Board of Directors

The CEO and one of the Directors of School Improvement sit as executive Directors on the Board together with a number of non-executive Directors who bring a wide variety of skills and experience.

PositionNameDate of appointmentDate of resignationBusiness and pecuniary interests*Attendance at Board meetings
Chair of DirectorsHugh Whittakern/aShareholder in Devon Green & Blue Ltd, Jewells Ltd, Hotter Logs Ltd 5/5
Executive DirectorGary Chownn/a5/5
Executive DirectorHelen Nicholls31.8.175/5
Non-executiveRebecca Robertsn/aEmployee of OTB Eveling, solicitors3/5 (maternity leave for 2)
Non-executiveLyndon Bentn/aShareholder in Bradleys Estate Agents and Bradleys Group Ltd5/5
LGB RepresentativeAdrian Gicqueln/aGovernor at Bickleigh-on-Exe Primary School, Director Devon Railway Centre Ltd 5/5
LGB RepresentativePhil Chambers31.12.16Trustee in Bradninch Town Trust, Bradninch Town councillor1/2
FoundationRev Alan Macdonald20.9.160/0
FoundationCaroline Thomasn/aOwner of business, Caroline S Thomas Accountancy and Music 4/5
FoundationJasmin Nortonn/a3/3

* including governance roles in other educational establishments

Director Profiles

Hugh Whittaker

Chair of Board of Directors

Hugh works as a Business Performance Specialist, supporting SME sector businesses and their people with bespoke development solutions. He has previously been a Director in Internet Marketing and Consultancy businesses. For over 20 years Hugh has been a member of the IGD and held various leadership positions within the country's leading retailers and was accountable for the Leadership, Management and P&L delivery of up to £110,000,000 per annum businesses. During this time he managed up to 24 direct reports and wider teams of up to 1,000 colleagues and achieved the top performing executive across an entire £3 Billion per annum turnover retail business.

Hugh has a passion for improving outcomes for children, collaborative working and team development and brings his work based experience to support and drive the development and performance of the Trust.

Gary Chown

Executive Director

Gary is one of the founding members of Ventrus (formerly The Primary Academies Trust). Gary is committed to Partnership working and prior to his current role he led the Devon Association of Primary Headteachers whilst also developing his own partnership of improving and successful schools. He has extensive school leadership experience and a strong, proven track record of school improvement. As an Executive Headteacher Gary has led five different schools through seven full inspections. At every one of those inspections the schools grading improved from its previous inspection grade. Ofsted have described Gary as an “exceptional Headteacher”. Gary has been commissioned on many occasions by the Local Authority to support and lead schools that are under-performing. Gary also has a great deal of multi-agency experience and his work as the strategic Lead for a cluster of children centres has been described as “inspirational” by the Chief Executive of Barnados. Gary has a passion for teacher training and development and he still finds time to act as a visiting lecturer on PGCE and BEd programmes for the University of Plymouth.

Rebecca Roberts

Non-executive Director

Rebecca is a solicitor at OTB Eveling LLP, she specialises in corporate and commercial matters. Rebecca’s day job primarily involves managing business mergers, investments and providing governance advice. Rebecca works for large national and regional companies as well as local family businesses.

Rebecca also has a background in charity and education law and in advising community, trust, church & foundation schools in seeking academy and multi-academy status. Rebecca also has experience of advising schools, colleges and academies in joint ventures and collaborations.

Adrian Gicquel

Non-executive Director - Local Governing Body Representative

Adrian brings considerable experience of Primary Schools and school improvement to the Trust and has been involved with Education for over 40 years.

He was employed initially as a Primary teacher and then a Deputy Headteacher within the County of Nottingham. He then became a peripatetic Headteacher with the Humberside Local Education Authority which gave him experience of different sized schools, the smallest having only 40 pupils on role. He went on to open and become the first Headteacher of a brand new Primary School on the outskirts of Derby. The school grew from 150 to over 400 pupils during his time there. This position was followed by six years as a very successful Headteacher of a large Primary school (600 plus) in Oxfordshire.

This varied Headship experience gave him insight into the challenges and delights of a wide variety of different types and sizes of primary schools. His professional education career culminated in him becoming a Primary Education Adviser with Devon LEA where he offered advice to Headteachers and schools. He has also inspected a number of schools as an Ofsted Inspector and has given many talks and lectures to Headteachers, teachers and students.

Since retirement he has become Director of his own company which he runs together with his son and family. He has, over the last few years, been Chair of Governors at Bickleigh on Exe Church of England Primary School.

Lyndon Bent

Non-executive Director

Lyndon has been an Estate Agent for 37 years and is a founder Shareholder and Director of The Bradleys Group of companies. The Group, engaged in a broad range of Estate Agency and property related services, was established in 1992 and has 33 offices in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, employing around 200 staff.

Lyndon’s current role has a range of responsibilities including group wide IT, supplier and commercial relationships, as well as overseeing the Lettings and Property Management side of his business.

He was formerly a Governor at Gatehouse Primary School, Dawlish and an active member of Round Table, as well as having worked closely with a range of Charities and Trusts through his personal and business connections. He also sits on the Golf Committee at Exeter Golf and Country Club.

He joins the board with a particular interest in premises matters combining his experience in the property industry and keen interest in the growth of the Trust.

Caroline Thomas

Non-executive Foundation Director

Caroline brings a wealth of financial experience to the Trust. Caroline was a partner in a local firm of Chartered Accountants, having been head of forensic accountancy in the local office for several years. As a Chartered Accountant and member of the Academy of Experts, she has provided forensic accountancy and expert witness services across the UK and Channel Islands for over 10 years.

Prior to developing her specialism in forensic work, Caroline was heavily involved in the audit of charities and charitable companies, overseeing the implementation of the Charities SORP 2000 for her clients. Since that time, she has retained an enthusiasm for the voluntary sector, undertaking gratuitous accountancy work for a handful of local charitable organisations.

Caroline is also a qualified commercial mediator and finds these skills invaluable in many aspects of life, including the workplace and within the setting of various committee meetings.

In order to accommodate her young family, Caroline now involves herself in a variety of accountancy based roles; including a consultancy in forensic accountancy, fund accounting, voluntary accountancy work and her self-employed Chartered Accountancy business comprising a small portfolio of hand-picked clients.

Caroline has a keen interest in children and education, partly as a result of having school aged children herself, but also in her role as a part-time peripatetic music teacher in local primary and secondary schools.

Jasmin Norton

Non-executive Foundation Director

Jasmin is a Relationship Director for NatWest Commercial Bank where she specialises in Property Investment & Development Finance managing a book of over £80m. Prior to this role she was involved in managing the funding and transactional requirements of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises across Devon, and was involved in complex strategic financial advice and planning for her clients. An important part of her role is coaching, and as a developer of talent she is passionate in her desire to empower others to achieve personal and group goals. She is a proactive supporter of diversity as she considers that different view points only serve to enhance the understanding of people’s beliefs, values and culture, and what matters most to them. She firmly believes that opportunity and acceptance should be extended to everyone no matter their background or circumstance.