Governance

The Academies that are part of The Ascent Academies’ Trust do not have Local Governing Bodies, we are governed by Members and Trustees.  To find out more about our structure and governance please click on the links below.

Members

     Val Milnes (Chair)

Val Milnes
Position
Member

Personal details:

Val is retired and has held various roles over a career spanning more than 45 years. She has worked in the private, public and charity sectors in finance, training management, human resource management, teaching, business education links, university lecturing and corporate social responsibility. Val volunteers for a number of organisations in addition to her position on the Ascent Academies Trust. They include a small charity that assists disabled and disadvantaged individuals to start their own businesses and Grace House – a respite facility for children with disabilities and life limiting illnesses.Val has been a school governor since 1988, serving on a number of governing bodies in the Durham and Sunderland areas in mainstream and special schools. She has been a Trustee of Ascent since its inception.

Key skill area:

Val’s qualifications are in business management, human resource management and teaching so she has a solid grounding in education, finance and business in general. Val’s skills have been recognised locally, regionally and nationally through various awards. She is particularly proud of those awards that demonstrate her commitment to working with young people, having won the Business in the Community National Award for Excellence.

Dame Dela Smith DBE DL

Dame Dela Smith
Position 
Member

Personal details:

Following a career dedicated in special education Dame Dela retired in 2010 and now employs her skills, experience and passion for SEN on a voluntary basis with a number of organisations. She has been Chair of the Board of Trustees for Ascent since its inception in 2012 and before that was a Governor at Barbara Priestman Academy.

Prior to her retirement, Dela was Chief Executive and statutory Head for the three schools which comprised Darlington’s Education Village and was instrumental in the design and concept of the ground-breaking inclusive setting which placed Beaumont Hill special school, where she had been Head Teacher since 1999, at the centre of the concept.

During her career, Dela was a member on a number of Government working parties including the National Advisory Group which produced a number of policies and reports including ‘the future role of Special schools’ and the national special educational needs strategy white paper. She also worked with organisations such as the National College for school leadership on a number of developments, as well as gaining ongoing professional qualifications as her career progressed to executive leadership.

Dela was also a regular speaker at both local and national conferences, promoting and highlighting the needs of children and young people with special educational needs with a particular emphasis on inclusion.

In 2001 she was honoured by the Queen with a Dame Hood for services to Special Education.

Colin Short

Colin Short
Position
Member

Personal details:

Whole career spent in Education: becoming Headteacher for 15 years at Secondary School for 15 years before retiring.  Since then involved with External Advice for Governing Bodies throughout the NE, an Ofsted Inspector for 5 years, member of Sunderland School Forum for 7 years, Chair of SACRE for more than 10 years and Chair of Governors for 16 years at one of my local Primary Feeder Schools.

Keen interest in music almost from birth: still singing and conducting.

Key skill area:

Education management and finance

Trustees

 Nick Hurn (Chair)

Nick Hurn
Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Member Appointed
Term of Office Start Date
01/10/2015
Term of Office End Date
30/09/2019

Personal details:

I started out as a teacher of Design and Technology in1985, then became a Head of Department, published author, Deputy Head Teacher and was appointed as Head Teacher at Cardinal Hume Catholic School in Gateshead in 2005.  As well as being Head Teacher at Cardinal Hume I was also Executive Head Teacher at St Robert of Newminster in Sunderland up until August 2015. Prior to this role at St Roberts I was Executive Head Teacher at St Wilfrid’s RC College in South Tyneside between 2010 and 2013 taking the school out of Special Measures to ‘Good’ within 12 months.  St Wilfrid’s was judged to be Outstanding in February 2014.  Cardinal Hume was awarded Teaching School status in March 2013 (The Trinity NE Partnership) with its key partners St Wilfrid’s and St Roberts and also become part of the Trinity Catholic MAT this year.

My motivation and general philosophy behind my decision to join Ascent are built on ever improving standards of discipline, teaching and learning, and quality of leadership.  As a CEO of the Trinity Trust, Head Teacher, National Leader in Education and school to school partner I have been able to offer advice, support and expertise based on my experience from many schools from a variety of backgrounds. I am committed to our partnership and believe that our schools working together within Ascent can achieve great things for their students.

Key skill area:

Teaching and Learning, Standards and Progress and Leadership and Management.

Trustee responsibilities:

Chair of Board of Trustees from until 30/09/19, Link Trustee with Hope Wood Academy regarding standards and progress, Member of the Standards Committee, Member of the Appeals Committee.

 Rohit Patel (Vice Chair)

Rohit Patel
Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Member Appointed
Term of Office Start
01/10/2015
Term of Office End
30/09/2019

Personal details:

My skill set are that I have been a school governor for over 6 years. I am currently the Chair of County Durham’s Governors. I sit on Co Durham’s schools forum for finance.  I have keen interests in SEND, SEBD, finance and behaviour.  I am also a fully qualified parent support advisor and have completed all the IPSEA training.  I have children of primary, secondary and further education that have additional needs.

It’s my place to challenge employees to ensure we have strong governance, finances, ethics and leadership.  I have started to visit the academies in order to meet the staff and children. I have one primary principle of putting the children first before any decisions I make. It’s a real privilege and honour to be part of the board taking it to outstanding places.

Key skill area:

I bring a wealth of education knowledge and experience to the trust and supportive challenge. I am a critical friend to the academies. I’m also self employed so my time is flexible so I can provide full support.

Trustee responsibilities:

Vice Chair of Board of Trustees, Chair of Staffing & General Purposes Committee, Link Trustee to Hopewood, Safeguarding and LAC Trustee.

Carolyn Dunn Interim CEO

Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Trustee Appointed
Term of Office Start Date
01/09/17
Term of Office End Date
31/08/2018

Personal details:

 

Key Skills area:

Trustee responsibilities:

 

Nadine Hudspeth

Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Co-opted Trustee
Term of Office Start Date
25/01/2017
Term of Office End Date
24/01/2021

Personal details:

I am a member of the Executive Team at Gateshead College where I have strategic responsibility for brand, marketing and communications strategy.  I am also a Director of our subsidiary company Amacus, which specialises in leadership and management training.

Our core purpose at Gateshead College, judged by Ofsted as Outstanding in 2015, is to make our students the most highly prized in the jobs market and give them an employment edge, something I deeply believe in. I am passionate about working in education and the opportunities it gives people to transform their lives no matter what their circumstances and understand the challenge of providing an outstanding service which meets the needs of students and their families whilst ensuring long term sustainability.

I hope by sharing my expertise I can support the work of the Trust and its Executives to achieve their ambitions for their students.

Key skill area:

Developing and delivering marketing and communications strategies and campaigns; strategic brand development; corporate communications; employee engagement and culture transformation; corporate social responsibility and stakeholder engagement.

Trustee responsibilities:

Maureen Morris

Maureen Morris
Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Member Appointed
Term of Office Start Date
31/07/2016
Term of Office End Date
30/07/2020

Personal details:

Being the parent of a young person with complex needs, I became involved with the local Parent Carer forum and in time became its Chair, the NE and Cumbria representative of the National Network of Parent Carer Forums (NNPCF) and then Co-Chair of the NNPCF.

I now work on a voluntary basis locally, regionally and nationally ensuring that the voice of parent carers is at the heart of all strategic planning of services for children and young people with SEND.

Key skill area:

Parent participation

Trustee responsibilities:

Link Director for Ascent Extra, Link Director for SEN, member of Standards Committee and Staffing & General Purposes Committee.

 

Michelle Quinn (Parent Trustee)

Michelle Quinn
Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Parent Appointed
Term of Office Start Date
15/10/14
Term of Office End Date
14/10/2018

Personal details:

My previous employment history includes working for British Airways for 15 years, I was responsible for managing numerous teams of people to deliver customer service and sales.  I have 6 years’ experience in school administration and am currently a Company Director for a local vocational training organisation.

I became a School Governor in 2008 and my interest in Special Educational Needs developed once my son started Sunningdale, a school for children with severe and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

Key skill area:

I have qualifications in Business and Finance. I achieved a Certificate for School Business Management(CSBM) in 2011 and Prince2 Project Management in 2012. I work part time in a school office, so am familiar with the administration involved with running an educational establishment.

I am a Director in a training business, so competent with accounts, budgets, HR, H&S, facility and office management and ICT. I also have qualifications in CEOP training, Safeguarding and First Aid.

Trustee responsibilities:

Standards Committee, Staffing & General Purposes Committee, Link Trustee for Portland Academy.

 

 Lesley Clelland

Lesley Clelland
Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Member Appointed
Term of Office Start Date
01/10/2015
Term of Office End Date
30/09/2019

Personal details:

I have previous experience as a governor on the local governing body for Barbara Priestman Academy, having spent 34 years plus in education following and developing my interest in special educational needs in particular. After an early career in primary education, I spent a year with the Child, Adolescent and Family Psychiatry Service at a local hospital as the teacher in a multi-disciplinary team. I took the skills I developed during that time into the next 14 years at a secondary EBD School. I have also worked with early years, primary and secondary provision both in mainstream and special schools developing SEN assessment. As a Headteacher, I led a mainstream primary school with special needs provision.

As a parent of a young adult with complex learning difficulties (now 24 years old) I can empathise with other parents of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, sometimes exchanging challenges and sometimes being able to say, ‘I too have the tee shirt for that one!!!!!’

Key skill area:

In senior roles in schools including as a Headteacher, I led teaching and learning including observing and evaluating the quality of teaching; assessment, performance management, curriculum development, self-evaluation and financial management.

Trustee responsibilities:

Link Trustee to New Bridge Academy

Member of Standards Committee

Member of Appeals Committee

 Paul Wright

Paul Wright
Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Member Appointed, Appointed via Academy Ambassadors Programme
Term of Office Start Date
01/10/15
Term of Office End Date
30/09/2019

Personal details:

My skillset as a Chartered Accountant and Finance Director in the industrial sector brings a different perspective to the trust.

It’s my place to challenge Executives employed by the trust to ensure we have strong governance, finances, ethics and leadership.  Having toured the academies and met the staff and children and as a father of a child with ASD, it fills you with determination to succeed; it’s a real privilege to be part of the board.

Key skill area:

Chartered Management Accountant and Finance Director with over 24 years’ experience in industry, covering sales, distribution, manufacturing and rental businesses.

Trustee responsibilities:

Board of Trustees, Vice Chair of Finance Committee

     Val Milnes

Val Milnes
Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Member Appointed
Term of Office Start Date
31/07/2016
Term of Office End Date
30/07/2020

Personal details:

Val is retired and has held various roles over a career spanning more than 45 years. She has worked in the private, public and charity sectors in finance, training management, human resource management, teaching, business education links, university lecturing and corporate social responsibility. Val volunteers for a number of organisations in addition to her position on the Ascent Academies Trust. They include a small charity that assists disabled and disadvantaged individuals to start their own businesses and Grace House – a respite facility for children with disabilities and life limiting illnesses.Val has been a school governor since 1988, serving on a number of governing bodies in the Durham and Sunderland areas in mainstream and special schools. She has been a Trustee of Ascent since its inception.

Key skill area:

Val’s qualifications are in business management, human resource management and teaching so she has a solid grounding in education, finance and business in general. Val’s skills have been recognised locally, regionally and nationally through various awards. She is particularly proud of those awards that demonstrate her commitment to working with young people, having won the Business in the Community National Award for Excellence.

Trustee responsibilities:

Link Trustee for Health & Safety

Member of the Finance Committee

Member of the Standards Committee

Link Trustee for Barbara Priestman Academy

 

 Susan Blair

Susan Blair
Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Member Appointed
Term of Office Start Date
04/11/2015
Term of Office End Date
03/11/2019

Personal details:

I am a Senior Manager at PwC. In my day to day job, I advise clients on all aspects of dealing with employees within organisations.

I have two children, a daughter aged 10 and a son aged 8. Having children and wanting the very best for them is a key reason why I wanted to work with the Trust, to challenge the Executives with the aim that all children are provided with outstanding education and support.

Key skill area:

I have over 20 years’ experience in working with companies and ensuring that they have strong levels of governance in place to ensure that the company meets and continues to meet, its aims and objectives.

This includes: Strategy projects, linking in to talent management – identifying the senior executives of the future and ensuring they have the skills to meet that role; Governance, Policy and Procedures; implementation of new policies and procedures. Including the drafting of policies and development of procedures to ensure the support of all relevant parties; Reward; how much to pay and what should the package consist of.

Trustee responsibilities:

Board of Trustees, Member of Finance Committee and Appeals Committee.

 Kath Armstrong (Parent Trustee)

Kath Armstrong3
Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Parent Appointed
Term of Office Start Date
17/08/2016
Term of Office End Date
16/08/2020

Personal details:

I am parent to three grown up children, two of whom also work in the public sector. My youngest son attends the 6th Form at Barbara Priestman and is diagnosed with ASD, ADHD, Developmental Co-ordination Disorder and Moderate Learning Difficulties. I have taught within the City of Sunderland for 36 years, initially as a teacher of English and drama. Over the years, I have also worked for examination boards and taught on the Secondary English Initial Teacher Training Programme at Sunderland University. In 2001 I resigned from my Senior Management position, in order to care for my youngest son who was experiencing health difficulties. I have since enjoyed a “second” career, beginning as a supply teacher  and now managing an award winning Resourced Provision for ASD and as well as  a bespoke pathway for students with Special Needs. I remain passionate about improving the life chances of students.

Key skill area:

Parental Perspective, Special Educational Needs, especially Autism, Teaching and Learning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Leadership and Management.

Trustee responsibilities:

Board of Trustees, member of Standards Committee, Link Trustee for Portland Academy and Ascent Extra (Trading Subsidiary)

 Lynn Watson

Position
Trustee
Appointed by
Member Appointed
Term of Office Start Date
23/01/2017
Term of Office End Date
22/01/2021

Personal details: 

I began teaching in nursery education and trained as a Registered Nursery Ofsted inspector prior to beginning work as a Deputy Head teacher in a Newcastle special school. I have worked for 15 years as a special school Head teacher in North Tyneside prior to becoming the Director of Education for the Percy Hedley Foundation two years ago. I am a National Leader in Education, Head of Percy Hedley’s Teaching School alliance, a Trustee of Schools North East, a School Improvement Partner and a member of the Secondary Heads Reference Group working the Department of Education on policy development.

Key skill area:

Lynn has particular expertise in early years education and assessment of special needs and learning.  She has a wealth of experience working with primary aged mainstream children and special needs children aged 2 to 19 years of age.

Trustee responsibilities:

Chair of Standards Committee, Link Trustee for The New Bridge Academy.

 
 

Vacant

 

 Vacant