Chief Executive Officer
James has worked for Aurora since the trust was formed in September 2012, initially as Headteacher and Executive Headteacher before taking on the role of Director of Education. James was appointed as Chief Executive Officer in May 2023. Before working with Aurora James held senior leadership positions in a number of schools and has taught internationally. He has a strong record in bringing about rapid school improvement and building sustainable and successful schools. James has also led and been a member of a variety of school-to-school support partnerships working across the maintained and academy sectors.
Director of Education
Laura Masson brings over 14 years of experience leading primary schools to excellence as the Director of Education for Aurora Academies Trust. Prior to this, she had experience working in both the independent and state sectors across every key stage.
In her various leadership roles, Laura has spearheaded the development of shared organisational vision and values to drive cultural change. She is passionate about supporting teachers and leaders within the education sector and is an associate of the Teacher Development Trust, a Fellow of the Chartered College of Teachers and a member of the Chartered Management Institute.
Laura remains devoted to her own learning, actively pursuing professional development opportunities to become the best leader she can be. Laura speaks nationally on school leadership and curriculum, is a SLE for Assessment and Curriculum, and has recently written research papers on mental health in leadership and the importance of engaging parents in their children’s education.
As the Director of Education, Laura's main responsibilities are to provide strategic leadership and direction for teaching, learning, and curriculum across all schools within the trust and ensure educational excellence, high standards, and continuous improvement in outcomes for all students across the trust.
Director of Finance
Alex started her accounting career in the NHS in 2000, and qualified as a CIMA accountant in 2005. After 18 years working in a large NHS Trust, she decided to venture into the education sector and joined Aurora Academies Trust in 2019. Alex works closely with the Headteachers and Business Managers to ensure that Aurora receives excellent value for money for goods and services purchased, whilst maintaining effective and robust financial systems.
School Improvement Partner – EYFS
Sam Attwater is the Director of Early Years for Aurora Academies Trust. Sam is passionate about the importance of giving children the best possible start to their education. Sam began her career working in a Special Care Baby Unit. Over the six years in this post, she discovered the significance of early childhood development and became interested in children’s emotional, social and physical development. In 2006, Sam decided to develop her career, investing in Early Years education. Sam has experience of developing new nurseries and achieved her first Aurora ‘Outstanding’ from Ofsted in 2013.
In 2014, Sam set up the first fully integrated ‘Foundation Village’ in East Sussex. In addition to her role for the Trust, Sam has offered advice to the Department for Education, has spoken at several conferences, advised Early Years staff on a national and international scale, and is an Early Excellence Hub Lead in Eastbourne supporting over 2,400 children.
In her spare time Sam is a qualified Marine Mammal Surveyor and volunteers with the charity organisation, Orca, where she actively participates in whale and dolphin conservation.
School Improvement Partner – Safeguarding and Attendance
Heidi Attwood is the Safeguarding Training and Attendance Manager for the Trust. Her role involves working with the Designated Safeguarding Leads in all our schools, and managing a small team of Family Support Workers, acting as the main source of support, advice and expertise regarding safeguarding. Heidi ensures that policies and procedures meet all necessary standards in Keeping Children Safe in Education, and Working Together to Safeguard Children, ensuring that children are kept safe and get support when they need it. Heidi also works with school Attendance Officers to monitor and improve pupil attendance, a key element in ensuring good outcomes for all children.
Before joining Aurora Academies Trust, Heidi worked in special education, family support work and, most recently, in Children’s Social Care.
On a more personal note, Heidi is married with a teenage son. She is a keen hockey player and runner, but is equally happy curled up with good book!
Sara started in her full time HR career in 2007 and has worked primarily in the not-for-profit sector, which is her passion. She has an MBA and became level 7 CIPD qualified in 2010. Sara joined the Trust as HR Manager in 2022 in order to provide dedicated in-house support to our schools. This involves providing advice and support to Senior Leadership and administrative teams, recommending and implementing improvements to systems, processes and HR contracts ensuring best practice models are followed and value for money is achieved, and providing HR reporting to the Executive Team.
Jay supports the schools with day to day management of the Trust’s finance systems and associated processes, to ensure they are compliant with Financial Regulations.