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Meet the Team

Leadership Team

​Our team consists of specialist Teachers, Educational Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Psychotherapists, Art Therapists, Play Therapists, Music Therapists, Drama & Dance Movement Therapists, Thrive Trainers, Mindfulness Trainers, Adoption Support specialists, Creative Arts Teachers and other specialist practitioners.

Kieran McCarthy - Director

Kieran has been Director of Brighter Futures since the organisation was founded in 2012. Kieran has worked in education for 35 years as a primary and secondary teacher, SENCo and Deputy Head. He has 12 years experience as a Head Teacher, including headship of therapeutic residential school, head of a special school and head of county pupil referral and outreach services.

Kieran is a Thrive Lead trainer and Mindfulness teacher. Kieran’s specialist interests include children and adult emotional well-being, neuroscience and learning, mindfulness, the Thrive Approach, creativity and innovation to support vulnerable children and families. Kieran’s qualifications include Masters in Inclusive Education and SEND, PGCE, NPQH and Post grad diplomas in Mindfulness, Counselling, Therapeutic Child Care.

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Ruth Fergusson - Senior Educational Psychologist

Ruth is a Chartered Educational and Child Psychologist. She worked in a Local Authority setting for twelve years before moving to lead the team of Educational Psychologists at Brighter Futures. She is also the lead practitioner of the Nurture Outreach Service in B&NES which supports children with complex early life experiences to transition into and maintain their placements in mainstream schools. Her area of special interest is in the effect of children’s early relationship experiences on their education progress.

Ruth is currently undertaking a doctorate at UCL looking at effective ways to support staff in schools who work intensively with children who have experienced developmental trauma.

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Fred Lacey - Paediatric Psychotherapist

Fred is a Child Psychotherapist, clinical supervisor and education consultant.

Fred started his career as a primary teacher then Deputy Head of a Primary school. Fred then retrained as a play therapist and psychotherapist as well as a clinical supervisor. His work now includes specialist practitioner Nurture Outreach Team, clinical supervisory work for school staff, therapists and trainee therapists, and psychotherapy work predominately with Fostered and adopted families. Fred is a Thrive Practitioner.

Qualifications – BEd Hons, MA, Cert&Dip in practice-based play therapy, Clinical Supervision, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy practitioner. Areas of professional interest: working with children who have experienced early trauma and unified approaches with parents and professionals.

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Dr Sue Wise - Specialist Practitioner

Sue is a Specialist Practitioner/Consultant and joined Brighter Futures in 2013.

Sue’s specific expertise is in the education of children with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, removing barriers to their learning and supporting inclusive practices in schools. Sue has 35 years of wide ranging experience in a variety of settings, including leadership, management and teaching in mainstream, special and alternative settings, university lecturing and training/consultancy. Sue is an Associate Consultant with the Institute of Public Care (Oxford Brookes University) working on a range of children’s services projects.

Publications: Sue’s book ‘Listen to Me’, capturing pupil’s perceptions, was shortlisted for an award by the National Association for Special Educational Needs (NASEN) and the Times Educational Supplement (TES).

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Ed Harker

Ed is a Senior Consultant specialising in School leadership, Inclusion, Early Years Education, and Creativity in Education. Recent significant experience as Headteacher of an Infant School (for 12 years). Chair of BANES Schools Forum 2015-19.

Qualifications: BA Hons, PGCE Primary and Early Years. NPQH, Thrive Practitioner.

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Educational Psychology Team

Dr Jude Liberman

DEd Psy. Specialist in SEMH, SEND, Behaviour, Thrive Practitioner.

Jude was a secondary school maths teacher and SENCo before completing Educational Psychology training in 2005. She works as a local authority (LA) EP alongside her work with Brighter Futures.

Jude completed a professional doctorate in Educational Psychology in 2019. She is interested in the transition to adulthood for young people with SEND, including those with the most complex needs. She is also interested in trying to make sense of situations for children of all ages where there are multiple and complex factors that are impacting upon access to learning, behaviour and wellbeing - proper detective work!

Jude enjoys working with parents and, as a mum of 2 teenagers, she has a personal interest in working out how best to understand and support children through their teenage years.

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Becky Mitcham

Becky has been an EP for 15 years, having previously taught across all ages of KS2. She has a special interest in supporting young people with social, emotional, and mental health needs and has helped set up an early intervention nurture provision in a neighboring authority to support inclusive practice in schools.

Becky also has a broad interest in supporting young people with autism and sensory processing needs.

She lives at home with her husband and three sons where she enjoys spending time outside and watching her sons play football!

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Jenny Stephenson

Jenny Stephenson has been a chartered Educational Psychologist since 2005. She has worked for inner London local authorities as a specialist senior EP for many years and more recently in the South West of the UK.

She has a background in primary school teaching and held previous roles as an SEND governor in schools. She is passionate about applying psychology to promote the inclusion of vulnerable children and those with additional needs. Her special interests include trauma and attachment, anxiety and emotional well-being, neuro-developmental needs and sleep difficulties.

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Emma Balfour

Emma has been an Educational Psychologist for 15 years. She previously taught in a primary school and at the Chelsea Children’s Hospital School.

Emma studied to become an Educational Psychologist at the Tavistock Clinic, a specialist mental health service for children and families. She has worked across early years, primary, secondary, PRUs, special provision and charities, using psychology to support children and young people to overcome barriers to their success in education. She has a special interest in supporting children and young people with social, emotional and mental health needs. She is a trained Video Interaction Guidance Practitioner and is passionate about building relationships in families and schools, to support emotional well-being.

Emma believes strongly in the importance of the well-being of the adults around the child/young person and has delivered wellbeing sessions based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to school leaders, school staff and other Educational Psychology Services.

She lives with her partner and two children, and particularly enjoys outdoor swimming and reading.

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Dr Sarah Gothard

DEd Psy. PGCE. Specialist in SEMH, SEND, Bereavement.

Sarah has nearly 20 years of experience as an educational psychologist, having previously been a primary school teacher. Sarah worked with a local authority for 9 years before setting up her own practice as well as working with Winston’s Wish, a national child bereavement charity based in Gloucestershire.

As a local authority educational psychologist, Sarah took the lead on supporting schools following critical incidents and she has a post-graduate certificate in child bereavement. Sarah has recently completed a doctorate in educational psychology in which she researched children’s experiences of telling their story after someone important has died.

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Therapists & Practitioners

Sonia Mainstone-Cotton

Sonia is an early years and nurture specialist on the Brighter Futures Nurture Outreach team, she is a Thrive practitioner and also works part time as freelance trainer/consultant specialising in children’s and adults well-being and child voice.

Sonia has written several books including Promoting young children’s emotional health and wellbeing, Promoting wellbeing in early years staff, Mummy’s Got Bipolar and Can I tell you about Bipolar. Sonia worked for 20 years with The Children’s Society leading on child voice and participation, specialising in early years and SEN children. As part of this role she delivered training across the country.

Qualifications: BA Hons Early Childhood studies and Masters in Early Years Education

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Sharon Cooke

Sharon is a Thrive Licensed Practitioner and nurture specialist who has extensive experience of working in schools with vulnerable children with a wide range of additional needs including social, emotional, behavioural and SEND needs. Sharon has experience of setting up Thrive rooms in schools to support children with Thrive interventions. She is also a member of the Brighter Futures Nurture Outreach Team providing training and coaching for school staff. She has experience of supporting and training staff in order to imbed Thrive and is able to enthuse others with her passion for supporting vulnerable learners.

Professional interests: Attachment and Sensory

Processing needs, ASC needs and the use of play and creativity to support the emotional needs and regulation of children and young people.

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Nicky Spencer-Hutchings

Nicky is a Mental Health Occupational Therapist, Thrive trainer and specialist practitioner. Nicky has been working in mainstream and special education for over 15 years, supporting child and adolescent mental health and upskilling those adults whose lives these children touch.

Specialism: supporting children and adolescents affected by trauma and loss

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Kate Parmar - Inclusion Practitioner

Prior to working with Brighter Futures, Kate was a primary school teacher for 16 years with experience of teaching in the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1.

Her other responsibilities included being Deputy Head Teacher, Designated Safeguarding and Child Protection Lead, SENDCo and Inclusion Leader and carrying out staff supervision in the Foundation Stage.

Kate has also worked as a Teaching Assistant in year 2 and very much enjoyed supporting the children’s learning and well-being. She is especially interested in children’s attachment needs and has been a respite Foster Carer and a Sessional Worker for the BANES ‘Children in Care’ team.

Having completed her Licensed Thrive Practitioners training, Kate draws upon this professional development as an invaluable resource within her professional practice.

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Juliette Marsh - Art Therapist

Before working as an Art Psychotherapist for Brighter Futures, Juliette worked in both Children’s Television production and as a practitioner in therapeutic art making. She has worked extensively with children and young adults with Special Educational Needs and is an advocate for broader access to the Arts and Art Therapy in education.

Alongside her first degree in Fine Art, Juliette completed her Masters in Art Psychotherapy in 2020 and is a member of the British Association of Art Therapists (BAAT). She is registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) and has a special interest in working alongside her clients, as well as in dyadic work between the parent and child in Art Therapy.

In her spare time, Juliette maintains her own professional art practice and enjoys print making as well as painting, and has completed several wall murals for private clients and organisations across the course of her career.

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Katie Harris

Katie is a Thrive Lead Trainer and qualified social worker. Katie has extensive experience of working with vulnerable children and adults in education, social care and mental health organisations. In her role as Family Support Worker at Three Ways School, Katie developed programmes and courses for parents in Thrive, emotional resilience, using creative arts and mindfulness.

Katie is also a Relax Kids coach and works across Bath primary schools with programmes to support children’s emotional regulation including Thrive Creative Arts.

Qualifications include: BA Hons in Social Work.

Professional interests: the role of creativity and play in supporting children and young people’s emotional and social development

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Andy Hattersley

Andy is a Specialist Consultant, Thrive Licensed Practitioner and Nurture Specialist supporting children with social/emotional/behavioural and SEND needs.

Andy has worked extensively in Special Needs Schools and mainstream settings for over 10 years, teaching and supporting vulnerable learners and she has considerable experience in training and supporting staff in their work with children who have a wide range of needs.

Qualifications include a degree in Drama (1st Class Honours), she is a qualified Level 3 Forest School Leader and children’s Zumba instructor.

Andy leads forest school and emotional regulation programmes and multi-sensory drama projects.

Professional interests: Special Needs, Attachment Needs, using the arts and play to help children develop socially and emotionally, pursuing holistic approaches in her work, focusing on well-being both for children and staff, particularly linked to nature.

Andy is passionate about nature, the outdoors, the sea and especially wild swimming. Her other passions include the arts, drama, dance and photography which she pursues in her other work both professionally and personally.

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Bridget Bolwell

Bridget is a SEND consultant providing SEN services to schools in B&NES and beyond, including SEND school audits SEND training and SENCo support with EHC requests. Bridget is also a Thrive Practitioner, nurture specialist and trained at Level 1 Theraplay.

Bridget worked as a primary school SENCo for many years and has also been a SEND adviser, a national trainer for NASEN (National Association for Special Needs), and former Vice-Chair of Governors and Governor responsible for SEND and Child

Qualifications include Masters Level NASENCo award for experienced SENCo’s

Specialist areas: SEND, Early Years and Primary

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