Trustees Profiles


David Allan QC

Chair of Trustees

David has been involved with the M20 Learning Trust since 2017 and was appointed chair in 2019. Prior to this, David had a long career as a Queen’s Counsel and judge, specialising in complex cases of personal injury and industrial disease.

David’s role as chair encompasses every facet of compliance and strategy related to delivering educational excellence. Above all, he ensures the Trust has robust frameworks in place for meeting its governance and funding obligations. His approach is underpinned by his vast experience of applying analytical skills and critical thinking as a barrister and judge.

David’s responsibilities also include setting the Trust’s strategic direction, and when necessary, establishing working parties to develop specific proposals and plans. David also supports the Trust’s leadership team on complex operational matters often providing advice on how to interpret and apply government guidelines.

In his spare time, David reads avidly and enjoys hill walking, playing tennis and spending time with his six grandchildren.


Nick Brown


Nick is a chartered member of the Chartered Institute for Professional Development. As a consultant, he specialises in employment law and policy and has experience of working in the private sector with law firms, and in the education sector with local government teams across the North West.
Nick’s experience spans many facets of employment law and operational HR management from national pay awards and contracts, through safeguarding, to managing the dynamics of working with ACAS. He also has considerable experience in the recruitment of leadership teams, headteachers, business managers and CEOs for academies.
Nick joined the Trust in 2020 and is a member of the Finance, Oversight, Audit and Risk committee. He’s also the appointed Health and Safety custodian and will apply his practical experience of implementing employment law and managing risk as part of the role. Above all, Nick will help schools correctly navigate the law when making HR related decisions about their teaching and site teams.
Nick lives in West Didsbury and spends much of his spare time either playing or watching sport. Favourites include football, cricket, golf, and cross-fit.


Kate Dean


Kate has worked in education for over thirty years, firstly, as a primary teacher across several Manchester boroughs and then as a college lecturer in education. Kate then moved to Trafford Council where she was a primary School Improvement Adviser and Senior Early Years Adviser. She has also been an Ofsted inspector and now provides independent consultancy to schools.
As a specialist in improvement, Kate is comfortable in using a range of factors to inform and evaluate improvement plans in order to reach a high quality of education. As such, Kate sees herself as a ‘critical friend’ to the school and trust, providing the expertise, reassurance and validation they need when formulating and adopting improvement measures.
Kate is a former pupil of Beaver Road Primary and lives in Didsbury. Kate is a keen gardener, enjoys spending time with family and friends and is also a trustee of a charity working in sub-Saharan Africa.


Emma Forrester


Emma has 20 years HR and Recruitment BusinessPartnering experience in corporate environments, both in retail and pharmaceutical sectors.  She specialises in chnage management, organisational development and talent development.  She lives in Didsbury and has a son and a daughter who both attended Beaver Road Primary School.


Mark O’Keefe


Mark is the founding director of Optima Consultancy, a specialist payments consultancy that provides financial modelling, training, research and regulatory support to banks, payment networks and retailers around the world. Mark is a trained accountant and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and a member of the Payment Systems Regulator Panel.
Mark chairs the Trust’s Finance Oversight, Audit and Risk committee ensuring financial plans and proposals are challenged, validated and meet regulatory frameworks and policies. The committee also oversees internal and external audits and makes recommendations to the Trust board on matters related to reserves, investments and financial strategy.
Mark has two children at Beaver Road Primary, both of whom love taking part in sport. When he’s not being their biggest fan at sporting events, he can be found at Old Trafford supporting Manchester United. Mark is also an enthusiastic runner and podcast devotee


Karen Walkden


Karen, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development, joined the board of Trustees in 2020, bringing her expertise as an HR director and specialist in change management. During her career in the nuclear power industry, Karen has managed the strategic and operational people plans related to merger and acquisitions, scaling operations and closing sites.

With expertise in policy, cultural change, employee communications and training, due diligence and risk management, Karen is well equipped to help Trust members build people plans that reflect the goals of the M20 Learning Trust while remaining true to their local roots.

Karen has studied and worked in and around Manchester all her life. Now semi-retired, she enjoys long walks with her dog Rocky, playing badminton in the Manchester League, and has recently discovered the joy that life as a new grandmother brings.


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