Supporting you to plan, grow and thrive…
Forum Strategy is a strategy and membership organisation for CEOs & COOs – 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 runs national CEO & COO leadership development networks across England and has 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.
Michael Pain, LLB (Hons), Barrister at Law
Michael Pain is the founder of Forum Strategy and an entrepreneur, overseeing the development of successful businesses and a national network of well over one hundred Chief Executives. He is a long-standing strategic adviser to CEOs and Chairs, a ‘sought after’ coach to leading executives, and author of the acclaimed book: ‘Being The CEO‘. Michael was Called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 2007. He received in-house training in coaching and mentoring at the National College for Teaching and Leadership, where he advised the CEO and executive team for almost five years. Read some of his coaching testimonials here.
Michael Pain: Speeches, articles and other publications
National Conference Speeches
National #TrustLeaders Conference 2020 (Video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUYjc1QggvI
National #TrustLeaders Conference 2020 (Script): https://www.forumstrategy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Michael-Pain-Keynote-Speech-to-National-TrustLeaders-Conference-2020.pdf
National #TrustLeaders CEO Conference 2019 (Video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZS9zr7q9jmU&t=397s
National #TrustLeaders CEO Conference 2019 (Script): https://www.forumstrategy.org/michael-pains-opening-speech-to-the-national-trustleaders-conference-2019/
National #TrustLeaders CEO Conference 2018: https://www.forumstrategy.org/michael-pains-opening-address-to-the-2018-matleaders-national-conference/
National #NewHeads Conference 2017: https://www.forumstrategy.org/michael-pains-speech-to-the-national-early-headship-conference-2017/
Coaching The CEO: Coaching the CEO
6 tips for #BeingTheCEO at this time: https://www.forumstrategy.org/6-tips-for-being-the-ceo-at-this-time/
The difference between mission, vision, and strategy: https://www.forumstrategy.org/6003-2/
What is a Chief Operating Officer?: https://www.forumstrategy.org/what-really-is-the-role-of-a-coo/
Ten tips for new CEOs: https://www.forumstrategy.org/10-top-tips-for-new-ceos/
Schools Week Profile: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/profile-michael-pain/
Academy Trust CEOs don’t need a teaching background: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/should-ceos-of-academy-trusts-have-a-teaching-background/
Why trustees must focus on robust CEO performance management: https://www.forumstrategy.org/the-question-of-pay-trustees-must-focus-on-robust-ceo-performance-management-too/
6 things that set the CEO role apart: https://www.forumstrategy.org/blog-6-things-that-set-the-ceo-role-apart/
Being The CEO; The six dimensions of organisational leadership: https://www.johncattbookshop.com/being-the-ceo-the-six-dimensions-of-organisational-leadership
Sarah Ginns, MSc
Consultancy & Research Manager
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
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.
Chief Operating Officer
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.
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.
Forum Strategy: Our commitments to clients are:
- 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.
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, business planning, board training and development, stakeholder engagement and consultation, and much 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 nationally.
Training and development
Forum Strategy provides a wide range of training and development support for CEOs, board members and leadership teams. Our national #TrustLeaders CEO networks provide high quality opportunities for learning and reflection on key areas of successful organisational development and change management. 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 bespoke training for trustees and executives teams and regularly contribute to national and regional leadership conferences, and others’ programmes.
Marketing and communications
We believe that the development of a strong brand and clear and engaging communications is an essential ingredient in the success of all organisations. Forum Strategy collaborates with our partners Papillon Communications, as they deliver high quality PR and media support to trusts and other organisations. Currently, when trusts engage with Papillon, they can also be confident that Forum provides them with a sounding board.
Our approach to marketing and communications is grounded in our ongoing research into marketing and communications, our deep understanding of policy and change in education, and our credibility advising CEOs and boards – which has been developed through our sector-leading support over the years.
We advise on the design and delivery of marketing and communications strategies, consultations, marketing of organisations and their back office services (including CPD), and social media strategy. We also support crisis management response and delivery in partnership with Papillon.
Papillon is a highly respected organisation with experience supporting a wide range of national early years, care and education providers with their communications and growth strategies. You can find out more about Papillon at https://www.papillonpr.co.
Briefing service and training for wider teams
Forum Strategy provides a strategy and intelligence briefing service for education sector leaders, covering key developments in research, policy, strategy, development opportunities and more. This service also includes a funding and grants briefing details hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of opportunities each year. Members of our CEO and COO network automatically receive an individual subscription to these briefings; and subscriptions can be upgraded to include central team members, headteachers and Chairs of trustees. Upgraded subscribers can also access a half-termly online leadership briefing from January 2021 on key trends and developments.
“Recruitment and retention strategy
Forum Strategy has undertaken extensive research and provided support to organisations on recruitment and retention strategy, including developing their reputations as ’employers of choice’.
We draw on organisational development expertise, cross-sector insights and research, innovative practice, and communications expertise to support organisations position themselves to attract and retain the very best teams of staff.
“Delighted with the work you have done for us on being an employer of choice. So impressive and really aligned with our thinking and practices. It has also helped us to focus more clearly on what we need to do next.”
CEO, LEO Academy Trust
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 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 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 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.
Natalie specialises in SEND and school improvement, and is the author of The Perfect SENCO and The Teacher’s Guide to SEN publications. She develops and delivers a wide range of face-to-face and online training and support to schools and multi-academy trusts. She carries out school and MAT SEND reviews and works with two trusts in the East Midlands providing strategic SEND leadership. Natalie is also a trustee of Learn-AT in Leicestershire and a member of nasen’s 0-11 Advisory Group.