Our Executive Team

Dr John Wm Stephens CBE
CEO of Bright Futures Educational Trust

John Stephens Photo 1Dr John Stephens was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Bright Futures Educational Trust (BFET) in January 2017.

Formerly a headteacher and director of children’s services, John spent five years as a senior civil servant in the Department for Education.  He was responsible for teaching schools and system leadership, including National Leaders of Education and National Leaders of Governance.

Throughout his career, John has engaged in research into pedagogy, inclusion and leadership. He has undertaken post graduate study at the Universities of Leicester and Manchester and at MMU.

John has served as a school governor in primary and secondary schools for over 20 years, 10 of them as Chair. He was also a director of an academy trust.

He is a volunteer with St John Ambulance working on the regional safeguarding team and chairs a community charity in East Manchester.

In 2016 John was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours recognising his contributions to education and charity.


Edward Vitalis FCCA DipCG

Finance Director

Edward VitalisEdward has an extensive background in financial management, governance and has majored in transformational change management in the education and skills sector; not-for-profit, charities, private health and social care and within the NHS. He began his career with the Inland Revenue and then worked for the Foreign and Common Wealth Office and British Council before becoming involved with the National Council of YMCAs.

Edward was appointed Finance Director of Bright Futures Educational Trust in March 2017.  He is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountant having qualified back in 1999.    Since qualifying as a Chartered Certified Accountant at the end of 1999, Edward was the Director of Finance and IT for YMCA Training Ltd, a well-established educational charity, for ten years before moving on to Randomlight Ltd, a private equity-backed group of Care Homes in the North of England and Wales.   He joined The Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College towards the tail end of 2012 as the Deputy Chief Executive, responsible for Corporate Services up until his departure early 2017.

As well as being a qualified accountant, Edward also holds a Diploma in Corporate Governance.  He has carried out organisational governance reviews in parts of West Africa, South Africa and Germany for Y Care International, The Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and Comic Relief.

Edward is currently the Deputy Chair of NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group, a multimillion-pound National Health Service commissioner of health and care services.  He has been Chairman of the NHS Salford’s Audit Committee since 2009 and is a former Commissioning Board Chair.  He was the Joint Chairman of Salford City Council’s Public Health and Wellbeing Board during its establishment.


Gary HandforthGary Handforth - May 2016v1

Director of Primary Education

Gary Handforth BA (Hons) MA (Process Consultancy) is Executive Principal and Director or Primary Education for Bright Futures Educational Trust, a Multi-Academy Trust of 9 schools. Prior to this he was the Head teacher of two schools in central Manchester.

Gary is a Trustee of Challenge Partners, a national network of over 300 schools, and a senior partner for the organisation. He is also a Local Leader of Education for the past 5 years.

Gary also works with The Future Leaders Trust as Leadership Development Advisor, working with Senior Leaders throughout the North West. Gary has designed programmes and delivered on a variety of teaching and learning and leadership work. This has included developing consultancy methods with Local Leaders, various workshops on leadership in a changing world and on creating climates for developing clear values and vision.

Gary has recently travelled to Singapore, Australia, China and New Zealand, observing educational practices and perspectives from a wide range of schools and institutions.

His particular areas of expertise are in change leadership, organisational psychology, coaching theory and practice and in developing strong partnerships, networks and communities between schools. He also has strong links with the University of Manchester in developing research communities in and across schools.


Lisa Fathers
Director of Teaching School & Partnerships

Lisa Fathers BA (Hons) is Director of Teaching School & Partnerships.  Lisa was appointed to this role in September 2015.

The Teaching School lead school where Lisa is based is Altrincham Grammar School for Girls: the top performing school in the North West and part of the Bright Futures Educational Trust (BFET).

Lisa has taught in a variety of schools and is a very experienced senior leader and this includes various roles including being a Deputy Headteacher and an Associate Headteacher at a school that became one of the most improved schools in the country.

Lisa and her team are striving to ensure that the Teaching School continues to be one of the most successful nationally. This includes providing professional and leadership development of the highest calibre, the development of a school-led Initial Teacher Training system through the provision of the Alliance for Learning SCITT, school improvement support and engaging in cutting edge research and development. Lisa is an executive leadership coach and has supported participants on leadership programmes as well as coaching Executive Headteachers, Directors of Education, Senior Executives through to middle leaders for the past 4 years.

Lisa represents Education on the Executive level of Greater Manchester Strategic Health and Wellbeing Board and is  currently a Headteacher Ambassador for the Youth Sport Trust and Co-Chairs the Strategic Headteacher Alliance in Greater Manchester for physical activity, PE and school sport. Lisa is also part of the national training team with Mental Health First Aid England. Lisa is a sought after key note speaker on all things related to health and wellbeing.

As part of Lisa’s trust role she is represents BFET on the Executive level of Blackpool School Improvement Board and the Greater Manchester Learning Partnership. Lisa also enjoys established partnerships with Mindfulness in Schools Project (MISP), Ambition School Leadership, the Princes Teaching Institute (PTI) and Challenge Partners; Lisa is integral to these partnerships at a strategic level. Lisa has also been a Director of YSD the Youth Sport Trust’s commercial arm for 18 months and has recently taken up a role as a trustee for a Bolton MAT where she is the nominated trustee for Safeguarding. Lisa genuinely believes in the power of schools working together and collaborating for the good of all children and young people.


Lynette Beckett

Lynette Beckett Photo

Director of HR and Strategy

Lynette began her career in human resources when she undertook a placement year whilst studying Business Studies at University. Since then she has worked in various HR roles initially in manufacturing, then at Britannia Building Society, The Cooperative Financial Services and more recently as Senior HR Manager for BDO LLP, an international accountancy firm.

Lynette is a chartered member of the institute of personnel and development (MCIPD) and has various other qualifications in project management, workplace mediation, psychometric testing and employment law.  Lynette brings a wealth of commercial HR expertise to the leadership team of BFET.


Download Executive Team Declarations of Interest