Speakers

Emma Knights OBE

Emma Knights OBE

Chief Executive of the National Governance Assosiation (NGA)

As chief executive of the National Governance Association (NGA), Emma Knights leads the charity to fulfil its aim of improving the educational standards and wellbeing of young people by increasing the effectiveness of governing boards in maintained schools and academy trusts, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the organisation.

Emma promotes the interests of the school governance community and amplifies the voice of NGA’s members at a national level with legislators, policymakers, education sector organisations and in the media.

Emma is an accomplished writer and speaker on a range of school governance policy and practice topics, and has a particular interest in vision, culture and strategy; accountability; stakeholder engagement; disadvantage; ethical leadership; and diversity and inclusion. Emma is co-author of The Chair’s Handbook and NGA’s Moving MATs Forward: the power of governance report. Prior to joining NGA in 2010, Emma was joint CEO of the Daycare Trust and before that, worked in a number of roles in the voluntary sector. She was a governor at a secondary school in Warwickshire for eight years.

Working across the education sector, Emma is currently participating in the Department for Education’s headteacher standards review group, NAHT’s accountability commission, the Department for Education’s flexible working advisory group, and the Ethical Leadership Commission, and has previously sat on the Commission on Religious Education and the Knowsley Education Commission.

Under Emma’s leadership since 2010, NGA has grown to become the leading expert charity for guidance, research, advice and training for school governors, trustees and clerks, with over 40 staff and a strong presence in the education sector.

Hannah Stolton

Hannah Stolton

CEO, Governors for Schools, Chair of Governors at Nazeing Primary School

Hannah Stolton has been CEO of the national charity, Governors for Schools since January 2020. Having joined the organisation in 2017, she managed the development of operations to enable us to spend less time on administration and more time reaching out to potential volunteers and schools. Starting her career as a primary teacher, Hannah moved into the recruitment field managing the UK operations of an in-house agency. She brings 20 years’ experience in this area to Governors for Schools to expand our reach across England and Wales. Hannah is currently chair of governors at a primary school in Essex.

Michael Wardle

Michael Wardle

HMI, Ofsted

Michael Wardle is a qualified teacher and has held senior positions in schools, working in both primary and secondary settings. He has experience working as a national leader of education and as headteacher of a large 11–18 school. Previously, he was senior leader in a federation of 3 schools (primary, secondary and special). Michael has particular experience in managing curriculum development and implementing quality assurance systems. He was a specialist subject advisor in a local authority, and has written both text books and papers for language subject associations. Michael has particular experience in managing curriculum development and implementing quality assurance systems.

Michael has a wide range of inspection experience, including in specialist settings and area SEND inspections. He is also Ofsted’s subject lead for languages. He has previously worked for the national centre for languages, delivering training and writing national materials.

Graham Shaw

Graham Shaw

Consultant, Wrigleys Solicitors and Trustee of a 12 school Multi Academy Trust

Graham is a Consultant in the Education Team at Wrigleys and one of the country’s foremost legal authorities in the education sector, having advised in this field since 1999. He has advised across all phases and types of provision including primary, secondary, all-through, special, alternative and hospital provision. Graham advises schools and academy trusts on their operational and strategic issues including governance, regulatory compliance, funding, contracts, conversions, transfers and growth. He is also a trustee of Elevate Multi Academy Trust and so brings a professional and personal perspective when advising schools and academy trusts.

Claris D’cruz

Claris D’cruz

Consultant, Wrigleys Solicitors and Local Governor of a large all-through Academy

Claris D'cruz is a Consultant working with Wrigleys' clients nationwide. Claris qualified as a Barrister in 1994 and has been practising as a charity lawyer for over 20 years. She worked 'at the coalface' as an in-house legal adviser for registered charity, Interchange Trust and then gained invaluable experience on the other side of the fence as a Charity Commission lawyer, before going into private practice. Prior to becoming a Consultant, Claris was Head of Charities at a major Newcastle firm.

Claris advises charities and schools on a range of legal issues including: charity formations, restructures, mergers and collaborations, trustees' powers and duties, board governance, managing conflicts of interest and dealing with the Charity Commission. She regularly provides trustee training for small, medium and large charities, including Academy Trusts.
Claris is a local governor of Excelsior Academy and a director of Northumberland Cricket Board. She recently completed an 8 year term as a Governor of a large co-educational independent school and is currently on its Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Task Force. Claris is also part of a government programme to promote EDI on boards.

Fiona Stagg

Fiona Stagg

National Leader of Governance, an independent clerk to governors and chair of trustees for a multi-academy trust

Fiona is an NLG and experienced chair of governors.  She works as a Governance Professional with a number of academy trusts as well as being a trustee herself.  Fiona is also an associate consultant for several teaching schools, a governance training facilitator and an independent clerk. Author of a blog called The Clerk's Elbow which takes a light-hearted look at governance behaviours.

Andy Mellor

Andy Mellor

National Wellbeing Director, Schools Advisory Service

Andy is the National Wellbeing Director for Schools Advisory Service. He is a Past President of the NAHT and was until December 2019, headteacher of the outstanding rated St Nicholas C of E Primary School in Blackpool.
He is a National Leader of Education, having worked in Blackpool schools for 20 years and also leads the Blackpool Teaching School Alliance.
Andy is also a member of the Blackpool School Improvement Board and the Blackpool Opportunity Area Board, and was a member of the NAHT Accountability Commission.
Andy’s wife is a teacher and he also has two teenage daughters. He loves to cycle and for his sins, is a season ticket holder at Preston North End.

Claire Mitchell

Claire Mitchell

Leadership & Governance Partner, Berry Education

Claire is a Governance and Academy Improvement Professional who is passionate about supporting Trustees, Directors & Governors in their volunteer roles. 

She is a Chair of Governors at her local Church of England Primary School and has a wealth of experience working in academy and mainstream settings with a specialism in MAT governance.  

Claire has over a decade of experience within education and skills teaching in the 14-19 sector supporting children to regain their education pathway and develop a lifelong love for learning.   Claire has held a number of senior leadership roles within education, including managing ESFA funded learning provision in excess of £10million for 150+ education and skills providers.  Claire also has experience as a Designated Safeguarding Lead. 

As an NGA Consultant Claire also delivers training, carries out external reviews of governance, and facilitates the NGA Leading Governance development programmes.

Julia Millard

Julia Millard

Chair of Governors at Langley Moor Primary, Langley Moor Nursery School, Fyndoune Community College and Durham Community Business College for Technology and Enterprise, NLG

Jacqui Ridley

Jacqui Ridley

Director of Governance at Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust

She has worked in Governance for 25 years.  Starting as a clerk in Newcastle, moving to be Governor Services Lead in Gateshead and then Governor Training Lead in Durham.  Jacqui is now Director of Governance for the Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust, a Catholic multi academy trust, currently comprising of 26 schools, growing to 48 by 2022.

She is a qualified NVQ assessor and accredited trainer for Safer Recruitment training and has served as a judge for the Teaching Awards.  Jacqui serves as a co-opted governor at two schools in Gateshead and is Vice Chair in one and also sits on Schools Forum.

Unity Howard

Unity Howard

Director, New Schools Network and Academy Ambassadors

Unity is the Director of New Schools Network. NSN is a charity whose purpose is to ensure that every child has an equal chance to access a good school place. NSN works with partners and organisations to deliver programmes of support to schools in England.

Louise Levy

Louise Levy

CEO, The Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust

Louise is Chief Operating Officer at a large and growing Multi Academy Trust in the North East. She has been at Cardinal Hume for the last 11 years and overseen the growth from a single school to a Multi Academy Trust of 17. Louise is also a director of Education Mutual.  Louise is also on the Schools North East SBM Council.

Paul Carvin

Paul Carvin

Chair of The Board of Trustees of The Three Rivers Learning Trust, NLG

Paul has been involved in education all his working life. He started out as a Geography teacher and has experience as a senior leader in a large secondary school. Paul then moved into advisory and inspection work, including for Ofsted as well as setting up a teacher training programme abroad. Before retiring, He was Head of Education for Gateshead Council. Paul has been Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Three Paul is  also a National Leader of Governance, working to support governance across our region. Paul is passionate about supporting schools and trusts to do all they can to address the climate crisis.

Judith Hicks

Judith Hicks

Head of Governance Development, National Governance Association (NGA)

Judith has worked as an HR professional within the retail & logistics sector for fifteen years, working for Tesco, Pets At Home & Booker.  She has held a variety of national roles focusing on recruitment, talent management, performance management, organisation design and learning & development.

She is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

In 2008 Judith became a parent governor at a school in Warwickshire and was elected vice-chair and then Chair of Governors, a post she held until 2018.  Judith now governs on a Local Governing Board for a secondary school within a Multi-Academy Trust.  Most recently, Judith has worked for Warwickshire County Council as a consultant within the governor development service, where she has worked with maintained schools, academies and Multi-Academy Trusts to design & deliver bespoke interventions, mentored Chairs and conducted external reviews of governance.

Judith joined the NGA in September 2016 as Head of Inspiring Governance; the governor recruitment and support service.

Mark Sanders OBE

Mark Sanders OBE

Chair of Northern Education Trust

Mark has been a NET Trustee for eight years and became Chair in July last year. He has had significant involvement with the learning agenda as a Board member of the Learning and Skills Council, the YPLA, EFA and most recently as the Vice Chair of the Education and Skills Funding Council. Mark has also served as the Chair of a community health delivery organisation in West Yorkshire and was formerly Chief Executive of Bury Council.

Tony Birch

Tony Birch

Chair of the academy council for Norton, Frederick Nattrass & The Oak Tree primary academies

Dr Birch is the chair of the joint academy council for three of Northern Education Trusts primary academies. Dr Birch is the Founder and Director of Birch Education: a bespoke educational consultancy dedicated to empowering individuals and teams to develop sustainable and successful approaches