Meet our Central Team

We are pleased to introduce you to Tarka Learning Partnership’s central team below:

Richard Light, CEO

I am a qualified teacher and have worked both across the South West and nationally during my teaching career. Prior to becoming CEO at Tarka I was Director of Education at Westcountry Schools Trust for three years. The role involved working closely with headteachers to bring about school improvement across 19 primary and 7 secondary schools. I also lead on other areas such as apprenticeship work, ITT and the trust talent management strategy.

Previous to WeST I worked for Ofsted for eight years as a Senior, Her Majesty’s Inspector (SHMI) and one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI). This followed 18 years of teaching, including 12 years of successful headship.

I was particularly attracted to the tone and language articulated at Tarka. The approaches of pragmatism and empowerment resonated deeply with my own views. Reflecting on my own career I recognise I have empowered myself through ongoing professional development. This has included becoming an Ofsted inspector in 2005, an accredited School Improvement Partner in 2006 and a Local Leader in Education in 2011. In 2010, I completed a Master’s in Education while working as a research associate for the National College for School Leadership.

Despite my workload and ongoing commitments, I do find time for my family and thoroughly enjoy coastal and moorland walking. I spend many weekends supporting my local rugby club through coaching my son’s age group and provide some specialist advice through acting as a club safeguarding officer. I am very excited about working at Tarka and developing a strong network of schools for the benefit of children and young people in North Devon.

Claire Thomson, Deputy CEO

Having worked in Education for over 20 years I have held a number of roles across the sector. After qualifying as an secondary English, Dance and Drama teacher I taught in both mainstream and special schools across all phases. Prior to starting at Tarka Trust I was Director of National Services for a large charity and had responsibilities for specialist education services, several award-winning employment programmes, national youth networks and for delivering key campaigns and policy work.

I am passionate about Inclusion of all pupils within education and previously was Head of Specialist Education and Safeguarding Babcock, who delivered education contracts across a number of Local Authorities. This involved working with Local Authorities to deliver an inclusion agenda and schools services across a wide range of schools.

I became an Ofsted Inspector in 2021 and regularly inspect for Ofsted across the South West. I am interested in how the Ofsted framework can be used to ensure that all pupils are getting an education that meets their needs particularly the most vulnerable.

Working across the specialist education sector, I have delivered at events both nationally and internationally, written articles for publication and have consulted for the BBC as a Inclusion Expert.

I am delighted to be working at Tarka Trust and am excited to align my own values with the vision that the trust has to provide a quality education for all pupils.

Tash Brown, CFO

I joined the Tarka Learning Partnership in April 2023 having made the jump from the private to public sector. I have worked within finance for fifteen years and I am very excited to be making the move into education to use my experience to support our schools.

I am passionate about the children and young people of North Devon receiving the best education. As CFO, my role is to lead the finance strategy of the trust, ensuring high quality, effective, financial and resource management to support our schools in providing the best outcomes for children.

Mo Cann, Chief Operations Officer

I have worked in the Education Sector since 1999 having spent the first 10 years of my career in the banking sector.

I am a qualified Accounting Technician and in 2009, graduated with level 7 Advance School Business Management qualification through the National College of School Leadership.

I have worked in the Academy Sector since 2011 and have been on the journey with our schools during the formation of the Tarka Learning Partnership in July 2018, commencing my role as Chief Finance Officer in September 2018 and from June ’23 moving into the role of Chief Operations Officer.

My role is to lead the operations team and hold particular responsibility for the IT Strategy and the onboarding of new schools into the Trust, ensuring the Trust meets its statutory obligations under company law, charity law and the Academies Handbook. 

It is a real privilege to work within education. I am dedicated to supporting colleagues across a range of settings and disciplines to achieve the best outcomes for our children.

Jo Down, Human Resources Leader

I have worked in Human Resources within the education sector for over 25 years. I am passionate about children and young people having high aspirations and reaching their full potential through outstanding education.

My career in Human Resources started in 1995 in personnel administration and I progressed to managing and leading an HR function at a Further Education college, before moving to Tarka Learning Partnership in 2020. I gained my level 7 Human Resources CIPD qualification in 2006 however I believe in lifelong learning and always enjoy development opportunities as they arise.

In my role I work with staff and leaders in all the Trust schools in order to help support a workforce which is healthy and safe and driven by the desire to deliver excellent education for the children of North Devon.

Erick Muzard, Estates Leader

I joined the Trust in November 2019 as the Estates Leader. Previous roles include Facilities Management and Project Management of new builds.  I have over 20 years of experience in managing estates and commercial activities within the Arts and Hospitality sectors.

My role as part of the TLP estates team is to oversee Estates Management across the Trust, including Health and Safety and the management and effective use of SCA funding.  I am responsible for the delivery of all building projects for the Trust, including new build projects, redevelopments, and improvements to existing sites.  Alongside this, I manage the centralised procurement of energy, maintenance and other similar contracts across the Estate.

I aim to be a highly visible, supportive and inspirational leader.  I am committed to supporting the Trustees, our CEO, the Headteachers and their respective teams to deliver excellence and offer safe, secure and stimulating learning environment for the children across the Trust.

Andy Ogden, Director for CPD and Devon Training School Partnership

The development of people, so that they can confidently and expertly carry out their roles, is a lifelong passion. This enables staff from TLP and other schools across Devon to be fulfilled in providing the best education for our children, not only in the classroom but also in their office and support roles.

I draw on 27 years in education with experience in a variety of roles: Headteacher, School Improvement Advisor and National Strategy Consultant. In terms of training I have led the Devon Teaching School partnership and been Director of Devon Primary SCITT. I am a NPQ lead facilitator and have designed our subject leader apprenticeship. We are developing across the Trust a range of other staff into training roles, which not only raises the quality of teaching but also the leadership qualities of those facilitating the training. Our CPD is described as providing ‘inspiration leadership that models and secures outstanding personalised training, professional development and pastoral support.

Della Oliver, Information and Governance Leader

I lead on governance, communication and information governance (including GDPR) across the Trust, helping to ensure effectiveness and compliance in these areas. I am privileged to work closely with the Trust and School Leaders to support the Trust’s mission to empower aspiration and learning in North Devon.

Nikki Rostock, Senior Finance Officer

I started working in education in May 1993 at the North Devon Professional Centre, I then moved to the Area Education Office at the Civic Centre and worked with various teams – SEN Team; School Support; School Transport – yes I have walked remote parts of North Devon with a yellow wheel!  Later I joined the Education Welfare Service and spent many years helping to develop whole county systems and procedures and managing the EWS Budgets. 

 I then moved to a part-time position in a local secondary school,  a view from the other side of the fence!  I thoroughly enjoyed many years working in a secondary school.  I started as PA to the School Business Manager and progressed to become their Finance Manager.  This was the first secondary school in the area to become an Academy, exciting times!  I spent my last year on the Leadership team to further develop my skills and knowledge.  I was fortunate to secure an amazing career opportunity and moved on to a local primary school as their School Business Manager; this school joined Tarka Learning Partnership and here I am today; back on the other side of the fence supporting schools!

 As they say every day is a learning day in education.


Terry Simons, Estates Officer

I have worked in the premises management side of education for the last 16 years in the role of Site Manager. I ensured that high levels of Health & Safety were met; minor & major building projects ran smoothly, on time, at best value cost; and that the day to day running of the premises ran safely and smoothly for all users.

I joined the Tarka Learning Partnership as Estates Officer in January 2020 to apply the skills I have gained over the years to support, advise and ensure high standards of premises management are met across the Trust school members.

I believe in ensuring Pupils, Staff and Visitors have a safe, clean and enjoyable environment to learn, work, have fun and be a part of.

Jo Turnbull, Trust Administrator 

Having started my working life teaching English as a Foreign Language, I had a career in educational publishing. Then came a move from Oxfordshire to Devon where I worked as project administrator in the voluntary sector.

In my role as Trust Administrator I now support the central team, in particular with CPD and Safeguarding/Inclusion. I’m delighted to be part of a team that is so committed to keeping children at the heart of everything they do.