South Pennine Academy

The Academy Effectiveness Team

 Alison Black  - Education Director

Alison is Director of Standards and Continuous Improvement at SPA. She has thirteen years' experience as a headteacher and school improvement adviser and was previously Executive Principal of two of our primary academies in East Oldham. As a headteacher, Alison has successfully led three newly sponsored academies to achieve good inspection gradings as well as achieving outstanding in her first headship. Alison leads the Academy Effectiveness Team to work with schools in a range of activities to support school improvement including monitoring effectiveness through data analysis and reviews, supporting self -evaluation, building capacity in leadership and provision of high quality professional development for the whole workforce. 

Rebecca Denham - Head of Primary Improvement

Rebecca is the Head of School Improvement for South Pennine Academies. She has ten years' experience as a headteacher and school improvement advisor. Rebecca has been an Executive headteacher of two primary schools and lead one of the schools from requires improvement to outstanding and the other to good. In Rebecca s first headship her school consistently performed in the top one hundred schools in the country raising as high as 9th in the 2017 league tables. She has Local Leader of Education status and has a wide experience of primary education. Rebecca leads the Academy Effectiveness Team to work within the primary schools in a range of activities to support school improvement including monitoring effectiveness through data analysis and reviews, supporting self -evaluation, building capacity in leadership and provision of high-quality professional development for the whole workforce.

Sarah Cunningham - Primary Improvement Advisor & Deputy Head of Early Teacher Development

Sarah is the Primary Improvement Advisor for South Pennine Academies and the Deputy Head of Early Teacher Development.

Sarah has been in Primary Education for over 30 years and has worked in Kent, London, Hertfordshire and Kirklees. She has been an Early Years Foundation Lead, both a Key Stage 1 & 2 Lead, an Assistant Head and Head of School. Sarah is a designated Specialist Leader of Education and considers the SLE role to be an important and integral consultancy role supporting teachers in their own learning and professional development. She is a SLE for various areas in Primary Education including as an English Specialist, Cross Phase planning, Early Years, Behaviour Management, SEND, Mentoring and PSHCE. Sarah has delivered regional training for local authorities, local cluster training groups and INSET CPD for whole school training events, ECTs, and Middle Leaders. Sarah has Moderated for Kirklees Local Authority, and is a facilitator for the OLEVI teaching programmes including the Outstanding Teaching Programme Plus+.

Sarah works as the Deputy Head of Huddersfield Horizon SCITT, judged as outstanding in November 2019. Sarah has mentored ECTs, coached students through various stages of their teacher training, delivered training at Huddersfield University and written and implemented mentoring and coaching programmes for teachers in the early part of their careers.

 Amanda Underhill - Secondary Improvement Leader

Amanda is a Secondary Improvement Leader for the Academy Effectiveness Team at South Pennine Academies. Before joining the Trust, Amanda held a number of middle leadership and extended senior leadership roles which included leading a successful English department. She graduated with an MA in Teaching and Learning at Leeds Metropolitan University in June 2013 and in 2014 was designated as a Specialist Leader of Education (SLE) for English. She is the professional development lead for Trust, and has experience facilitating various national programmes, including the ECF curriculum and the NPQLTD, as well as designing and facilitating bespoke professional development sessions and programmes for the Trust and their secondary academies. Since January 2023, Amanda has also worked as lead facilitator for the Specialist National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) for East Manchester Teaching School Hub. Amanda’s role as Secondary Improvement Leader supports the leadership and implementation of the Trust’s Secondary Strategy, with a focus on Teaching and Learning, and professional development. Amanda is passionate about working with teachers and leaders to review, develop and innovate practice to improve outcomes for learners, as well as to grow and retain talent at classroom and leadership level within the profession.

Nicola Jablonski - Primary Improvement Leader

Nicola is the Primary Improvement Leader and is part of the Academy Effectiveness Team for South Pennine Academies. Before joining the Trust, she spent her teaching career in primary schools within the Oldham borough, with various responsibilities. She led both KS1 and KS2, and has led many subjects: Mathematics, Science, PE, RE, Humanities (Geography and History), and PSHCE. As Assistant Head in two primaries, she had overall responsibility for curriculum, its intent, content and implementation. Throughout her career she has been involved with supporting the development of others through mentoring, performance management, leading teams and coaching. Nicola has worked for Huddersfield Horizon SCITT, where she was responsible for the design and implementation of the Primary Curriculum. She is a tutor for the trainees in our SCITT and is part of the Quality Assurance committee. Nicola also facilitates for East Manchester Teaching School for Year 1 and Year 2 ECT's.  Nicola was awarded with ‘North West Teacher of the Year’ at the National Teaching Awards. Nicola has successfully completed NPQLTD and NPQH.