About 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

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.

Manifesto for North East Education

With input from our 1,150 member schools and key stakeholders from across the education sector, we have produced a series of key recommendations for education policy which affects the North East.

The Manifesto is a statement of intent and the foundation of our ever stronger focus on influencing the development of education policy, as it impacts on our region.  Our recommendations will be refined and developed with our Partner Schools and key stakeholders throughout 2020 and beyond.  Make sure you engage and influence how this develops going forward.

Visit our Manifesto page.

ConnectEd, the Schools North East Online Community

ConnectEd is a dedicated online community for North East Schools to collaborate, share and engage. 

As well as a general group there are dedicated groups for different roles in schools.

It is a members only platform.  Please visit our page for more information.



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. 

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

SunderlandCathy WestgatePrimaryHudson Road Primary School
SunderlandSarah Dixon-JonesNursery / Early YearsHoughton Community Nursery School & Mill Hill Nursery School
SunderlandAilsa TaylorPrimaryOak Learning Trust
SunderlandPaula HegartySecondaryOxclose Community Academy
SunderlandJoanne MawSecondary & Sixth FormSandhill View Academy
SunderlandClaire SmithPrimaryHill View Infant 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 TynesideJill ShawPrimaryNew York Primary School
North TynesidePhilip SandersonPrimary & SecondaryKing’s Priory School
MiddlesbroughKatrina Morley Primary & SpecialTees Valley Education
MiddlesbroughHugh HegartyPrimary & SecondaryNicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust
MiddlesbroughPhil LathamSecondaryMacmillan Academy
HartlepoolMark TillingSecondaryHigh Tunstall College of Science
GatesheadMark HallSecondaryGrace College
DurhamGraham Stephenson PrimaryAim High Academy Trust
DurhamDavid PriestleySecondaryGreenfield Community College
DurhamAndy ByersSecondaryFramwellgate School Durham
DurhamAnnette SowdenPrimarySt Mary's RC Primary School
DarlingtonMike ButlerSecondaryEducation Village

School Business Manager Council

Our School Business Manager 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 SBMs and raise their profile with Head Teachers to ensure they fully understand the contribution that SBMs make to North East schools;

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

The Council is comprised of School Business Managers 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. With over 20 years working in education in the North East Pauline brings a wealth of knowledge and experience of the region's schools. Pauline also brings governance experience having served as both a governor and associate governor and an academy trust member and she is currently a trustee of a special school MAT.  She understands the challenges faced by schools and is committed to making a difference to the learning chances of pupils in the region.

Pauline leads the National Network of Special Schools for School Business Professionals bringing together schools from across England, and sits on the DfE Network Leaders Forum ensuring the voice of NE SBMs is heard at a national level.  She has built up the online community, ConnectEd and supports SBMs, senior leaders and teachers across the region.

Pauline is currently undertaking a MBA in strategic leadership. 

Sam Murray

Events Manager

Sam joined the events team at Schools North East in March 2017 and was promoted to Events Manager in October 2017.  Since joining the team, Sam has grown the events programme exponentially ensuring that the region's leaders, SBPs, Teachers and Governors are well supported.  Attracting key speakers such as the head of Ofsted, Secretaries of State and educationalists from the North East and beyond, Sam ensures that this region is on the map by providing top class conferences and events.


Sam is also responsible for the creation and development of our online webinars and conferences, which have proved invaluable during recent times.  She reacted quickly to change and supported over 7,000 delegates in the last academic year alone. Sam is also responsible for sourcing event sponsorship and creating opportunities for our Supporters and exhibitors.Sam is also a Governor of a primary school in Newcastle and is passionate about providing a better future for children and young people in our 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..

Michael Veitch

Project Coordinator

Michael joined Schools North East on a full-time basis in 2021 as a member of the admin team before becoming the Project Coordinator in June 2022. Before starting in his full-time role, Michael had worked with Schools North East on a part-time basis sporadically from May 2018.


Since joining the team, Michael has worked to provide support across every team within the charity, particularly providing administrative support for Partner Schools, Jobs in Schools | North East and the National Network of Special Schools for School Business Professionals as well as redesigning the Schools North East Weekly Update. Michael brings his experience across a variety of job roles in the organisation.

Anna O'Neill

Deputy Events Manager

Anna joined Schools North East in June 2022 as Deputy Events Manager, a new role to the team to help deliver and plan our expanding and hugely successful events programme. Anna works within the events team to create and develop our annual conferences, single issue events, Partner School celebrations and online webinars.


As well as managing and assisting with the planning and running of our events, she also works closely with the Events Manager, sourcing sponsorship and creating 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.

Rose Davison-Hayton

Events Coordinator

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

She assists the Events Manager in 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 need and current demand of North East schools as well as bringing new ideas to the table.


In the time that she has been here Rose has successfully supported the planning and delivery of more than 50 major conferences, single-issue events and webinars with over 10,000 delegates. Before joining the team at Schools North East, Rose worked for many years within the Hospitality Industry. Outside of Schools North East Rose likes to travel and spend time with friends and family.

Lindsay Gerencser

Finance Officer

Lindsay joined the team in March 2020 and 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 supporting around events. 

Lindsay brings with her a commitment to working towards the charity’s vision supporting schools in the region.

Kate An

Marketing and Communications Officer

As Marketing and Communications Officer, Kate manages our social media channels and our communication networks to make sure school staff are up to date with the latest news, opportunities and policy developments. Kate joined Schools North East in May 2022, aiming to support the team with giving a voice to the schools in the region. Kate creates content for our communications including our blogs and produces our weekly newsletter, where she showcases the amazing work of the schools in the North East through sharing your good news stories.


Kate has a background in Media and Design studying Film for her undergraduate degree and Media and Public Relations for her master’s degree. Kate recently moved back to her hometown of Newcastle after working as an Art Teacher in South Korea for the past five years. As a hobby, Kate is a digital illustrator, a skill she uses often in her design work at Schools North East.

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