About Us

About Us

Who are the Aquinus Team?

Gemma Lodge
Provision Manager

I have a diverse background in working with families and young people to deliver positive outcomes across a range of areas; my previous experience includes child health, Probation and domestic abuse support. This experience supports an academic background in Psychology and Early Childhood Studies, giving me a greater understanding of the issues around non-attendance.

I joined Aquinas in 2019 and am able to apply this knowledge to provide holistic support for families, recognising that school absence is often a symptom of other underlying factors. By working with parents/carers and schools, together we can find solutions to maximise attendance and ensure that all children are able to access their education.

Tom Hutchon
Provision Manager

I have worked in school attendance since 2014, initially at the Local Authority as an Education Welfare Officer/Investigation Officer, where I developed an expert understanding of the law regarding school attendance, as well as the many ways in which barriers to school attendance can be addressed.

My move to Aquinas has afforded me the opportunity to work on a greater level with both schools and families to address school attendance issues, as well as having a positive, early impact upon ensuring children access their education. My degrees in Psychology have afforded me the knowledge and skills to be able to identify issues that schools, parents and children raise, and identify and seek appropriate support where necessary.

Jacqui Crombie
Provision Manager

I have 24 years worth of knowledge and experience of working with young people and their parents from my time as A Warrant Officer in the Army’s Military Correction and Training Centre. Since leaving the Armed Forces I have worked with Aquinas and over 3 years I’ve become the lead on Primary Schools. My results are proven and I’m very proud to have contributed to the successes of so many schools that I’ve worked with. Although I’m sometimes too modest to admit it, I am an expert on all things School Attendance and have an intuitive way of understanding the needs of young people and their parents.

I am fair but firm, calm under pressure and like to remind my Manager that I am my schools' favourite!​

Chris Abercrombie-Smith
Software and Information Management Specialist

Since leaving university with a Computer Science degree I have taught ICT in a number of schools, and am currently Head of ICT & Computer Science and Head of Systems for an independent school in Southend.

I specialise in school information management systems, data report construction and statistical handling, and I have been applying these skills to Aquinas’ operations since 2016. Although my primary focus is attendance data, my work for Aquinas often finds me designing bespoke reports that make all categories of information held by their partner schools clear, accessible and presentable at the click of button.

Karen Turtle
Provision Manager

I started my career working with Children and Young People in 2014.

I gained a huge wealth of experience whilst working in various roles across Children’s Centres and Schools, whilst also providing families and children with the tools needed to encourage and empower them to thrive and achieve positive outcomes.

Working in my roles of family liaison/safeguarding and attendance led me to understand that early intervention is paramount and key to success. Working in a career I felt so passionate about enabled me to successfully gain my Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People's Workforce.

My career move to Aquinas has opened up another door where I can continue to provide support to families and children whilst working extremely closely with the schools to identify and provide all the necessary support for every child to have access to their education and to reach their full potential.

Rachel Cottham
Provision Manager

My experience is within primary education working with children with additional needs and challenging behaviour, finally settling into a pastoral role. I have had first-hand experience with families and children who experience various challenges which ultimately can have a detrimental effect on children’s education, limiting their life chances.

I am passionate about ensuring that the right support and advice is offered and accessed quickly. I have in-depth knowledge of children’s mental health, including self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Being a part of the Aquinas family gives me a unique opportunity to work with schools and families, offering support and guidance to ensure that children are able to access their education, as is their right, in order to be the best version of themselves they can be.

Rashma March
Provision Manager

I am passionate about education and ensuring that every child has full access to the opportunities available to them during their school career. I have been working in schools for over ten years, and have gained a wealth of experience within a variety of pastoral and non-teaching classroom posts in Essex and Southend schools.

I pride myself in working closely with students and their families – both in school and in the family home - to provide them with tailored support to ensure swift solutions to barriers to learning.

In addition to my direct work with pupils and parents, I have also led training for teaching and support staff on Behaviour for Learning strategies, helping to ensure that all parties involved are striving to achieve the best outcomes for each individual.

Throughout my career I have developed a number of close links with external agencies that has enabled me to signpost and support families in the best way possible, which has proven extremely useful in my role with Aquinas.

Since joining Aquinas in 2021, I have used my previous expertise to support a number of families. My previous experiences have taught me that barriers can be overcome if all parties involved work together to achieve a common goal.

Jasmin Broughton
Provision Manager

I’ve always had an interest in working with children and families, supporting them in various areas. In my own time I volunteer for Volunteering Matters, supporting families with children on the Child Protection Register or registered as a Child in Need. I am also a Volunteer for Welcome to the UK, a charity that supports families from overseas. Within this role, I collaborate with many local primary schools to support families with children in an academic and social setting. I am multilingual which has helped me to communicate with hard to reach families.

My previous role was with Early Help Family Support Services at Southend City Council. My role was to support families to build confidence, resilience and independence so that they are able to overcome issues before specialist or statutory services are needed. I have completed various professional development courses, webinars and forums relevant to my job role which have allowed me to provide knowledgeable support to the families I work with.

I joined Aquinas in May 2023 and have managed to apply my skills, knowledge and experience to my job role as a Provisions Manager. I aim to identify the barriers that the children may be facing, and provide the relevant support that they require that would subsequently lead to maximising their school attendance and attainment.

Joanna Monahan
Provision Manager

I have over 14 years of experience working with young people in secondary school settings. During this time, I built excellent relationships with the students by providing them with an environment that is safe, secure and mutually respectful.

My calm and measured approach has supported my dealings with students, parents/carers and schools and has enabled me to achieve positive outcomes.

I believe that all children have the right to an education and to enable this I will work tirelessly to achieve the very best for the students, putting them at the centre of what I do and ensuring that the parents/carers and the school have the appropriate approach also.

I joined Aquinas at the start of 2023 as I felt I could make an impact working with students to improve attendance in schools. This works in hand to improve their educational chances in life.

Leanne Hurton
Provision Manager

Coming from a background in Pupil Referral Units, throughout my career I have developed a reputation for being a good communicator, which helps me build strong and positive relationships with not only the children I see, but also their families.

Having worked with families in difficult situations within diverse socio-geographical areas I have gained a wealth of knowledge and understanding. This has made me relatable, empathic and compassionate and I pride myself on being the person who is able to bridge the gap between the welfare of a child, their home life and family, and their school, contributing to the education every child deserves.

Lesselle Noriega
Provision Manager

I have worked in various different school over a number of years, including an SEN school, where I developed a holistic approach within my role. Within my time in schools I also learnt to remain calm in stressful situations. I have a background in working with families across Southend's ‘A Better Start’ team, which helped me gain a further understanding towards the social and emotional needs of young people.

Since completing my degree in psychology and sociology, I have acquired various skills and abilities to support the numerous issues that young people face whilst at school.

I joined Aquinas in 2022, and since then I have used my skill set to assist school attendance issues as well as supporting families to develop healthy parental patterns that will help break barriers that cause school absences.

Paul Watkins
Provision Manager

My first involvement in 'Education Welfare' was in 2007 when employed by The Local Authority as an Education Welfare Officer, during this time I learnt all there is to know about the relevant legislation and the way that The Education Welfare Service implemented its duties.

After three years and some dramatic changes to the service, I decided it was time to prove there was a better way of doing things and co-founded 'Attendance Solutions'. Over the last 12 years, now heading up a new company, I've become a bit of an expert on all things school attendance.

Chris Koutas
Provision Manager

I have been improving school attendance since leaving university in 2008, working in attendance posts for schools, and as an Education Welfare Officer/Investigation Officer for the Local Authority. My move to head up Operations at Aquinas came from a recognition that a small, expert team can make a swift and sustainable impact on school attendance.

The pastoral experience gained through my roles in schools is put to good work for Aquinas- resolving the issues of pupils and parents is often the key to securing good attendance. Through my five years with the Local Authority, I have gained a detailed knowledge of attendance legislation and court procedures, which is invaluable to the service we deliver to schools.


How to get in touch

At Aquinas we are always more than happy to hear from any school, be it simply for a bit of advice or to discuss ways in which we can work together.

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