Steering group

Professor Nicola Fear

Nicola Fear is a Professor of Epidemiology within the Academic Department of Military Mental Health at King’s College London, Director of the King’s Centre for Military Health Research and co-Director of the Forces in Mind Trust Research Centre. Nicola’s work predominantly focuses on the health and wellbeing of the Armed Forces community including leading a number of military, veteran and family cohort studies.

Nicola has published over 350 academic papers, has supervised 15 doctoral students to completion, and is a trustee of a charity supporting the Armed Forces Community: Help for Heroes. Nicola has an undergraduate degree in Pharmacology (from King’s College London), a Master’s degree in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a Doctorate from the University of Oxford in Occupational Epidemiology.

Nicola is internationally renowned for her work with the Armed Forces community, with collaborations in Australia, as well as in Europe, USA, and Canada. Nicola has an interest in military/occupational epidemiology; risk taking behaviours and suicide and is currently involved in a large cohort study examining the health (mental and physical), lifestyle and career consequences of military deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Professor Nicola Fear
Logo: KCMHR, King’s Centre for Military Health Research

Lorna Beard

Lorna Beard is Strategic Director of Education for nasen, the National Association for Special Educational Needs. They are a charitable membership organisation that exists to support and champion those working with, and for, children and young people with SEND and learning differences.

Accomplished in SEND, school and Trust leadership as well as a strong background in school improvement, Lorna has a history of successful strategic as well as operational leadership.

Having recently joined nasen from an executive leadership role for inclusion within a trust, Lorna has built strong relationships with stakeholders across the educational community. Having worked as a SENCo within the school setting for many years, a Leading SENCo for the local authority prior to becoming a Deputy Head and then a Head teacher, Lorna has a lived experience of working towards improving outcomes for the most vulnerable pupils.

After leading a school from special measures to Ofsted good in its first inspection cycle as well as taking a role in opening an although free school, Lorna’s leadership development progressed into executive and associate headship developing an understanding of the school improvement journey, working with external agencies, including Local Authorities and consultants to ensure strong provision for young people leading to improved outcomes across the multi-academy trust in which she worked.

A qualified coach, Lorna has facilitated a range of CPD programmes and is passionate about improving equity in opportunity for young people. nasen is delighted to be working in partnership with Oxford Brookes University on their Supporting All to Thrive research project. As a small organisation with a large reach, they are keen to work in partnership with other organisations who are working to improve the provision and outcomes of learners with SEND.

nasen look forward to publicising the project findings through our communication with our membership as well as other partners in the sector.

Lorna Beard
Logo: nasen, helping everyone achieve

Matt Blyton

Since January 2022, Matt Blyton has been an independent education adviser specialising in the education and welfare of children from Armed Forces families.

Matt has extensive experience of senior leadership in a school ‘behind the wire’, undertook consultancy work for Service Children’s Education (now known as MOD Schools), and has supported multiple schools in their Service children provision. He is also currently managing The Garrison ASSIST Project across eight schools in Catterick, focused on improving outcomes for Service children with SEND. Matt is therefore well-placed to advise the steering group on special needs provision and to help with recruitment of participants.

Matt Blyton
Logo: The Garrison ASSIST Project

Ellen Chard

Ellen Chard is the Additional Needs & Disability Advisor for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. SSAFA’s support covers both regulars and reserves in the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the British Army and the Royal Air Force and their families and helps the armed forces community through focus on providing direct support to individuals in need of physical or emotional care.

Ellen is responsible for leading the Additional Needs & Disability Service, providing advice to beneficiaries, organising Short Breaks for Armed Forces families with a child with an additional need and/or disability, and facilitating the Forces Additional Needs & Disability Forum (FANDF).

Ellen has extensive experience of working with children with special educational needs and disabilities and has extensive knowledge of SEND processes, including those of Local Authorities. In her role she advises Armed Forces personnel and their families who have an additional need and/or disability or have an immediate family member with additional needs and/or disability, and is pleased to be able to support the steering group by sharing these lived experiences and representing the challenges many Armed Forces families face.

Logo:  SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity

Philip Dent

Philip Dent is the Director of the Service Children’s Progression Alliance. The SCiP Alliance works for a vision of thriving lives for Service children by bringing together practitioners, researchers, policymakers and funders to build a stronger evidence-base, better policy, and enhanced support for Service children’s education and progression, placing their voices at the heart of all we do.

The SCiP Alliance is a community of partners in schools, colleges, universities, local authorities, charities, governments and agencies who share a commitment to seeing children and young people in Armed Forces families flourish. Through a UK-wide network of 12 Hubs, hosted by 21 partners and supporting over 800 members, the Alliance helps partners enhance the scale and quality of support for Service children in local areas. The SCiP Alliance commissions and leads research to better understand Service children’s lives and translates this into evidence-based tools, guidance and policy advice.

Oxford Brookes University is a long-standing partner of the SCiP Alliance, including through its support for the Central England Hub, and we are delighted to support this important research by steering its design and successful delivery, as well as championing its translation into meaningful evidence-led practice and policy.

Phililp Dent
Logo: Service Children’s Progression Alliance

Alexandra Stokes

Alexandra Stokes is the Education and Childcare Policy Advisor at the RAF Families Federation who exist to make life better for Service personnel and their families. They provide information and support and work to make long-term positive changes happen for the RAF community.

The RAF Families Federation is delighted to be working in partnership with Oxford Brookes University on their Supporting All To Thrive research project. Alexandra aims to support the steering group by amplifying the voices of the RAF community and ensuring the research outcomes and recommendations are heard by the chain of command, government, and service providers to help shape change and enhance support to enable all children thrive.

Logo: Royal Air Force Families Federation. Support | Investigate |  Influence

Naval Families Federation

The Naval Families Federation (NFF) exists to champion serving Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel and their families so that they have their views heard by those in positions of power. Within the Steering Group, our role is to ensure that the unique challenges and opportunities that Naval Service families experience are considered throughout each project stage.

Rebecca Lovell

Rebecca Lovell is the Head of Policy at the Naval Families Federation (NFF). She is responsible for promoting understanding of the needs of all Royal Navy and Royal Marines families and working to ensure that policy decisions are shaped and changed with due understanding and consideration of their daily lives. Rebecca is experienced in supporting Naval families with navigating sometimes complex challenges that can arise for their children and young people.

Jenny Ward

Jenny Ward is the Head of Evidence and Research at the Naval Families Federation (NFF). Her role is to manage the NFF reactive evidence gathering programmes, to effectively capture all prevalent themes, enquiries and feedback shared by Royal Navy and Royal Marines families and identify trends from the collated evidence and data. Jenny also leads on the development of online surveys and other proactive evidence gathering activities, to source opinions and feedback from families on specific areas of interest.

Logo: Naval Families Federation