About Schools North East

We are The Voice, The Glue, and The Bridge. by Schools North East




Set up by schools for schools, we are the first and only school-led regional network in the UK. 

In 2007, a group of Head Teachers came together to establish Schools North East. Their aim was to create a unique culture of collaboration and mutual support amongst North East schools to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of our region’s young people. Twelve years on, Schools North East is stronger than ever.

Over the years, we have worked to facilitate new projects and additional support, connect schools to each other and external organisations such as business, provide a strategic voice for our members and promote a wider understanding of the issues facing education in the North East.

Schools North East is governed by our 8 Trustees, 1 co-opted Trustees and 40 strong advisory board of local Head Teachers, elected by their peers in each area, who provide Schools North East with direction and support. We also have a core team of 10 based in Newcastle.

With a well-established annual calendar of events, a Weekly Update with a distribution of over 6,000 readers and over 8,000 Twitter Followers, Schools North East’s influence is growing both locally and nationally!

Mission and Vision

Schools North East is an inclusive network led by Head Teachers creating a unique culture of collaboration and mutual support and bringing the expertise of our members to benefit developments within our region.

Our Vision

Watch our latest impact video by Schools North East

Our young people are confident, enterprising, skilled and aspiring; learning and developing within well-resourced, nurturing and purposeful school environments.

Our school leaders, governors and staff demonstrate exceptional professionalism enjoying the resounding confidence of students, parents, communities, employers and decision-makers.

Our Head Teachers have a powerful voice regionally and nationally. By working collaboratively and creatively with their peers and external partners, they develop expertise, shape policy and drive change. We are recognised as a centre for innovation and the bench-mark of excellence.

Our region is vibrant, self reliant and outward looking, featuring a dynamic economy, healthy environment and distinctive culture.


Ednorth is a programme that aims to inspire change in all classrooms across the North East by promoting an educational culture led by informed debate, research, collaboration and excellence.

It will provide teachers across the region with the tools and techniques to cut through the fog of government guidance,commercial ‘silver bullets’, and poor quality research that is currently driving the zero-sum game of educational improvements focused on exam results, condemning our schools to cycles of under-performance and wasted effort.

Ednorth is not about getting ahead of the game, but changing the game completely, and how to maintain that indefinitely beyond any group of school leaders.

Schools North East is working in partnership with SHINE who are providing £500,000 of ringfenced investment for North East schools to support the following priorities:

Ready for School 

Bridging the Gap 

Flying High

Any school or teacher in the North East is eligible to apply for funding of between £10,000 and £100,000 for projects lasting one to three years. Applicants will receive support and guidance from the point they first get in touch to ensure the grant-making process is as simple and stress-free as possible.

Visit the Ednorth Website for more information. 

Manifesto for North East Education

The key recommendations for all political parties and policymakers.

As with our 2019 manifesto, our refreshed 2024 manifesto highlights the significant issues that our schools are facing and the dedicated, hardworking teachers who are having to deal with the realities of decades-old social and economic issues. The challenges of long-term deprivation are particularly acute in our region, and our schools are leading the way in tackling the growing disadvantage gap.  They need and deserve effective education policy and support from all political parties in doing this.

Our recommendations will be refined and developed with our Partner Schools and key stakeholders throughout 2024 and beyond.  Make sure you engage and influence how this develops going forward.

Read our 2024 Manifesto for North East Education here.

The Schools North East Podcast

The podcast is a platform that delves into pressing questions regarding the disconnect between educational policies, curriculum and the lived experiences of those working in schools. By featuring insightful discussions and interviews, the podcast discusses opinions on this disconnect to enhance communication between decision-makers and school staff. We also shine a light on our regions' amazing schools, sharing their inspirational stories with a nationwide audience.

Our aim is to bridge the gap between policy-makers and the North East schools community, fostering a dialogue that can influence positive change in the local education system.


Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Podbean.


Jobs in Schools | North East

Jobs in Schools is a unique jobs portal, powered by Schools North East and the schools in our region. It is not-for-profit and enables schools to benefit from huge financial savings on their national recruitment spends.

Jobs in Schools has been designed to bring all of the vacancies in schools in the North East together in one place. Candidates can find the best jobs in the North East – from this home grown jobs board, created to match local talent with the vacancies in our region.

The majority of vacancies in the North East are filled by local candidates. It makes perfect sense that there is a tailor-made solution – great news for candidates and a cost-effective tool for schools.

The future for local candidates is in Jobs in Schools | North East.

Visit the portal and see the latest vacancies.


Our Trustees 

Our Board

Advisory Board Members

SunderlandClaire SmithPrimaryHill View Infant School
SunderlandAilsa TaylorPrimaryOak Learning Trust
SunderlandSarah Dixon-JonesNursery / Early YearsHoughton Community Nursery School & Mill Hill Nursery School
SunderlandJoanne MawSecondary & Sixth FormSandhill View Academy
SunderlandPaula HegartySecondaryOxclose Community Academy
SunderlandCathy WestgatePrimaryHudson Road Primary School
Stockton & DarlingtonStuart McGheePrimary & SecondaryBishop Hogarth Catholic Education Trust
StocktonJulia ArmstrongPrimaryHartburn Primary School
Stockton Louise SpellmanSecondary The 1590 Trust
South Tyneside Brendan TappingPrimary & SecondaryBishop Chadwick CET
Redcar and ClevelandCarl FaulknerPrimaryNormanby Primary
Northumberland John BarnesPrimary & SecondarySeaton Valley Federation
North TynesidePhilip SandersonPrimary & SecondaryKing’s Priory School
North TynesideJill ShawPrimaryNew York Primary School
MiddlesbroughHugh HegartyPrimary & SecondaryNicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust
MiddlesbroughPhil LathamSecondaryMacmillan Academy
MiddlesbroughKatrina Morley Primary & SpecialTees Valley Education
HartlepoolMark TillingSecondaryHigh Tunstall College of Science
DurhamGraham Stephenson PrimaryAim High Academy Trust
DurhamAndy ByersSecondaryFramwellgate School Durham
DurhamAnnette SowdenPrimarySt Mary's RC Primary School

School Business Management Council

Our School Business Management Council was founded in 2013 to build upon the existing local SBM networks, and provide a platform in every type and phase of school in the region. 

The Council aims to: 

Enable colleagues from across the region to meet and share intelligence and Best Practice with each other and their local networks;

Develop a powerful voice for the North East’s SBPs and raise their profile with Head Teachers to ensure they fully understand the contribution that SBPs make to North East schools;

Provide local and regional support, bespoke to each local area/ network.

The Council is comprised of School Business Professionals from across the different sub-areas of the North East. The complete list of council members HERE.



Our Team

Chris Zarraga


Chris has been part of the Schools North East team since its inception in 2007 and in 2019 he was appointed Director.

Chris works with other leaders across the North East, the education sector and charity sector to represent the voice of North East schools, and lobby policy makers to ensure that the North East is not left behind when it comes to education policy. Chris has overseen the launch of the Ednorth evidence-based excellence programme, as well as the partnership with SHINE bringing over £500,000 worth of funding to North East schools.

Under Chris, Schools North East has moved to a greater focus on lobbying around education policy, with the launch of the Manifesto for North East Education in December 2019. As well as being a trustee of a local MAT, Chris sits on various boards including the board for Opportunity North East. Prior to joining Schools North East, Chris worked with over 165 schools in the North East and various education organisations including local authorities, Excellence Partnerships, 14-19 Groups, the Specialist Schools & Academies Trust, and School Improvement Officers. He led a large scale culture change project in education across the North East and was the development consultant for the LEGI funded Wansbeck Enterprise Education Network.

Pauline Aitchison

Deputy Director

Pauline joined Schools North East in July 2017 as Business Manager and was appointed Deputy Director in 2020. She also leads the National Network of Special Schools for School Business Professionals (NNoSS), a network representing 400 schools in the specialist sector across England.

Prior to joining Schools North East in 2017, Pauline was a School Business Manager and has more than 25 years experience of working in education.  She has a wealth of knowledge with an in-depth understanding of the challenges faced by schools and is committed to making a difference to the learning chances of all pupils.

Pauline is also experienced in school governance having served on various governing bodies and is currently a trustee of a special school trust and a committee chair.  She has an MBA in strategic leadership and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management.


Anna O'Neill

Events Manager

Anna joined Schools North East in June 2022 as Deputy Events Manager, and was promoted to Events Manager in 2023. Anna leads the events team to create and develop our annual conferences, single issue events, Partner School celebrations and online webinars.


As well as managing all of our events, she sources sponsorship and creates opportunities for our supporters and exhibitors.
Before joining the team at Schools North East, Anna worked within the Hospitality industry running, managing and coordinating both small and large scale events and programmes.

Lindsay Gerencser

Business Manager

Lindsay joined the team in March 2020 as Finance Officer and was promoted to Business Manager in 2023. Lindsay comes from a background working in the charity sector.  She supports the charity’s financial management and operation needs and is the first point of contact for schools and supporters around anything financial. 

Lindsay is experienced in relationships with stakeholders and oversees all the memberships. 

With a background in the charity sector, Lindsay brings with her a commitment to working towards the charity’s vision of supporting schools in the region.

Harry Goodwill

Policy Officer

Harry joined Schools North East in August 2019 as Policy Officer. Harry ensures that all the work Schools North East does is informed by the latest data, research, and policy developments in education. Harry leads on our lobbying work with educational policy makers and with the press.
Our policy work is guided by our Manifesto for North East Education, put together in response to the 2019 general election, and following feedback from schools across the region. The manifesto contains the key recommendations from North East schools, ensuring that the region has a distinctive voice and influence on education policy.

Since joining Schools North East, Harry has led on developing ‘stakeholder briefings’. These briefings share the feedback we receive from school leaders through our policy roundtables and surveys with influential figures within the education sector, to help them understand the detail of what our schools are facing.
Harry has helped support the establishment of our regular roundtables with North East school leaders. This includes a regional SEND and AP policy group, made up of Head Teachers and CEOs in the special and AP sector, which has contributed to the SEND review consultation.


Before joining Schools North East Harry worked in the parliamentary office of the Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP for 3 years. Prior to that, he studied at Newcastle University for a BA in Politics and History, and then an MA in European History..

Rose Davison-Hayton

Events Coordinator

Rose joined Schools North East in September 2018 as the Events Coordinator.

She works within the events team, creating and developing the large annual events programme, ensuring that each event is planned and executed to a high standard. Through research, Rose ensures that our events are in line with the needs and current demand of North East schools as well as bringing new ideas to the table.

Rose is often the first point of contact for exhibitors at the conferences. 

In the time that she has been with Schools North East, Rose has successfully supported the planning and delivery of all the major conferences, single-issue events and webinars with over 10,000 delegates. Before joining the team, Rose worked for many years within the Hospitality Industry. 

Shanon O'Donovan

Marketing and Communications Officer

Shanon joined the team in 2023 as our Marketing & Communications Officer. In this role, she’s responsible for developing and maintaining consistent brand messaging to ensure all communications accurately reflect our organisation’s voice, values, and mission.

As well as this, Shanon creates and publishes a wide range of content – from written copy to animated videos – on our social media pages, website, and newsletters, to drive engagement and build/maintain relationships.

Before joining Schools North East, Shanon worked as copywriter for an award-winning digital marketing agency, using the skills and knowledge she gained from her Master's degree in Creative Writing, and Bachelor’s degree in Media & Journalism.

Georgia Butler

Deputy Events Manager

Georgia joined the Schools North East team in October 2023 as Deputy Events Manager. Working closely with the events team, Georgia helps to shape the Schools North East events calendar including physical annual conferences, and online webinars.

Prior to joining Schools North East, Georgia worked for the UK’s leading medical education company, securing sponsorship opportunities and organising events for up to 2000 delegates. Georgia graduated from Northumbria University with a First-Class Hons degree in journalism and continues to write in her spare time.

Emily McWilliams

Project Coordinator

Emily is responsible for developing and implementing Schools North East’s various projects.

Through research, Emily acts as a bridge connecting the strategic projects of Schools North East to potential stakeholders and funding streams

Prior to joining the Schools North East team, Emily acheived a First-Class Masters Degree in Creative and Cultural Industries Management in 2023.

Ellie Mather

Business Admin and Marketing Apprentice

Ellie joined Schools North East in January 2024 as the Business Admin and Marketing Apprentice.

Ellie deals with administration duties and regularly creates and maintains job posts on to our different social media accounts.
Prior to joining the Schools North East team, Ellie achieved the Deans High Achievers Award for Business and Management at The Australian College of Kuwait.