher at The Kingsley School for 10 years. A passion of Heather's has been to instil Kingsley as the heart of its community in Leamington Spa through strong links with charity, business, and education providers. This was recognised with the school winning the 'Business and the Community' award at the 2018 Leamington Business Awards. Heather has worked in both the independent and state sector at senior level, including co-ed and leading girls' grammar schools. Heather worked as a consultant and School Improvement Adviser delivering training and carrying out reviews of varied educational aspects, including provision for English and the more able; qualified as an Ofsted inspector and now as ISI Compliance and Education team inspector.

Jane Prescott

Jane was appointed Headmistress of Portsmouth High School in 2011 and has spent much of her career in girls’ schools. Jane believes in educating the whole person and developing in children an intellectual curiosity that inspires a lifelong love of learning. As a classroom teacher of geography she is committed to encouraging children to become analytical thinkers and to face their own challenges. Jane sees that a teacher’s role should ensure that girls become confident, happy and well-equipped to take advantage of every opportunity. Jane has been an independent school inspector for many years and is a governor and a trustee of a local school in the maintained sector and a prep school. She is also a trustee for the Kings Theatre in Southsea. She is the 2020 President of the Girls’ Schools Association.

Julie Robinson

Julie was a teacher, housemistress and head of two prep schools then ran Education and Training for IAPS. In 2015, Julie joined Independent Schools Council, the voice of the sector nationally, lobbying the Government at policy level and representing independent schools in the media. ISC's research, data and analysis inform campaigning on behalf of the independent education sector and Julie is actively involved in sharing messaging, appearing in the national media and contributing to books and articles about independent education. ISC is the coordinating body bringing together AGBIS, GSA, HMC, ISA, IAPS, ISBA and the Society of Heads along with affiliates BSA, COBIS, SCIS and WISC to inform and promote the sector. Julie is also a parent and a school governor for independent and state schools.

Vivienne Durham

Vivienne has committed her entire working life to the education of young women. She began teaching English at The Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls in 1983. Thereafter she worked at Godolphin and Latymer School for Girls and Guildford High School before becoming Deputy Head of South Hampstead High School GDST. As Head of Francis Holland School Regent's Park (2004-2015), Vivienne oversaw an expansion in the school's roll and considerable improvements to the site and facilities. After two years as director with the consultancy Enjoy Education, Vivienne became GSA Chief Executive in August 2017. GSA represent the Heads of a diverse range of independent UK girls’ schools (day & boarding) including many of the top performing schools in the UK independent sector.

Matthew Smith

Matt is the Editor of Attain, the leading magazine for parents and staff in the independent sector. Established over a decade ago, Attain is read by over 60,000 parents each term – both in print and online. Matt established Attain to help independent schools to talk to parents, especially those considering independent education for this first time. He also created Pressburst – the communications platform adopted by ISC and the Associations for promoting jobs and news from member schools. Matt has over two decades of experience working with independent schools and a comprehensive understanding of the communications challenges the sector faces.