The Chair of Governors can be contacted via Rebecca Tills, the Clerk to Governors at firstname.lastname@example.org, Laidlaw Schools Trust, Suite 2, 3rd Floor, St Nicholas Building, St Nicholas’ Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1RF or 0191 6622416.
Chair of Governors
Vice Chair of Governors
Ben is the Relationship Manager for Schools North East, a charity giving a voice to all 1,150 North East schools in the national debate. His role is to work with schools, MATs and partners across all sectors to support the organisation to influence the shape of regional and national policy.
After studying at Newcastle University, Ben moved to London to work in education at The Key spending five years supporting school leaders and governors across the country. After working with Schools North East at the start of 2019 on a project to support MATs across the region, Ben made the move to back to the North East in the summer and join the SNE team.
Ben was previously a governor at a special school in London for 4 years, as chair of a leadership and management committee. During his time at the school he was involved in the recruitment of a new Head Teacher, a school relocation and an Ofsted inspection (Good!).
Ben is passionate about supporting the Trust’s vision to transform the lives of children and communities in the Laidlaw Schools Trust, through inspirational education.
Joanna Finlay is Sustainable Banking Manager at Virgin Money, leading work to make banking services more inclusive for the vulnerable or underserved. Previous roles were in product management, strategy and developing purpose-led culture.
Joanna is passionate about advocating for social justice in financial services at a national level. She is a Board member for the Centre for Social Justice’s Financial Inclusion policy unit, a member of the Affordable Credit Action Group and is a TEDx speaker.
It’s that same belief that everyone deserves the chance to thrive, which drew her into being a Governor. She joined the team in Spring 2019, inspired by the ambition and focus on empowering children to dream big and shape their own futures.
Joanna came to Newcastle from Hertfordshire via Durham, where she studied psychology. She’s married a Geordie so is here to stay! In her spare time, she enjoys music-making (especially with kids) and exploring the great outdoors.
Simon is a qualified chartered accountant having trained with an accountancy firm in London after graduating from St Andrews University. He specialised in the audit of not-for-profit entities, including academies (and large multi-academy trusts) and further education colleges, ensuring appropriate financial reporting in-line with accounting standards relevant for the sector.
Upon qualifying as an accountant Simon moved to EY in Newcastle, a big 4 accounting firm, specialising in government and public sector entities, before taking a role as an in-house accountant at a start-up business within the financial services sector. He then moved to Deloitte to continue to provide audit and assurance services to a range of UK/US publicly listed businesses and UK privately owned businesses.
Simon was born in West Newcastle and comes from a family of teachers – his dad was a head teacher and his sister is a science teacher. His hobbies include piano-playing, running, and travelling.
Simon is enthusiastic about supporting Atkinson Road Primary Academy and the wider Trust to ensure that the best education can be delivered to children in the local area.
Garuth is a Project Manager with Openreach, leading in transformation changes within the new sites department; implementing system and process changes to improve how developers work with the company.
Garuth has worked for BT Group for the past 21 years covering a variety of roles. With the increased demand (especially in recent years) on the network from streaming services to the changes in where we work, he’s found it an interesting industry to be part of and insightful to see new technology and products come to market and to see the shift in the network from copper to fibre.
Originally from Northern Ireland, Garuth went to university in Middlesbrough, and settled in Newcastle. He is married with 2 children, both of which attend Atkinson Road Primary Academy. In his spare time he is a keen runner and has taken part in the Great North Run from 2008.
He encourages his children to join in where possible and can regularly be found on a Saturday morning at one of the many north east’s Parkruns. His children have also taken part in the junior Great North Runs from the age of 5.
Niamh has over 30 years experience in education in England and Scotland, including primary and secondary schools, state and private, single-sex and co-education, day and boarding schools, as a teacher and most recently Head of Juniors, so brings with her a wealth of experience and knowledge. She is passionate about all things education and the development, happiness and wellbeing of people.
Her relatively recent move to the corporate world as an Environmental, Social and Governance Director is, she feels, a natural transition bridging the worlds of business, finance and education, where the focus remains People and the Planet. In her current role, with a remit “to make people’s lives better or that bit easier by our company actions’ ‘ she focuses on building strong and lasting partnerships and providing support and opportunities within the communities in which she works. Solid and lived values and ethos are very important to her, and meeting and working alongside like-minded people is a key driver and motivator. Niamh is always looking for opportunities to make a positive difference by her actions in work and beyond.
A tennis coach in a previous life she now enjoys a very competitive game of golf, and makes time to get out into nature to re energise and maintain overall wellbeing. Niamh believes strongly in the power and benefit of being outdoors, close to nature, conjuring her ‘best’ ideas and projects in these settings. Sitting with a great book, watching the stars, building a campfire, are some of the pleasures that inspire. She believes each and every child deserves the best start in life, with access to a great education with inspiring teachers, and that we all in society have a responsibility to ensure we do our best to provide such an environment. She is looking forward very much to working alongside the children, staff, families and governors at ARPA over the next months and years.
Harry is the Policy Officer at Schools North East, a charity giving a voice to all 1,150 North East schools. His role is to research national educational policy developments and data, and to support lobbying on behalf of schools in the region.
Originally from Yorkshire, Harry studied History at Newcastle University. Following on from University he worked in Parliament for three years, before moving back to the North East in 2019.