Oak Learning Trust Board

Ralph Thoburn

I have been married to my wife Fiona, another chartered accountant, for 25 years and we have three adult children. I served for 20 years as a Trustee, including both Chair and Finance Director roles at the Educational Charity Bedes World and am the current Treasurer of the Friends of the World of Bede. I oversaw the creation and development of a £7m Education and Visitor Centre that was a beacon of educational excellence for children in the north east. I am a keen bridge player enjoying the competitive and strategic nature of the game as well as the social aspects. I am an untalented but enthusiastic sportsman enjoying rugby, football, skiing, golf, & tennis although old age and a creaking body has required my retirement from active participation in many.

I have run my own businesses for over 25 years. I am a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants acting for owner managed business owners who want to develop their companies. I am also a Registered Auditor so finance is my particular area. I have acted for and audited many Charities over my years in practice.

I am looking to develop a Trust which delivers truly exceptional and rounded educational excellence for all children regardless of background. I want us to draw out the greatness in every child, whatever that may be for each individual child. I have had many years of experience on which to draw that is highly relevant to this goal and the Oak Learning Trust gives me the platform to develop this vision. However, it is the opportunity to work with such a talented Executive team, a strong Board of Trustees and schools with leaders and teachers of such great potential that I believe we will deliver this vision and that makes the commitment so worthwhile.

Julie Wing

I have two grown up daughters both married and living in the North East and have been involved with school governance for thirty years, firstly as a governor at my daughters’ school then as a governor through my ministry, as well as a support person for what was then children going through the Special Education Needs process.

My previous employment before becoming a Priest was as an Education Social Worker, working in some of the most deprived areas of Stockton, I was also responsible for supporting children seeking asylum to integrate into school have been the Rector of Usworth for three years and have been actively involved in building positive relationships within the community I regularly host services in church for the school and go into school to give talks on RE related subjects.

I am a Middlesbrough FC fan and love music and play several musical instruments badly, I love travel and spending time with my family and friends.

I have always had a deep commitment to ensuring children become the best well rounded individuals they can be and I am looking forward to helping develop the Trust which I believe delivers truly exceptional and well rounded education for all children. I care passionately that every child matters and should have a positive environment in which to grow and learn and become the best they can be. The trust offers this to each child and with my previous experience and in my current position I share the vision of the Trust working alongside an exceptional teaching staff, a strong Executive team, a strong Board of Trustees and governors. I believe we will deliver this vision and provide the children and families we serve with an outstanding level of education and opportunities so that each child can become confident well rounded individuals.

Penny Best

I am a parent of two girls, age 25 and 16.
I have over 30 years experience as a Speech and Language Therapist, completing my career as Head of a local Paediatric Speech and Language Therapy Dept. As part of this role I worked at times, within schools, advising staff about how best to support the children. As head of the service, I was pro-active in developing best practice in working with children, parents, and professionals. I maintained a hands-on role with the children throughout my career, as well as working at a managerial level.

I have been on the local governing body of JFK Primary for about 18 years. For many of these years, I was SEN link governor. However, for the last 2 years, I have been EYFS link
governor, enjoying the challenge of increasing my knowledge in this area. Alongside this, I volunteered in nursery for a morning each week for two years. I have embraced retirement, and the freedom it has given me to develop my interests. I volunteer with ‘Guide Dogs’, being a sighted guide for a lady with sight loss, taking her to places she would not get to without my support. I love walking, and regularly walk with local ramblers’ groups. I also enjoy swimming, tap dancing.

Although I have retired from my profession, I am keen to keep my brain active, and feel that being part of the Learning Trust is contributing to this goal! I have enjoyed being an active member of the local governing body of JFK Primary, getting satisfaction from knowing I have contributed to the school moving forward. I wish to continue to use my skills to ensure that the two schools (and any others that join the MAT in the future), give the best education and support for all the children.
I feel that I bring a different angle of expertise to the trust board – that of a knowledgeable professional from outside Education, looking in. My experience and knowledge of services and systems outside Education, helps challenge the schools to ensure they are accessing all avenues of support for those children who may not progress as easily as their peers.

Ian Oswald

I am married to Julie and we are the proud parents of two wonderful children Stephanie, an engineer and Alix our son, who has just completed his GCSE’s and is a former pupil of George Washington Primary School. I am local business man with a team of 24 local and wonderfully talented individuals, many of which joined us directly from the education system. My experiences with my children, has brought me to realise just how important good nurturing and the very best primary school education, from teachers who genuinely care, will give your children as it did mine, the opportunity to learn, develop and grow and provide a spring board to give them very best prospects for the future.

Graeme Miller

I am married with two grown children, one mad black Labrador,and am awaiting grandchildren to lighten my ‘Victor Meldrew’ moments. I am Cabinet member for Health, Housing and Adult Social care on Sunderland Council and have been a Washington Councillor for 12 years, six of them as Cabinet member. I love my football, rugby, walking the dog, going on holiday with my wife and good times with friends and family.

I thrive on change and challenge and have extensive HR experience from running large departments to my own business and a charity over time. I know money and finance, I understand a balance sheet and that cash is king.

I grew up in Leith, Edinburgh’s port in the 60’s and 70’s when it was a very rough and different area to the lovely location it is now. My parents drove my sister and I to get good educations to enable us to get away from Leith and have a better more fruitful life with greater possibilities than they had, I thank them every day for that focus and love. I want every child regardless of circumstance to be afforded the best education available to them, and our MAT is going to do that for Washington children. That is a legacy worth putting some time and effort into.

Ailsa Taylor

I am married to a New Zealander and have two children and two very bouncy dogs. I enjoy being in the outdoors so spend my much free time walking the beaches, hills and woodlands of Northumberland and Durham. I also enjoy my husband’s excellent cooking and sitting in front of the fire, indoors or out, reading.

Before moving into education I had a career as a research scientist and my PhD is in the field of immunopharmacolgy. Although I very much enjoyed the learning life as a bench scientist was not for me and I moved into primary education in 2001 training to be a teacher via an in school in a Beacon School in Newcastle.The philosophy, ethos and passion for education that I observed and learned from in that school shaped my vision and drive to always provide the best possible fun and engaging education for all children.

I have worked in a number of schools in different local authorities during my teaching career and in each one have learned from excellent colleagues and wonderful children. I began my journey in headship in a fabulous small school in Gateshead where a collegiate atmosphere between the heads in other local schools helped me do the best for the staff and children in my own. This collegiality is one of the things that convinced me of the potential that exists in multi academy trusts where schools can remain individual while benefitting from close collegiate working and sharing of good practice (and tricky situations). I joined George Washington Primary School in 2013 and led the school from being one of the poorest performing schools to one of the top performing schools in Sunderland LA in 2016 (and 2017).
I am delighted to have worked with the Governors of George Washington and John F Kennedy primary school to establish Oak Learning Trust and believe the combination of skilled and committed Trustees and outstanding teachers, staff and leaders will make the Trust an excellent place for any child to be educated.

Frank Carroll

I am a certified chartered accountant and am married and have one son who is also a Chartered Certified Accountant. Both my son and I attended John F Kennedy Primary School. Currently I am actively involved with two local charities carrying out treasurer duties for one of them.

My 40 year career has been spent working in senior financial positions in industry and commerce as well as being a member of the senior management team in the various organisations. The turnover of the companies concerned ranged from £5 million to £17 million. Before retiring from full time employment, my last job was Finance Manager at North East Autism Society, a large charity who provide education and care for children and adults with Autism. During my time there I contributed to the Society’s revival and subsequent growth.

As past Chair of Governors at John F Kennedy Primary School for 25 years I appreciated seeing the children progress and enjoy a positive ethos during their school life. In addition I got great satisfaction from being involved in the schools continuing success and ensuring it maintained a healthy financial position. During my term of office I gained a good understanding of school governance through practical experience and by attending numerous training courses provided by the Local Education Authority for governors on school /education matters as well as being a member of Sunderland Governors Association.

I am keen to utilise my past experience in order to contribute to the development of the trusts objective to create an excellent learning and teaching environment which will allow every child to realise their full potential.

Frank Cain

I am an experienced teacher and school leader who has taught (mainly history) for 35 years in Gateshead and Durham. I have been Head of history, Head of Humanities and was on the senior management team during my teaching career. I have taught pupils from 8 to 18 years old.

For seven years I worked for CfBT as an Ofsted inspector leading many primary inspections across the North-East of England. This has given me extensive experience and understanding of what make a school good and what children should be able to expect when they come to school. I have experience of teaching and judging how well a school is performing and hope that this will contrinute to schools within Oak Learning Trust being the very best they can be.

I see the role of Trustee as an exciting and interesting role and an opportunity to maintain my interest and involvement in the education of children in the north East of England.

Thomas Lillie

I am an experienced solicitor and partner in a law firm. I also have two years’ experience as a trustee and company director of a charity. I have a good background in commercial matters, including contract negotiation, as well as charity governance and regulatory compliance issues.

The Learning Trust is a relatively young organisation and, having discussed the background and future plans with the current Chair and Head teacher, I would like to be a part of this dynamic and ambitious Trust and help to secure its future stability and success.

Members

Ralph Thoburn

See Above

Alwyn Bathan

I have two daughters aged 27 and 24 years. I have served in the Territorial Army and was a Magistrate on Gateshead bench for several years. My interests now are keeping fit, creative writing and being a member of a local community choir.

I worked for 39 years as a teacher before moving on to work for Unicef UK. After completing my teacher training, I worked in special education for 15 years before teaching in Further Education and then moved into a mainstream primary school where I was Head Teacher for 13 years. My main interest is school improvement, but Headship provides experience in a very wide range of school based specialisms such as staff appointments, H&S, IT development and pastoral care.

I very much hope that the learning acquired as an experienced teacher and Head Teacher can be useful to support Oak Learning Trust. I am still very interested in education, and visit schools regularly through my current professional UNICEF role. Sharing good practice is pivotal in school improvement, and I feel able to contribute to the ongoing success of Trust schools by bringing such examples to the fore.

Jill Moore

I am the owner of a local independent estate agency in Washington Village which I have built up over the past 7 years. Prior to this I worked in sales jobs before having my 2 children. I worked from home starting a portfolio of 14 buy to let properties.

I am keen to get involved with the local community and learn more about the present educational needs of children and how we can meet these. As a member of the trust I hope to help the multi academy and share any knowledge that I have that is relevant.