Our Executive Team

Dr John Wm Stephens CBE
CEO of Bright Futures Educational Trust

John Stephens Photo 1

Dr 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

Chief Operating Officer

Edward Vitalis

Edward is the Chief Finance Officer of North West based Multi Academy Trust.  He has 20 years’ experience as an Executive in education.

Since qualifying as a Chartered Certified Accountant at the end of 1999, Edward has held various lead finance and corporate service executive roles in the charity, public and private sectors, where he specialised in transformational change management in education, health and social care.

Edward’s continuing interest in corporate governance has seen him lead on organisational governance reviews for charities in parts of West Africa, South Africa and Germany as well as the UK.

He is currently a Non-Executive Trustee for an NHS Clinical Commissioning Group in the North West where he is the Audit Committee Chair and is a former Commissioning Board Chair and Joint Chair of a north west based city council’s Public Health and Wellbeing Board.  He has a strong commitment to improving life chances demonstrated throughout his career with a focus on education, supporting those facing disadvantage, health and social care.


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 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 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 quality, 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’s particular areas of expertise are in change leadership, coaching theory and practice and partnership working. Lisa has coached and supported leaders at all levels and leads on partnership working for the trust working alongside organisations such as Ambition Institute, the Youth Sport Trust, The Princess Teaching Institute and Mental Health First Aid England

Lisa represents Education on the Greater Manchester Reform Board and the Executive level Strategic Health and Wellbeing Board and is currently the Co-Chair for Greater Manchester’s Mental Health in Education Board and the Chair for the national Well Schools Board. 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 works closely on school improvement alongside the Director of Education and has strategic oversight of marketing and PR for the trust. Lisa leads various school improvement projects at scale across the North West such as the GM Mentally Healthy Schools Programme, the DFE English Improvement Programme in Blackpool and more recently the regional PSHE Hub.

Lisa has a wealth of governance experience having been a school governor, a trustee at another mutli- academy and a trustee for a national charity. 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.


Please click here to download Executive Team Declarations of Interest