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About Forum Strategy


Who We Are

Supporting you to plan, grow and thrive…

Forum Strategy is a strategy and membership organisation for CEOs – with an emphasis on executive leadership training and coaching; organisational development and strategic planning; and leadership development networks. We support leaders and organisations to plan, grow and thrive.

Forum’s reach is national. We run six regional CEO leadership development networks across England and have provided highly-valued strategic consultancy support for many dozens of organisations, including academy trusts. Our Being The CEO programme (which includes executive coaching) is fully subscribed, and our book of the same name has received critical acclaim from experienced CEOs. Our work and thought leadership has been covered in a wide range of media publications.

Who We Are

Our Team


Michael Pain, LLB (Hons), Barrister at Law

Michael Pain, LLB (Hons), Barrister at Law


Michael Pain is the founder of Forum Strategy and an entrepreneur, overseeing the development of successful businesses. He is a strategic adviser to CEOs and Chairs, a ‘sort after’ coach to leading executives, and an author on the CEO role and executive leadership. Michael was Called to the Bar in 2007.


You can read Michael’s speeches and articles here

You can read an overview of Michael Pain’s book here: Being the CEO Book

To request Michael as a conference speaker or contributor, please click here


Sarah Ginns, MSc

Sarah Ginns, MSc

Consultancy & Research Manager; PRINCE II Qualified Practitioner

Sarah Ginns is responsible for Forum Strategy’s briefing services, as well as a range of consultancy projects – including bid writing support and research projects.

Sarah has strong background in policy and research in the education sector, having spent over ten years working at the National College for Teaching and Leadership. During this time she provided strategic and policy support to successive Chief Executives and their leadership teams, including leading the College’s first major policy review during 2004. From 2011-13 she was Manager for Policy and Public Affairs, providing regular policy updates and advice to colleagues, as well as developing a policy briefing service for the College’s membership website. She has also managed a number of seminal research projects, successfully commissioning world-renowned research teams and individuals.

Previously, Sarah was Policy Adviser at the major biomedical research charity, the Wellcome Trust, where she was responsible for identifying and developing the Trust’s position statements and consultation responses regarding major developments in biomedical research and policy.

Rachael Gacs, MA

Rachael Gacs, MA

Marketing & Resources Manager

Rachael is Forum Strategy’s Marketing and Resources Manager, and is responsible for the delivery of our leadership training events and for overseeing our marketing projects working with a small team of associates including graphic designers and social media experts. Rachael also oversees the resources and materials that we produce to support the learning and development of leaders and organisations, including publications and case studies for CPD providers. She has edited and written editions of Inspiring Leaders Magazine – a publication for leaders across the East Midlands.

Rachael is a trained teacher, and formerly taught Religious Education and Humanities subjects for seven years, with experience in both the state sector and independent sector. She held the pastoral role of Head of House for several years, and is well acquainted from first-hand experience with the everyday issues and pressures effecting schools and children in the current educational climate.

Rachael holds a first-class degree in Philosophy and Theology, and an MA in Philosophy, Theology and Literature, from the University of Nottingham.

James Hirst

James Hirst

Operations & Digital Manager

James has been working in marketing for the last 15 years. During that time he has been worked on PR, design, event management, social media campaigns and web development.

In 2009 he set up a full-service agency with a partner, dealing with a range of companies, from small businesses, trade associations and large multinationals.

At the beginning of 2016 he set up his own businesses focusing on digital marketing and web development. He has built websites and provided digital marketing solutions for business, charities NGOs and schools.

Sarah Ray

Sarah Ray

National CEO Networks Director

Sarah Ray has worked in the private, public and third sector leading, managing and delivering educational projects for over 30 years. After 10 years in sales and marketing management for an educational supply company, she worked in marketing for Age UK. During her 14 years at the DfE’s National College for School Leadership (NCSL), she held various roles in the Research, Policy and Programmes teams. Sarah led the design and delivery of the new DfE Governor and Clerking training programmes, and the National Leader of Governance role.

Since leaving DfE in 2014, she has worked in consultancy at FASNA, Birmingham Education Partnership and the Spencer Academy Trust. In 2016 she joined ISBL (previously NASBM) as their Professional Development Specialist, developing programmes for school business professionals; apprenticeships, training, qualifications, clerking and School Resource Management Advisers.

She was the Chair of Governors at a Primary School for 5 years and has been a Governor in the Spencer Academy Trust since 2015.

Lesley Pain

Lesley Pain

Office Manager

Lesley Pain is our Office Manager and ensures the smooth day to day running of the Forum office, as well as liaising with our #TrustLeaders members and providing events management.

Lesley is a former Senior Manager in the NHS and a consultant adviser to hospital trusts on the leadership of employee health and wellbeing. She has a degree in Occupational Health. 

Who We Are



David Strudley CBE

After a successful career in the British Army spanning thirty years as a professional soldier,  David left Northern Ireland in 2003 to join the children’s hospice movement.  Initially fulfilling the role of CEO of Naomi House in Winchester, David moved to become the CEO of Acorns Children’s Hospice in the West Midlands in 2006. In February 2017 he was asked to provide consultancy support to Rainbows Hospice in the East Midlands a task that soon led to his becoming the full-time interim CEO, a role he has recently relinquished.

In 2012, David was appointed Chair of the Together for Short Lives UK Transition Taskforce to support older children in moving from children’s to adult services.  The Taskforce brings together organisations from health and social care, education and vocational development, housing and employment in the private and public sectors, as well as voluntary organisations to provide education, training and coordinated life skills support.

Qualified as a Leadership and Professional Development Coach at the Tavistock Institute, David has over ten years’ experience as a business mentor and executive coach, across a range of sectors, focusing on the importance of personal and professional development, vision and values based undertakings, the development and implementation of strategy, governance and execution, and the leadership and management of change.

Ros McMullen

Ros McMullen has over 20 years of experience of leading in the secondary sector. She has been a highly successful LA Headteacher, one of the first Academy Principals, a CEO of a multi-academy trust and an Executive Principal of 4 secondary schools. Ros has worked as a National Leader of Education and is a founding member of the influential @HeadsRoundtable thinktank. Her contribution to the sector has received praise from Tony Blair.

Ros blogs regularly and has written for the TES, Schools Week and Progress on education issues. She specialises in schools facing challenging circumstances.

Ros now coaches and mentors leaders, supports performance management, advises leaders, governors and Boards on developing strategy and contributes to training programmes for executive leaders.

In addition to education Ros has considerable expertise of supporting in the voluntary sector.

Jane Creasy

Jane Creasy brings experience of educational and public sector leadership at local and national level. She works with leaders across public, private and third sectors on leadership; on innovation and improvement; and on strategic development.

She is known as a designer and facilitator of large-scale conferences and smaller strategic events, across a range of sectors both here and abroad. She has worked with leaders in several countries on reform, innovation, and leadership challenges.

Formerly an Operational Director at the National College for School Leadership for five years and a successful headteacher for ten years, she has led the design and delivery of some major leadership programmes for educational leaders. She is currently working with the UCL Institute of Education and Deloitte on a programme for MAT leadership teams.

In addition to her associate work for Forum Education, Jane is a senior associate of the Innovation Unit and an associate with the Education Development Trust.

Diane Heritage

Diane has experience of educational leadership at school, regional and national level. She specialises in leadership learning, collaboration and school improvement. She is an educational innovator and creative thinker committed to building capacity for a school led system.

Formerly Lead Associate for the National College for School Leadership and a successful headteacher, Diane has worked with system leaders to inspire and facilitate local solutions with a relentless focus on children’s learning and well-being. She is currently working with the Education Endowment Foundation to bring the use of evidence based practice closer to schools.  Diane is Chair of the New Collaborative Learning Trust a family of 16-19 colleges located in areas of historical and persistent underachievement across Yorkshire and the Humber.

Prof. Toby Salt

Professor Toby Salt is an experienced CEO and non- executive director.   He provides coaching and mentoring for a number of CEOs in the schools sector. Until recently he was the group CEO of AQA the largest exam board in the UK. AQA also has a number commercial subsidiary companies and an international joint venture.  He was previously Chief Executive of Ormiston Academies Trust, which sponsors 37 academies across England, with responsibility for 26,000 students and 3,500 staff.

Prior to that, Toby was Deputy Chief Executive at the National College for School Leadership, an executive agency providing leadership development and policy advice for schools and ministers. Toby’s teams led on programmes such as teaching schools and national leaders of education. Toby has worked in a variety of education leadership roles, including as Executive Head of a federation of three schools, and has led schools (across the phases) to achieve ‘outstanding’ gradings under Ofsted. In 2000, he was appointed by the Prime Minister as Director of the Department for Education’s Innovation Unit to lead innovation in school practices and structures. 

Andrew Morrish

Andrew Morrish has been a headteacher and CEO for over 20 years, and has worked across the country, almost exclusively in deprived schools. He knows the journey of school transformation inside out and is the author of ‘The Art of Standing Out’. Andrew is a former Ofsted inspector, chair of governors and NLE.

Andrew began his headship journey in East London, where he led one of the largest primary schools in the country. He built a successful multi-academy trust as founder CEO, before starting his own consultancy, Makana Leadership.

As well as an author, Andrew has written for the TES and Guardian and often appears on national radio to commentate on educational matters. As well as being a Member of the Institute of Directors (MIoD), Andrew is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts (FRSA) and a founder member of the Chartered College of Teaching (MCCT)

Who We Are

What We Do


Consultancy and organisational development

Forum Strategy provides organisations with insight, expertise and advice around organisational development and change management. We have provided research, advice, strategic planning and associated training to numerous local authorities, businesses, and academy trusts across the country as they plan ahead and seek to grow and develop successfully.

We provide support on visioning and strategic planning, strategic reviews, board reviews and development, recruitment and retention strategy, executive performance management, public relations, SEND, and more.

Forum’s work is grounded in our continuous research and monitoring of policy and change issues and our extensive work providing support and leadership development to CEOs.

Training and development

Forum Strategy provides a wide range of training and development support for CEOs, board members and leadership teams. Our national CEO and COO networks provide high quality opportunities for learning and reflection on key areas of successful organisational development. Our annual CEO conference has developed a strong reputation for cutting edge leadership thinking and insight, and our suite of provision for academy trustees is ensuring that this important group are well supported as their organisations grow rapidly.

We provide the highly acclaimed Being The CEO programme, board development programmes, and executive coaching for CEOs.

Marketing and communications

We believe that the development of a strong brand and clear, engaging communications is a key factor in the success of all organisations. By developing and delivering an exceptional marketing and communication strategy, organisations are able to attract the very best candidates to apply for vacancies and to develop relationships with their stakeholders based on confidence and trust.

Our approach to marketing and communications is grounded in our ongoing research into marketing and communications, our deep understanding of the policy and change, and our credibility which has been developed through working with so many organisations on these issues over the years.

We design and deliver marketing and communications strategies, consultations, prospectuses and job application packs, marketing of back office services (including CPD), websites and social media strategy.

Bid writing

Forum provides bid writing services to organisations that are seeking to grow, secure new business or access additional funds. We have successfully supported our clients in undertaking the necessary planning, project management, research, consultation, and writing associated with bids. These projects include successful bids for free schools and new provision, growth funding, school improvement funding, and to embark on new and exciting initiatives such as research schools. We also support our clients to stay ahead of new funding opportunities as and when they emerge.

Recruitment and retention strategy

Forum Strategy has undertaken extensive research and provided support to organisations on recruitment and retention strategy, including developing reputations as ’employers of choice’. We also provide a recruitment and headhunting service

Monitoring and analysis

Forum Strategy provides a weekly leadership  briefing service, covering key developments in research, policy, strategy, development opportunities and more. A number of MATs and other providers subscribe to our briefing service which can be accessed at an ‘individual’, SLT, or ‘MAT wide’ level.

Forum Strategy: Our commitments to clients include:

  • Supporting improvement wherever possible;
  • Staying informed on the key & emerging issues;
  • Producing high quality research & communications;
  • Ensuring our integrity & maintaining client confidentiality at all times;
  • Being responsive & professional in all that we do.

We work with a range of clients, from local authorities and academy trusts, to small-, medium- and large- businesses and enterprises.