Our senior team

Fergal Roche, chief executive

As chief executive of The Key, Fergal Roche leads the team to provide outstanding services to its members and ensure the organisation’s continued growth and success.

With a passion for developing young lives, Fergal started his career as an English teacher before becoming headteacher of three schools between 1995 and 2007.

Fergal went on to become strategy and services director for GEMS Education and business development director at VT Education and Skills (now part of Babcock Ltd.), prior to joining The Key.

As managing director at The Key, Fergal and his team responded to the critical need to provide support to school leaders. The Key was set up in 2007 to meet these needs and Fergal has led the organisation from its inception - during the initial DfE pilot phase through to its national roll out to become a completely independent membership organisation.

Fergal says: “In our work providing information and support to nearly half the schools in the country, and in the visits to schools I make each week, I know first-hand that the scale of the task to raise standards in education is huge.

“Schools and, more importantly, teachers, make such a significant impact on the lives of young people that it is vital they are given the support they need to bring about more effective learning. We are beginning to realise just how critical evidence-informed practice is to our classrooms. It is a real joy to see the impact we are able to make when we work collectively with school leaders and governors to provide the support they need to run their schools so that they can focus on the bigger job of teaching and learning and improving the lives of the young people in their care.” 

For six years Fergal chaired the board at Saint Gabriel's College - a rapidly improving secondary school in Lambeth – and is a governor of the highly successful George Abbot School, which boasts of achieving in the top 5% of GCSE and A level results in the country. He is also a board member of the Guildford Diocese Education Trust.

Fergal has a bachelors degree in English and Drama, with QTS, a masters in Education as well as an MBA in business.

As an education expert and entrepreneur, Fergal is dedicated to improving the life chances of children and young people. He regularly speaks at education conferences and events across the country.

Richard Jewell, chief operating officer

Richard joined The Key in 2007 as a researcher in the Staff team, and in 2008 he was appointed as research team leader. From 2010, Richard took on responsibility for new service development as The Key’s business development manager, director for new services, and then chief innovation officer. Richard was responsible for the development of The Key for School Governors (2011), The Key’s live conference and training offer (2013), and more recently, he led the development and launch of The Key’s CPD toolkit (2016) – a suite of high-quality, digital training resources that are ready-to-deliver in schools.

In June 2016, Richard was appointed chief operating officer and is now responsible for the performance and delivery of The Key’s three digital subscription services to a member-base of 10,000 schools in England.

“Stripped back, my role is reasonably simple: how can The Key’s services become increasingly relevant to more of its members at a time of severe uncertainty across the education sector.”

Before working at The Key, Richard ran the political office of Joan Ryan MP, the then under-secretary of state for immigration. He managed Joan’s parliamentary business, conducted research, and wrote speeches. Richard holds a BA in Politics and Social Policy and an MA in British Politics from Leeds University.

Paul Osborne, chief technology officer

Paul is The Key’s chief technology officer, leading strategic technological planning and innovation for the company.

Paul joined The Key in 2016 following the merger of The Key and WebBased and leads the development and creation of online solutions that support LAs, MATs and school leaders.

Paul brings a wealth of expertise from his previous roles including working for seven years as a primary and middle school teacher and acting as Director (school governor) at Chulmleigh Academy Trust with a lead role for resources and ICT. 

As founder of WebBased, Paul and his team provided online solutions to LAs and MATs, growing organically to reach 44 Local Authorities and 700,000 users, transforming customer engagement and internal working
Paul’s background of teaching and programming supports his remit at The Key around ensuring all internal systems are working effectively to provide the best service for members. 

In addition, Paul works closely with groups and individual schools to ensure The Key is providing support for school leaders through the use of technology. 

“I was drawn to The Key and the opportunity to support school leaders to be more effective in their role providing confidence and peace of mind in challenging circumstances. We are continuing to personalise and enhance our world class content building on our reach into nearly 10,000 schools to make our service even more indispensible.”

Paul has worked closely with teachers to demonstrate how the use of technology can motivate learning and transform teaching. This builds on his interest in working with schools to support children and young people to create a culture of confidence, motivation, problem solving and resilience.

Paul holds a B.Ed (Hons) Exeter University with QTS.

Lynsey Farnsworth, director of marketing

As director of marketing for The Key, Lynsey is responsible for overseeing the promotion and awareness-raising of The Key and its core products and services.

Lynsey joined The Key in 2008 as head of marketing, bringing her straight-talking commercial experience and knowledge of the education sector gained from previous roles to lead the company’s marketing team.

During her tenure, Lynsey is proud to have been involved in taking the company from a government-run pilot to national roll-out, now boasting membership from more than a third of schools in the country.

Lynsey says, “The Key has the ability to make the lives of school leaders and governors that little bit easier. My aim as director of marketing is to enable them to access the services, information and events we offer across England and Wales, to ensure they are able to get on with the job of educating the children and young people in their schools."

Her previous roles have given her a solid grounding in marketing for the education sector – with editorial and marketing roles at Reuters and marketing manager roles at education qualification providers BPP Professional Education and 7city, where she promoted their qualifications, soft-skills courses and in-house training packages to the financial services market. On leaving 7city, Lynsey was looking to use her marketing experience in a company with a strong sense of social purpose – which The Key readily provided.

Lynsey has a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Bristol University.

Joe Blair, director of product development 

Joe Blair is The Key’s director of product developmment. 

Joe joined The Key in 2008 as part of the research team, swiftly progressing to quality assurance manager after 18 months, followed by a further promotion to editorial team leader in 2011. 2013 saw Joe take the role of director of digital and technology. In this role, Joe leads the development of technology across the business, managing and driving the quality of The Key’s information systems, including websites and business systems, ensuring excellent usability and customer experience.

He’s passionate that IT should not be seen as something ‘other worldly’ in the organisation, saying: “I’m keen for all employees to engage with the idea of The Key as a technology company.The Key is a genuinely pioneering company. There is a lot more we can do, and I hope we continue to ‘disrupt’ the schools sector by introducing better, more efficient ways of doing things.”

Joe has had experience in direct education, teaching English as a foreign language in Japan for 18 months after graduating. On returning to the UK, he was keen to find a role that enabled him to continue working within education, taking posts in the International Office at the University of the Arts in London and subsequently joining The Key.

Joe brings a unique mix of art and science to his role – bringing creativity from his BA (Hons) in English Literature from Sheffield University, plus a logical, mathematical mind from maths and computer science qualifications.

Hannah Durno, director of research and content 

Hannah Durno is the director of research and content at The Key. In this role, she is accountable for the quality of research outputs, leading a team of researchers in writing articles. Hannah also directs the creation of content across both service websites and the company’s blog, Key insights, considering how to develop content in new ways.

Hannah joined The Key in 2010 as a researcher and was swiftly promoted to research team leader within six months. In this role she was responsible for overseeing the outputs of the team, ensuring accuracy, timeliness and quality. Hannah spent just over three years in this role before she got promoted to director of research and content – a role that she has held since May 2014.

Hannah says, “Education is a fascinating, complex, ever-changing sector and one that I’m very proud to have been part of and to continue to serve in my work at The Key.”

Hannah has dedicated her career to the education sector. Before joining The Key, she spent two happy years as an English teacher at north London’s Wembley High Technology College, having enrolled on the Teach First Scheme. She decided to branch away from face-to-face education by joining The Key so that she could combine her passion for the education sector with her skills as a writer.

Hannah has a 2:1 in English from Cambridge University.

 

Tom Ryan, director of quality

As director of quality, Tom Ryan is responsible for making sure The Key’s services offer members unmatched quality and great value. His team ensures that members get support that’s authoritative, free from bias and deeply practical, and also challenges every team at the company to continuously improve. Tom joined The Key in 2011 as a researcher, before quickly moving to quality assurance manager, and then to quality team leader. He’s been the company’s strategic lead for quality since late 2014.

“Achieving high quality is one of The Key’s core values. For me this means making sure everything we do is completely focused on the needs of our members, and that we get it right every day so they get the support they deserve. We’re never satisfied, and we’re always rethinking what we do to help members work more effectively, make the most of their time, and get better value from our services.”

Tom’s past work has included policy development in education, and producing national guidance for schools. He's also taught English, managed an environmental education project, and developed volunteering programmes for environmental charities. Before joining The Key, he worked as a freelance editor, specialising in editing translation. He has a degree in manufacturing engineering and management from Nottingham University, and an MSc in public policy from UCL.

 

Thomasina Ward, director of business development

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Thomasina is The Key’s director of business development, helping the business grow across and within the education sector.

Working her way up through technology solutions company WebBased, Thomasina was promoted to Managing Director in 2011, running the company to continued success. 

WebBased merged with The Key in 2016 and Thomasina brings to The Key a wealth of expertise in online, system and business solutions, along with a deep knowledge of the benefits these bring to customers.  

With the experience of designing and implementing online solutions to over 700,000 users, Thomasina is relishing being part of The Key. 

She says: “Knowing that I am making a contribution to ensuring children have the best start in life is extremely rewarding, knowing that my mix of technical and business background is making a difference in education is something I am passionate and excited about.”

In addition to holding a BSc (Hons) in Multimedia Computer and a Diploma in Computer Science, Thomasina was a 2015 Women’s Venus Awards semi-finalist for the Digital Media and Online Business Award.

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