Meet our Team

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Kiran Gill, Founder & CEO

Kiran began her career in inner-city London, as an English teacher in schools serving the most deprived postcodes in the country.  After five years on the frontline, Kiran left to work in education policy, searching for solutions to the rising number of vulnerable children who fall through the gaps.  Kiran was working at Social Mobility Commission when she conceived the idea for The Difference.  She has led its work full-time since January 2017.

Kiran is driven by her own family experiences. Growing up with two adopted sisters, Kiran witnessed the long-term effects of childhood trauma and the lack of support for young people with complex needs. This insight is what keeps Kiran striving for the most vulnerable children to get the education they deserve.

You can find out more about Kiran and what drove her to set up The Difference in these Schools Week, Guardian and TES interviews, and in these pieces she has written in The Times, Schools Week and TES.


John Bradshaw, Leadership Associate

John’s career has seen him take on challenging headships in inner-city mainstream schools and, most recently, Tower Hamlets secondary pupil referral unit London East AP (LEAP). John joined LEAP in the middle of its school improvement journey and has since led his team from strength to strength. In 2019, 85% of pupils at LEAP received a GCSE or equiv in English & maths and 91% progressed to placement after Year 11, while the school was recognised by Ofsted for its contribution to safeguarding best practice.

John works with The Difference in helping groups of schools build the systems and staff training to reduce the need for exclusion.


Danny Swift, Strategy, Evaluation & Operations

Danny taught and led maths in Manchester’s Moss Side and later in inner-city London. Curious about the pupils who disappeared from his school register and where they went, Danny was drawn to a research project at IPPR, researching school exclusions for the Making the Difference report.

Danny leads Operations at The Difference and leads on finance, legal, monitoring & evaluation, research and strategy. Danny’s research has featured in Prospect Magazine, Sky News and The Times.

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Tessa Jennett, Operations

Through working in a pastoral role in an inner city London special school, Tessa realised her ambition to improve support for vulnerable young people. With a strong belief in education as a powerful tool for social change, she is particularly passionate about developing young people's self-esteem, wellbeing and mental health. Tessa role encompasses finance, HR, operational and administrative support, as well as managing events. Phew!

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Shaun Brown, Programme, Partnerships & Policy

Shaun is a specialist in whole-school inclusion, trauma-aware practice, multi-agency working and contextual safeguarding. After working as a Head of Geography for several years, Shaun became more interested in the pupils who were falling through the gaps. This inspired Shaun to spend a decade teaching and leading in pupil referral units, before returning to mainstream to apply that knowledge to reduce exclusion. Shaun’s innovative safeguarding work has achieved national recognition from Ofsted. Shaun is driven by the vision of a generation of leaders who rarely resort to exclusion, because they can train staff to approach behaviour differently. You can read about Shaun’s career and experiences in these TES and Schools Week articles.


Marie Gentles, Programme & Partnerships

Marie brings 17 years of teaching and leadership experience to The Difference. As Headteacher of Hawkswood Primary PRU, Marie’s leadership was key in driving up standards at the school, twice achieving Outstanding from Ofsted.

Marie is passionate about matching trauma-aware practice with uncompromising high expectations for children’s academic success. In recent years, she has led preventative mainstream projects to reduce exclusion in Waltham Forest, and has represented national best practice at the Department for Education, where she currently serves as a behaviour adviser on their taskforce. You can see some of Marie’s work in a BBC documentary and in this Schools Week profile.

Photo credit: soft geometry creative

Photo credit: soft geometry creative

Iesha Small, Communications Associate

Iesha is an author, speaker and Head of Strategy at national youth charity YHA, with over 12 years’ experience as a senior manager and teacher in secondary schools. Iesha has written about education and society for The Guardian, TES and Schools Week. She is the author of “The Unexpected Leader”, which explores the human side of leadership.

Iesha is collaborating with The Difference to tell the leadership stories which will inspire our next cohort of Difference Leaders. Iesha is a proud alumna of Teach First.


Sarah Worth, Recruitment

Sarah started working with excluded pupils as a teaching assistant but found herself doing less assisting and more teaching. Without many qualified teachers around, Sarah experienced first hand the injustices that brought her to The Difference. Sarah previously worked as Chief of Staff managing the office, partnership relationships with schools, supporters and The Difference Leaders.

Sarah focuses on recruitment; finding and selecting the next generation of inclusive school leaders. Sarah is a proud alumna of Year Here and prior to this worked as an account manager in recruitment.


Will Moss, Programme Design & Delivery

Will is a specialist in teaching and learning, and school improvement. Will has led initial teacher training courses and in-school professional development, recognised as Gold standard by the Institute for Education. His experience in school turnaround has led to him providing consultancy leadership support to failing schools and transforming teaching and learning capacity, as recognised by improved Ofsted judgements.

Will’s career started as a leader of vocational learning and he is driven by the vision of an education which sets pupils up for success in the workplace. Read about Will’s career and his passion for working with vulnerable children in TES.


Adrian Dougherty, Networks Associate

Adrian is seconded from his post as Director of Partnerships at the Chartered College of Teaching and at The Difference, he leads our relationships with mainstream schools committed to doing inclusion differently.

Adrian is based in the North East where he enjoyed ten years as a secondary teacher and leader before leaving to establish the North East region for Ambition School Leadership, providing leadership development to schools in the most challenging contexts. Adrian is a proud alumnus of Future Leaders.


Dr Charlie Herriot-Maitland, Wellbeing Associate

Dr Charlie Heriot-Maitland is a clinical psychologist, researcher, and trainer based at the University of Glasgow. Charlie’s work over the past decade has focused on compassion-focused therapy (CFT) in NHS and social care settings.

For the last few years, Charlie has worked with The Difference to transfer CFT principles into a school-based context, with teachers and parents. Charlie leads Compassionate-Focused Leadership Coaching on the two-year Difference Leaders programme and supervises use of the model with parents, colleagues and pupils.

Eleanor Bernardes, Research Associate

Since her career in the classroom, Eleanor has dedicated herself to the research and organisational support which helps the education sector have more impact on the life chances of young people. After 5 years at the think-and-action-tank Centre for Education & Youth, this has included returning to the frontline as Head of Development at the Aspire Schools multi academy trust.

Eleanor works with The Difference to capture and share the learning from our Inclusive Leadership Training with 12 mainstream Assistant & Deputy Heads and our 10 Difference Leaders.

Meet our Board

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Meet Cohort One