GLA Members of the Board
The Gloucestershire Learning Alliance MAT is guided by the individual and collective contribution of the Board of Directors. The work of the Board of Directors is the driving force for the success of the Trust and its member academies, and Directors should feel that the job they do is rewarding and satisfying.
Click here to see the Governance Structure for the Trust.
What skills and experience do they bring to the Board?
We always strive to have a Board that has a range of skills and experiences, and in the pen portraits in this section, we have outlined what these are. There are however qualities that we expect all our Directors to have, and these are summarised below:
Commitment to education: Able to demonstrate a commitment to seeking the highest standards in all our schools and thereby improve the lives of children and young people
Strategic Perspective: Able to develop a broad-based view of issues and events and to perceive their long-term impact.
Interpersonal skills and the ability to work as part of a team: Able to work positively with others and debate whilst maintaining a constructive atmosphere.
Communication skills and the ability to influence: Able to express ideas/plans in a clear manner and to listen actively to other views.
Planning and Organisational skills: Able to quickly establish an effective course of action for self and others to achieve goals that can be monitored by realistic performance targets.
Determination and Drive: Able to create the required energy/enthusiasm and commitment necessary to be effective, including attendance at scheduled meetings of the Trust Board (66% minimum) and its Committees.
Experience: Expertise in a field which is of relevance to the oversight of the affairs of the Trust. (Some Directors’ roles may require specific qualifications or a particular skill or experience.)
Understanding of governance: Able to demonstrate a full understanding and appreciation of the principles of governance, including collective responsibility, discharge of fiduciary duties and the seven principles of public life (see section 14).
Equal Opportunities: Commitment to equal opportunities
GLA Members - Pen Portraits
Damon was appointed as Chair of Governors at Bishop's Cleeve Primary Academy (BCPA) in September 2014 and is fully engaged in working with the governing body to support the leadership team in the continuous improvement of the school.
Damon served in the Royal Air Force for over twenty years as an Aircraft Avionics Engineer and senior leader and is currently a Training Manager for a large multi-national aviation company, responsible for a global team that designs, develops and delivers technical product training to customers world-wide.
When serving in the R.A.F., he was deployed on numerous operational tours around the globe, developing expertise in operational management and leadership. He completed a tour at the Defence College of Aeronautical Engineering, mentoring and delivering training to the future aircraft technicians of the RAF.
Damon is trained and experienced in change acceleration process, project management and continuous improvement, and experienced at controlling high-value budgets and delivering projects on-time and to cost.
In September, Damon became a Member of the GLA
Ruth has worked as a Governor Trainer for Governor Services at Gloucestershire County Council since 2005, and is responsible for developing, writing and delivering training on all aspects of School Governance to governors at all schools across the county. She also carries out Governance Reviews for the local authority when this has been recommended by Ofsted and for vulnerable schools.
She is an experienced governor, having been a governor at a Bishop's Cleeve Primary School for 11 years (1999-2010), for seven of which she was Chair of Governors, before being asked to join the governing body at Cleeve School where she was a governor for 5 years (2010 -2015), two years as vice-chair. She has chaired a number of committees, including Standards, Personnel, Premises, Health & Safety, and has taken on individual responsibilities from time to time particularly for SEND, Safeguarding, Literacy, Music and other areas as required.
She is currently a co-opted governor at her local First School in Worcestershire. From time to time she has been appointed by the LA onto other governing bodies for short periods (18 months to 2 years) to provide support for schools in difficulty following Ofsted Inspection. Until recently, Ruth was a member of the executive committee for Gloucestershire Governors Association.
From 1990 -2002 Ruth was a part-time lecturer in English as a Second Language at Gloscat, now Gloucestershire College, and prior to the she taught English language at a school in Hong Kong. Ruth is a qualified teacher with a BA in Linguistics & Education, a PGCE and a post graduate diploma in Human Resource Management. She joined the Trust board as a trustee in 2015 until 2019 and sat on the standards committee, and was the nominated initial Chair of Governor's for Longford Park Primary Academy.
Ruth was Chair of Governors for the federated governing body of Rowanfield Junior School and Springbank Primary Academy, two of the three founding GLA schools. She became a trustee on the first GLA Trust Board established in 2013.
She was elected Vice Chair in September 2016 and became the Chair of the Trust Board for four years from January 2018.
Ruth was a Member of Council at Cheltenham College for nine years until 2019 and was Chair of the Welfare and Safeguarding committee.
Ruth is a qualified teacher with 25 years primary school experience including senior management posts in urban and rural schools. From 2001 to 2010, she was School Workforce Advisor with Gloucestershire County Council. From 2010, Ruth was Lead Commissioner for Early Years and Vulnerable Children at Gloucestershire County Council. She was the contract manager for 39 Childrens’ centres in Gloucestershire and the Local Authority lead for Childrens’ centre OFSTED inspections.
Ruth retired from this role in 2017.
Helen became a member in December 2023. She is also Chair of the Board of Trustees
GLA Trustees - Pen Portraits
Helen MorrisChair to the Board of Trustees
Helen joined the Trust board in January 2020, became Vice Chair in October 2021 and Chair in September 2023. She trained as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young in London. Soon after qualifying she moved into industry and gained financial accounting, treasury and tax experience with a number of listed companies. In 1994 she joined Kraft Foods in Cheltenham where she remained until 2012.
During this time her roles included Head of Tax, Payroll and Pensions and most recently Associate Director Pensions. She brings many years of finance and governance experience, having been a Trustee Director and Secretary to the Trustees of the Kraft Foods Pension Scheme, a Trustee and member of the Presidents Group and Chair of the Investment Committee of a large charitable organisation, and is currently Chair of Governors at a primary school in Cheltenham.
Jonathan WilsonVice-Chair to Board of Trustees
Jon started out working in customer services for the NatWest bank, where he was involved heavily in their shift from paper based systems to, what was then, the more modern computer systems.
During this time he also worked towards his early qualifications in banking and finance and this promoted him to reconsider his decision to leave his studies at the end of secondary school.
Having decided on a change of direction for his career, he left work and studied full time at UMIST gaining a degree in Computation, before moving straight into the civil service to pursue a career in Project Management. This has seen him manage a number of multi million pound projects across a wide range of disciplines from software development to building construction and international relations. Within this, he has worked extensively with foreign partners gaining a good understanding of working across both physical and cultural divides.
Alongside his work he has also become a full member both the Association for Project Management and the Institute for Engineering and Technology, the latter awarding him the status of Chartered Engineer. During his career he has also taken time aside to complete an LLB with Nottingham Law School to compliment his other qualifications. Away from work, Jon is a father of a young son who attends Springbank Primary Academy and has been a member of the local governing body for the past year. Coming from a family of teachers, he has a keen interest in all aspects of education but particularly in how pupils with special needs are catered for and how education can be inclusive for all.
Colin FosterChair of Finance & Audit Committee
Colin joined the Board in September 2021. He is a retired accountant and management consultant.
After training and working as an accountant in local government in the North East, Colin joined Coopers and Lybrand (now PWC) as a management consultant before returning to the public sector to spend 14 years in senior finance roles in the NHS. His last position in the NHS was Director of a Primary Care Trust.
In 2005 Colin returned to consultancy with accountancy firm PKF (later BDO). He advised public sector clients on a wide range of projects before specialising in education. He acted as a project manager for the DfE in establishing the early academies and free schools. From 2010 he focussed on schools converting to academies and setting up Multi Academy Trusts (MATs).
Prior to retiring in 2020, Colin operated his own consultancy business working as a project manager establishing Regional Adoption Agencies in local government by merging existing services.
As well as his background in setting-up academies, Colin brings direct experience of being a MAT Trustee as he was on the Board of the Sentamu Academy Learning Trust in Hull for 3 years prior to moving to Gloucestershire.
Dermot McNiffeTrustee/Chair of Standards Committee
Dermot McNiffe is the Principal of All Saints Academy in Cheltenham. Dermot qualified as a Design Technology Teacher in 1996 following twelve years in major industry working as a patternmaker and model maker for Austin Rover, Hydraulics Research and British Aerospace. In 1999, he joined Wellacre Technology College in Trafford, Manchester where he progressed to be the sole Deputy Headteacher, responsible for curriculum, teaching, learning and achievement.
His passion for school improvement focused on designing a new curriculum and raising standards in teaching and learning; this helped to secure yearly improvements, which culminated in an Outstanding Ofsted inspection in May 2007. The school was then awarded High Performing Specialist Schools Status, which enabled the school to secure a capital bid to build a successful 300 place co-educational sixth form. In 2008
Dermot joined The Academy of St Francis of Assisi in Liverpool. His impact over five years secured year on year improvement putting the Academy in the top 10 percent of schools nationally for outstanding continuous improvement in raising standards in GCSE English and Mathematics. His Academy was the only school re-inspected in Liverpool to improve its Ofsted rating from satisfactory to good with outstanding features in 2012.
In recognition of this sustained improvement the Department for Education approved an expansion of the Academy to open a new 6th Form in 2013. Since starting as Principal at All Saints Academy in 2014, the Academy has improved from Requiring Improvement to Good where his leadership was judged as outstanding by Ofsted. Dermot is passionately committed to raising standards and improving the quality of education for his Academy and the local community it serves.
For nearly 45 years I have gained experience of teaching, leadership, and school improvement at a range of rural, urban primary and middle schools in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Birmingham, Staffordshire, and Swindon. I was seconded to work for a Local Authority for two years in an Advisory role. This included working with a wide range of professionals within Primary, Secondary and Special schools and local colleges to produce implementation plans, training packages and recruit appropriately trained staff. In addition to my role as LA Adviser, I provided a wide range of advice, training and support for schools. As a result of this work, I was asked to take a school out of Special Measures and turned it around within fourteen months. This required rigorous analysis of data, combined with a determined approach to school improvement.
I served as a Governor at most of the schools I worked in over more than 25 years. I had the opportunity to work on the Finance, Standards and Premises committees at all of these schools and developed the policies and practices for Local Management in Schools on behalf on the Governing Body when it was first introduced. As a result, I developed a course in strategic Financial Management for Headteachers that was delivered with the Head of Audit. The BBC also featured this work and made it into a national training course.
I worked for nearly ten years in School Improvement for the charity ‘Achievement for All’ as an adviser until the charity folded at the end of the pandemic. Although, on the way to full retirement, since then I have worked as an independent consultant which has given me a range of experiences in school improvement where much of my work has been in working with headteachers to improve leadership, the curriculum, parental engagement, and standards at all levels. I am a qualified External Adviser to Governing Bodies and still work in assisting them to assess the performance of Headteachers.
Paul started his professional career as a design engineer at Smith Industries (now GE Aviation) in Bishops Cleeve back in 1985.
After a short period as a consultant for ERA, one of the UK's leading research organisations, Paul moved into international business development where he has spent the last 30 plus years creating, building and managing marketing and sales organisations including leading the post-merger integration of two large telecoms companies in cross Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Paul brings experience of organisational design, business strategy, change management, growth, and building teams. He has studied extensively in the UK and the US.
Paul is a professional business mentor and leadership advisor in Gloucestershire, and manages a national sales and marketing consultancy.
Paul has 3 grown up boys, and lives in The Park area of Cheltenham.
I love working, and relish new challenges. Core skills built over the last 30 years:
Extensive board level experience across a diverse range of verticals. Ability to lead, plan, grow and manage teams and processes to deliver on company objectives. Strong organizational, sales, marketing and time-management skills with an ability to set priorities and meet deadlines.
With 14 years headship experience in two secondary schools and executive leadership experience in other schools and specialist settings (including SEMH, alternative provision and studio schools), Gary has significant experience in school leadership and in raising achievement.
Gary is currently Director of Education in a Trust with 13 schools: 8 primaries; 3 secondaries; 1 special school; 1 studio school. Â In addition to other strategic responsibilities, Gary leads school improvement across the trust. Â He attends all Trust Board meetings and is the lead professional on the Education Standards Committee.
Gary has been involved in training headteachers internationally including in Africa and the Middle East.
With over 30 years experience of working in the field of special educational needs,(SEN) including the Headship of two Special Schools. Julie has experience of working in different local authorities including Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bath & North East Somerset.
Julie has a wide experience of working across SEN both in Special schools and mainstream schools, having also been the Executive Lead for SEND at a Trust. Julie has also worked for Ofsted on a number of SEN projects.
Julie is passionate about supporting our most vulnerable young people in our schools and was awarded an M.B.E in 2019 for her services to children and Young people with SEND.
She now provides Consultancy for SEN and holds the following qualifications in SEN, B.ed (Hons) SEN, B.A (Hons) psychology, M.ed (Autism)
Adam joined the Trust Board in November 2023, having previously served as Chair of Finance and Risk on the Churchdown Village Infant School (CVIS) Governing Board prior to CVIS joining the GLA. Adam attended CVIS 30 years ago, and lives in Churchdown with his wife and son, who is currently enjoying his time at the school.
Adam was previously a founding trustee of the University of Bristol Students’ Union, having acted as one of the executive members who secured its charitable status. After graduating from the University of Bristol with a first-class degree in Accounting and Management, he joined the civil service in 2010. Adam specialises in high value, complex procurement programmes and is a chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply.
Having held leadership roles within several significant defence programmes, Adam brings experience of strategy development and implementation, governance and policy, financial management, and building and developing strong teams. Adam is committed to supporting and challenging the vision and direction of the GLA Trust, ensuring that it continues to provide a supportive and safe environment to help our children develop across the family of schools.