About Us

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) and the book of the same name – authored by our Founder – have received critical acclaim from numerous, experienced CEOs. Our work and thought leadership has been covered in a wide range of media publications.

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 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‘. In 2021, The Being The CEO framework was endorsed and published as the template job description for academy trust CEOs by the National Governance Association. 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. He is a Co-owner/-Chair of Satis Education, a sector-leading executive recruitment organisation. 

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/


Articles (2021)

It’s time for CEOs and boards to reconceptualise what they mean by ‘growth’


Articles (2020)

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/


Articles (2019)

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

You can read some of Michael Pain’s coaching testimonials here and an overview of his 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

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.

Alice Gregson

Alice Gregson

Chief Operating Officer

Alice Gregson started work leading workforce planning projects for Nottinghamshire County Council Adult Social Care. She then joined the National College for School Leadership in 2010, working on the headteacher succession planning programme and then leading equality and diversity work. Since leaving NCSL, she became an ILM qualified coach and mentor, developing over 50 Civil Service leaders in the Fast Stream Programme before moving onto police leadership development, attraction and recruitment at the College of Policing for the last five and a half years. She has continued to have a foot back in education undertaking programme management consultancy for some Trusts alongside her College role. As a certified project and programme manager, Alice has run large scale operations across multiple sectors and delivered multi-million pound programmes of work of varying focus and scope including large technology transformation and culture change initiatives.
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.

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. 

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.uk/


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.” 

Phillip Hedger

CEO, LEO Academy Trust


David Horn

David was Headteacher of Beckfoot School, an 11-18 comprehensive school in Bradford for 19 years (1997 – 2016). In 2012 he founded the Beckfoot Trust and became its founding CEO. A position he held until retirement in the summer of 2021. The Trust now has ten schools, all located in Bradford, all comprehensive in character and drawn from primary, special and secondary sectors. David’s main focus as a leader has been a) to ensure all within the organisation, from trustee down, remain true to the organisation’s core values, b) to plan for succession by building leadership capacity and nurturing staff, c) to ensure collective ownership of compelling visions and d) to facilitate collaborative solutions to improving life chances for children. David has an MBA in International Educational Leadership and is an NLE. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in the 2020 Pearson Teaching Awards.

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.

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.

Dr Ranjit Manghnani M.Ed, M.St (Cantab), D. Prof

Dr Ranjit Manghnani’s experience spans Merchant Navy officer as a Foreign Going Ship Master Mariner, Ministry of Defence Police, Essex Police, Home Office, National Policing Improvement Agency and HMICFRS. Ranjit was an Assistant Chief Constable in the UK police service. He is a qualified Executive Coach and Coaching Supervisor and has nearly 20 years of coaching proven track record with senior executives from HM Prison Service, HMRC, BBC, Royal Mail, Local Councillors, Police Chief Officers, Barclays Bank & Head Teachers.  His international clients include senior police officers from Norway, Holland, Ireland, USA (FBI), Gibraltar and France.  He has also provided probono coaching and group facilitation to Kakuma Camp, Kenya UNHCR

Natalie Packer

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.