Executive Headteacher, The Aspire Federation
Jonathan Budd is the Executive Headteacher of The Aspire Federation which consists of Slated Row School and The Walnuts School.
He took up the Headship at The Walnuts School in April 2018 to support as an interim measure. Following a number of developments and the benefits of joint working with Slated Row he was made substantive when the schools formed the Federation in October 2019. He sits on the MK Schools Partnership Steering Group and Workforce Board.
He has been the Head at Slated Row School since September 2014, and along with his team achieved an Outstanding Ofsted in 2018.
Jonathan has his National Professional Qualification in Headship (NPQH) and has completed a number of post-graduate studies in Special Educational Needs & Autism with Cambridge, Birmingham and Hertfordshire Universities. He is dedicated to professional development, not only of himself but others to. He has been a member of the strategic board for a teaching school alliance for a number of years, and worked with a number of initial teacher training providers, including as a Partner Head. He also provides support to other providers and their leaders.
Before moving to MK he was a member of a Senior Leadership Team in an all-age special school (4-16) in London between 2006 & 2014. During this time he developed the primary & early years provisions, as well as holding whole school responsibilities for Assessment, English, ICT & Health & Safety. During this time he taught from Reception to exams in various subjects for Key Stage 4.
When working for the Specialist Advisory Service in Hertfordshire he specialised in pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders and Social Communication Difficulties. Through this role he advised staff and parents and worked with pupils from pre-school to secondary schools. He completed training for individuals, whole school staff as well as centralised Local Authority Training.
He qualified as a primary teacher (PE specialism) going straight into Colnbrook School, an outstanding special school, where he was the ICT Leader for three years.
Previous to becoming a teacher he had a number of roles working with young people including Teaching Assistant (ASD Base), Sports Coach, Lifeguard and Play Leader.
Head of School
The Walnuts School
Lisa joined The Walnuts School in October 2020 as The Head of School, following a successful 18 month secondment in the role, from Milton Keynes Council.
Lisa has worked in Milton Keynes for the past 12 years, having several roles within the 'Special Educational Needs and Disability service area' of Milton Keynes Council. Whilst working for the council Lisa specialised in the area of Autism and Communication and Interaction.
Her role prior to joining The Walnuts School was the Inclusion and Intervention Manager; within the role she managed a large team of specialist teachers and inclusion and intervention workers. She had the strategic responsibility for communication and interaction departments including quality assurance, mentoring and admissions as well as Deputising for the Head of Delivery for SEND as required. Through this she contributed to the strategic planning of SEND services in Milton Keynes.
Other roles included Locality manager, managing a team of professionals including SEN caseworkers and Communication and Interaction specialist teacher, where she supported children with social communication difficulties and Autism in mainstream schools. She has been a member of the diagnosis process in MK, as part of a multi-discipline team, as well as leading parent and professional training.
Prior to entering the specialist sector in 2007, Lisa worked in several outstanding mainstream primary schools after qualifying in 2000 with a Bachelor Arts (Hons) in Primary Education with Qualified Teacher Status in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, in her last post she held the middle leader role of ‘Primary Strategy Leader’ and was a member of the senior leadership team.
Lisa holds several qualifications including; National Professional Qualification for Headship, National SENCo award and National Professional Qualification for Middle Leader.
The Walnuts School
Mike Russell joined the Walnuts School as Deputy Head in January 2019. He holds responsibilities for whole school assessment and curriculum.
Mike joined us from the Redway School where he spent almost five years as Assistant Head leading on the curriculum and assessment. During that time he introduced the app Evidence for Learning which has been highly commended externally. Since that point he has worked closely with the app developers and has successfully introduced it at the Walnuts.
Mike has been a teacher for over 15 years with a mixture of mainstream and special education experience. His first leadership role came five years into his career as a Lower KS2 leader for a mainstream primary and he has completed a number of professional development courses such as Advanced Team Teach, Rebound Therapy, Halliwick Swimming, Restorative Justice and more recently becoming a trainer for Positive Behaviour Support.
Karen Salamon joined The Walnuts School as a class teacher in February 2010. In September 2016 she became the Senior Teacher at our Hertford Place Campus and joined the Senior Leadership Team in September 2020. As Head of Department for Middle School she has responsibility for pupils in year five to year nine at our Hazeley Campus.
Karen is currently working towards her NPQML qualification, and having undergone her DSL safeguarding training is a Deputy Safeguarding Lead. Karen has led much of our parent training at The Walnuts School, including NAS Early Bird Plus. She was responsible for introducing the NAS Healthy Minds parent training at The Walnuts School, being one of the first trainers to be trained in the country. Karen has also led parent training on supporting phonics, reading and writing at home. In her time as a class teacher at The Walnuts School Karen has taught in our Lower, Middle and Upper school departments. Karen’s mainstream teaching also reflects this wide range of experience as she has taught in a variety of primary, middle and secondary schools in Suffolk, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes. Karen was part of two outstanding Early Years Ofsted inspections at Oxley Park Primary in 2007 and Tickford Park Primary in 2008. In 2015 Karen took time away from The Walnuts School to be one of the advisory teachers for Autism in Bedfordshire, further expanding her knowledge of autism.
Sara Tunnicliffe joined The Walnuts School in September 2010 as a class teacher and joined the Senior Leadership Team in January 2014. As Head of Department for Upper School she has responsibility for years 9 to 14 which includes our Sixth Form and Transition Year. In 2017 Sara achieved an MEd in Autism from Birmingham University. She is Deputy Safeguarding Lead, Careers Lead and Exams Officer for the school. Sara was part of the School LeadershipTeam involved in the 2016 OFSTED where the school was judged to be Good and the bespoke training needed to transition into the adult world provided by the school was mentioned.
Sara is an experienced classroom practitioner, having spent 14 years in mainstream primary settings, where she developed a passion for Special Educational needs, becoming the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator and having responsibility for Looked After Children in the school.
Sara led the introduction of The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme to The Walnuts School and has developed relationships with other local providers and organisations to increase the number and range of Work Experience opportunities for older students in preparation for adult life.
As Assistant Headteacher for Lower School Ruth has responsibility for year groups R to 4 and is based at the Hertford Place campus. Ruth joined the Walnuts School in 2009 as a Teaching Assistant where she developed her passion for educating young people with Autism. She then pursued her career in teaching and achieved a First Class Honours degree in Education Studies (BA) followed by a Postgraduate Certificate of Education at the University of the West of England. After a year teaching in a KS2 mainstream setting she returned to the Walnuts School in 2015.
Ruth joined the leadership team in 2018 when she took on the role of Planning Lead and temporarily held the position of Humanities lead. She was a member of the curriculum working party where she helped to design the new Aspire Curriculum. Ruth has completed a number of professional development courses including SCERTS, TEACCH, Newly Qualified Teacher mentor and has recently become a coach for Positive Behaviour Support.
Ruth was actively involved with the successful introduction of the SCERTS approach to the school, working closely with the therapy team to embed it into the school and has continued to be an advocate of SCERTS since. Ruth has recently completed her National Professional Qualification for Middle Leaders where she led a project on transactional supports and engagement inspired by Prof. Barry Carpenter
As Pastoral Assistant Head Nikki has responsibility for mental health and well-being at the Walnuts School. She is also training to be the deputy designated Safeguarding Lead.
Nikki joined the Walnuts School in 2008 as a Higher Level Teaching assistant while
completing her BA hons degree in Learning and Teaching part time. In 2011 Nikki
gained a place on Two Mile Ash’s Initial Teacher Training course which she successfully passed with the grade ‘outstanding’ before returning to the Walnuts in September 2012 as a Qualified Teacher.
Nikki always had a keen interest in Behaviour and gained her CACHE Level 2 certificate in Challenging behaviour and her level 2 certificate in understanding Children’s and Young people’s Mental Health before studying for her Master’s Degree in Autism and Children passing with a merit in 2017.
During her time at the Walnuts Nikki has continued to develop professionally attending
many courses including developing middle leaders, an introduction to sensory
integration, TEACCH and SCERTS. She is also a Positive Behaviour Support coach
and has been instrumental in developing the school’s positive approach to behaviour.
Throughout her time at the Walnuts Nikki has taught in all three departments and joined
the leadership team in January 2018 when she began the role of Behaviour/Well-being
In January of this year Nikki became a mental health first aider and is currently building on her skills by training to become an Emotional Therapist in her spare time. Nikki is also working towards her National Qualification for Senior Leaders with a project based on engagement.