Billy Downie – Headteacher, The Streetly Academy
Billy is Headteacher of The Streetly Academy in Sutton Coldfield, host school for The Sutton Park Teaching School and SCITT. He is also a National Leader of Education supporting schools in challenging circumstances.
In 2011, Billy chaired one of the first Local Organising Committees for the UK School Games. He served as a non-Executive Director for Youth Sport Direct, the trading arm of the Youth Sport Trust until 2016, as well as being a Board Member of the Black Country County Sport Partnership until 2014. In 2016, Billy became a non-Executive Director of the Youth Sport Trust main board, where he Chairs the National Youth Sport Award advisory group as well as acting as the Board’s lead on diversity and equality.
Previously, Billy served as an Education Strategist for Frog Education, one of the country’s largest online learning platform providers, and was an elected member of the West Midlands’ Regional School Commissioner’s Headteacher Board from 2014 to 2017.
In September 2018, Billy took up an additional responsibility as the Strategic Lead for School Improvement (Secondary) for Walsall Local Authority.
Sapreena Kumari- Director of Admissions, Student Recruitment and Outreach Aston University
Sapreena has worked in education for 13 years in further education colleges and most recently in higher education. All roles have focused on social mobility and supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter (or re-enter education). In 2019 Sapreena won the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Future Face of Public Sector and Education for her social mobility work.
Sapreena has worked at Aston University since 2016 and is responsible for the university’s admissions, recruitment and widening participation remit. Sapreena is Vice Chair of Titan Education Trust’s executive committee and chair of TAG Network West Midland’s Young Professional Network. Sapreena also sits on governing boards of a sixth form and is trustee of Birmingham Museum’s Trust.
Sapreena was born in Birmingham and is a huge advocate of the city, its educational opportunities and the rich culture of the region. Sapreena can be best summed up by her passion and enthusiasm for social mobility. She believes in the transformative power of education and the impact it can have on young people’s lives. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is one of her favourite places in Birmingham.
Frances Child – Head of Department for Teacher Education, University of Birmingham
Frances is Head of the Department of Teacher Education in the School of Education where she teaches on the PGDipEd (QTS) Modern Languages programmes, supervises MA Teaching Studies students and leads the senior leader degree apprenticeship in educational leadership. She also leads the University of Birmingham collaboration with Capita PLC, to design and deliver the early career framework, as one of only six providers nationally.
Frances chairs the Teacher Education Strategy Group, working with head teachers, MAT CEOs and the Birmingham Education Partnership to ensure a strategic response to teacher recruitment, development and retention across the region. The Department of Teacher Education is proud to recruit and train primary and secondary teachers who go on to transform the lives of young people across the West Midlands and beyond. She also works closely with colleagues in the University of Birmingham School (where she held the post of Vice Principal during its establishment phase) to develop the role of the first secondary University Training School. The School, which opened in September 2015, seeks to bring pupils together from different social and cultural backgrounds to create an environment that reflects the diversity of Birmingham and provides opportunities for everyone to excel. The School hosts numerous learning activities for UoB student teachers and engages with academic staff in the School of Education and in the wider University in a range of research projects, drawing on our mutual strengths. The School aims to connect teachers in the region – and beyond - to some of the world-leading research of the School of Education and runs, for example, our Rush Hour Research series.
Frances began her career as a teacher of languages in London schools and has held deputy head teacher and vice principal posts in Birmingham. Before moving to the University of Birmingham, Frances was director of the King Edward’s Consortium SCITT, an outstanding small provider of secondary ITT.
Abbie Vlahakis, CEO, Millennium Point
Abbie grew up in a small mining village in the South Wales Valleys before heading to the University of Wales, Aberystwyth to study Business Administration, graduating in 1996. Abbie went on to study for a Master’s in Business Administration (“MBA”), graduating in 1998. Following graduation, Abbie moved to Birmingham to begin her 19-year career in financial services working for Grant Thornton and latterly, KPMG. Qualifying as a Chartered Tax Adviser, Abbie specialised in advising small and medium sized businesses as well as their owners on everything from structuring their businesses through to succession planning and structuring their personal wealth.
In 2017, Abbie decided on a career change, and using the transferrable skills she had honed during her time in financial services, she took up the role of Finance Director at Millennium Point Property Limited, located at Eastside, Birmingham. Millennium Point Property Limited is a Commercial Landlord to prestigious tenants such as Birmingham City University (“BCU”) and Thinktank Science Museum, it is also an award-winning event space. However, what attracted Abbie to Millennium Point Property Limited was the fact that the company is owned by a Charity, Millennium Point Trust, the objectives of which is to promote and support education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (“STEM”). The profits generated from its commercial arm are used to support amazing projects in our local communities, particularly in schools, funding initiatives and helping to purchase vital STEM equipment. Every year, Millennium Point Trust also funds an undergraduate degree in STEM. The scholarship is in its seventh year and every year showcases the amazing talent in the West Midlands.
In 2018, Abbie was promoted to CEO of Millennium Point Trust and Millennium Point Property Limited and is focussed on taking the charity from strength to strength and building on the amazing work it is already doing to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders. According to Abbie, “there is a growing skills gap in the UK STEM sector despite this sector boasting some of the most varied, creative and lucrative career opportunities. There is also an abundance of routes to access these careers, opening these opportunities to so many young people. Reversing this trend can change the lives of young people and their families and working at Millennium Point Trust, which is playing an active role in reversing this trend, is a real privilege.”
Outside her role of CEO, Abbie is married to Harry and they have two children. Abbie is a keen runner and has completed several half marathons in the UK and Europe. As an outlet for her creative side, Abbie loves to crochet and build Lego. Abbie also has a thirst for history, and you will often find her reading non-fiction history books and watching documentaries.