Our Board of Directors

BFfC is an alternative delivery model. We are a company limited by guarantee, wholly owned by Reading Borough Council, but run by an independent Board of Directors. The Chair of the Board and its Non-Executive Directors were recruited to bring senior-level skills and experience from different sectors.

A representative of RBC sits on the Board along with Executive Directors responsible for the day-to-day operation of the company. The Board is responsible for setting the strategy of the company, ensuring that the contract objectives are met, and safeguarding the children and young people of Reading.

Di SmithChair

Di has been Chair of the Board of Brighter Futures for Children since April 2020. She has spent her career in education and children’s services and has extensive leadership experience across schools and local authorities. She has been a Director of Children’s Services in four different areas and has been a head teacher, Ofsted inspector and chair of governors.

She has been a member of the children’s workforce for over forty years and is passionate about improving the outcomes and life chances of children and young people, particularly those who are most vulnerable.

Di has developed a portfolio career providing consultancy and improvement support to a number of local authorities. She has been independent chair of a local safeguarding children’s board and scrutineer of safeguarding partnership arrangements. She was a Trustee at the Children’s Society for nine years and is currently Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Advisory Committee for the Diocese in Europe.

Di chairs the Board and the Quality Assurance and Improvement Committee.

Lara PatelExecutive Director of Children's Services

 Lara started as Reading’s Director of Children’s Services on 1 February 2023.

Lara has more than 25 years’ experience working across local authority and voluntary sector children’s services and joined us from Oxfordshire County Council, where she had been Deputy Director of Children’s Services since 2017.

Lara has led the delivery of a wide range of strategic and operational children’s services at local, regional and national levels, for both local authorities and The Children’s Society. She has also held positions as both a Board Director and a Trustee.  

Lara spends 20% of her time with Reading Borough Council and 80% seconded to Brighter Futures for Children. She sits on the council’s Corporate Management Team, will be part of the Executive Directors Meeting (EDM) and the Senior Leadership Team at BFfC, as well as being an executive member of the BFfC Board.  

Kit LamExecutive Director of Finance and Resources

Kit joined Brighter Futures for Children as Executive Director of Finance and Resources in June 2022. She has worked in the not-for-profit and public sector for more than 20 years, with her last three posts at senior leadership level in the education sector.

In Kit’s last role as Chief Operating Officer for a newly formed multi academy trust, she successfully developed and led the centralised corporate functions, supporting schools operating across three regions in the UK.

Kit has a master’s degree in Leadership and is a qualified certified accountant. As part of her continued learning, she has undertaken Executive Coaching and completed the Experienced Leaders course with Windsor Leadership.

Picture of non-executive board member Tony Byrne

Antony ByrneNon-Executive Director

Tony is currently the CEO for DEBRA UK, a national charity that supports individuals and families affected by Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). He also holds Non-Executive Director positions for Cumbria County Holdings Ltd, Orian Solutions Ltd and Cumbria Waste Management Ltd, commercial companies wholly owned by Cumberland Council and Westmorland and Furness Council involved in catering, cleaning and waste management and Corserv Ltd, a diverse group of Cornwall Council-owned businesses, providing infrastructure, engineering, housing, jobs, social care, facilities management, inward investment, transport and other essential services to Cornwall and beyond.

Tony has held numerous senior management positions in various industries including catering, facilities management, hotels and retail. He has worked in the UK and Internationally.

His previous non-executive positions have been for the School Food Trust (Department of Education), Springboard, The Inspire and Achieve Foundation and finally as a Governor for Salesian College (Farnborough) Ltd where he was Chair of Governors for four years and served on the Board for a total of nine years. He has been a Governor for a primary school as well.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Certified Member of the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management

Nicola GilhamNon-Executive Director

Nicola is a portfolio NED focused on the health and social care sector. As a qualified chartered accountant, she has experience of sitting on both operating and executive boards within the UK and Australia.

In addition to executive roles at Arthur Andersen and Michael Page, she was latterly Chief Executive at a leading HR recruitment consultancy. Nicola is currently NED for Turning Point ( a social enterprise, providing specialist and integrated services which focus on improving lives and communities across mental health, learning disability, substance misuse). She is also a NED for both Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust, and Vice Chair of Child Bereavement UK.

At BFfC, Nicola is Chair of both the Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) Committee and Finance Committee. She also sits on the Audit and Risk Committee.

Paul SnellNon-Executive Director

Paul is currently a Co-Opted Member on the Service Delivery Committee for the NSPCC, a position he has held since December and since 2010 he has been Chair of WDI – a small niche consulting and coaching company focused on organisation, team and individual development. He has also been a Board Member since 2012 with Care Visions, a children’s and adult’s social care provider, delivering high quality residential care and fostering in Scotland and care at home in England.

Formerly, Paul was a Board Member with Ofsted from 2011 until January this year, with a specific lead role in relation to Ofsted’s social care responsibilities and safeguarding. Until recently he was also National Trustee, Council Member and Chair of Audit for Action for Children. In 2012 Paul spent a year as a Development Consultant for the Health Information and Quality Authority – the health and social care regulator for the Republic of Ireland. He led the development and implementation of a new methodology to undertake the first ever inspection programme of child protection in Ireland.

Paul currently works as an Independent Executive Coach and Mentor. Before this he had a 33-year career in Social Care. Starting as a qualified Social Worker, he worked for Coventry City Council and then moved on to be Assistant Director of Social Services for Birmingham City Council, Chief Social Services Officer for the London Borough of Bexley and Corporate Director of Social Services and Acting Chief Executive for Nottingham City Council. In 2004 he joined the Commission for Social Care Inspection as Director of Inspection Regulation & Review, then becoming Chief Inspector and Chief Executive in 2006 for 3 years. Paul spent 6 months in 2009 as Interim Chief Executive of the General Social Care Council. He has strong social care and regulatory understanding with extensive board experience.

Dr Calvin PikeNon-Executive Director

Calvin has enjoyed more than four decades in education, propelled by a passion to address inequality and improve the opportunities and outcomes of all learners.

He is currently Chair of Circles UK, a charity building safer communities through local volunteers to prevent sexual re-offending and chair of the Quality and Personnel Committee at First Rung which has been dedicated to providing innovative and high quality learning and employment opportunities to support young people achieve success and fulfil their potential since 1983. Until recently, Calvin was also Chair of London Learning Consortium, a community interest company that provides accredited training, learning and education programmes for 6,000+ adult learners.

Calvin’s former board experiences include being a Trustee of Graeae Theatre which champions diversity across the sector and places deaf and disabled artists centre stage and, in the education sector, chair of an Interim Executive Board.

Calvin taught in primary, secondary and special schools before becoming Head of a curriculum development centre and a local authority inspector responsible for curriculum and staff development. He subsequently established and grew a successful company supporting school improvement nationally and internationally. From Ofsted’s start, Calvin led secondary and primary inspections; he was Director of Inspections for South East England from 2005-9. In 2019, Calvin completed 10 years as a consultant advisor under contract to the Department for Education. In this time, he acted as link advisor to several local authorities, supported open academies and free schools and was a member of the London Challenge team.

Calvin is part of the Challenge Partner consultant team, leading reviews and consultancies for special, primary and secondary schools. He, concurrently, supports schools and academy trusts nationally as a school improvement partner or by providing focused mentoring or commissioned investigation services.