CChallenge Academy Staff: Mel Ellis

Mel Ellis

Operations and Development Lead

Mel is a qualified PE teacher and retired RAF Squadron Leader (Physical Education Branch) who specialised as a Parachute Jump Instructor during his 16 year Service career. He is also an accredited Practitioner for the Institute of Outdoor Learning. After leaving the RAF in 2006 Mel has spent the last 10 years directing operations at Closer to the Edge Ltd - he is now looking forward to his new role within Challenge Academy, having a more 'hands on' involvement to develop the wide range of services and products. Key military roles have included leading the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team, managing the leadership and physical fitness programmes of officer cadets at RAF College Cranwell, and commanding the RAF Parachute Training School. Passions include a love for the outdoors, keeping fit, rugby and triathlons.... as well as thinking up new ideas and talking.

CChallenge Academy Staff: Greg Brookes-Clayton

Greg Brookes-Clayton

Education Lead

Greg is a qualified teacher with significant experience in the field of specialist educational needs (SEN). Prior to joining Challenge Academy Greg completed his teaching career as Head of Key Stage 4 - at a SEN School in Derby. Greg was Educational Director with Closer to the Edge Ltd from 2007 - 2016, during which time he delivered an exceptional educational offer, fine tuned his own facilitations skills and worked tirelessly to have his training CPD approved and nationally accredited by an ofqual organisation. He is now responsible for the Learning and Development within Challenge Academy CIC and is busy developing a suite of meaningful qualifications for young people. Greg is a passionate sportsman, still plays tennis for Ashbourne over 80s, he is also a local rock star in Hognaston village where he heads up the internationally renowned 'Dogs on Bees'.

CChallenge Academy Staff: Jim Thompson

Jim Thompson

Chief Instructor

Jim is a qualified teacher and outdoor education instructor who has gained a wealth of experience in the leisure and tourism industry; working with a diverse range of individuals, some with complex needs and learning difficulties. Jim is very passionate about educating others through the outdoor environment and believes it can benefit individuals in many areas of their lives. Jim is qualified in several adventure activities and is also responsible for the development of our own workforce while ensuring high levels of safety at all times at our facilities. His hobbies include: climbing, mountain biking, snowboarding, orienteering, kayaking and mountaineering.

CChallenge Academy Staff: Chris Smith

Chris Smith

Mobile Outreach Manager

Chris, a retired teacher of 30 years, is a qualified ropes instructor who acts as both an integral part of the adventure hub team and specialises in taking our mobile equipment, the terra firma product, into school and corporate settings. A B.Ed. (Hons) and 24 years experience as Head of P.E. at The Kingswinford School, means he is well-equipped to deliver outdoor activity with the aim of developing participant's soft skills. With an emphasis on fun he believes outdoor activity can bring about "instant rewards" and "lightbulb moments" for individuals, groups and instructors; where everyone involved can achieve and learn something about themselves. Chris' hobbies include: body boarding, tennis, swimming and lots and lots of walking.