Groombridge St. Thomas CE Primary School

Governor Profiles

Groombridge School Governors Pen Portraits

Rev Sharon Francis – Vicar at St Thomas’ Church Ex-Officio

I became an ex-officio Governor when I became Priest in Charge at St Thomas the Apostle, Groombridge on 26 March 2011.

This is my first time as a school Governor. Prior to ordination I worked in the Regeneration Department of the Diocese of Rochester where I was Director of a community project working with churches in deprived areas. This project was a community learning project where we refurbished church premises to accommodate state of the art learning suites, with tutors and volunteers to enable people to gain certificates in English, Maths and IT, to help them into the labour market. We operated out of 11 churches, with 7 paid staff and approx. 70 volunteers. In an earlier life (before a career break for children) I was a lecturer in Further Education in Business Studies, Secretarial Skills and Commerce at South Kent College. I therefore have a passion for life-long learning, and am keen that St Thomas’ Church is a learning church where all ages and abilities can grow in the knowledge of their faith and in their love of God. As parish priest of a church with a church school, I take assembly once a month, visit about weekly, take classes across all years on Holy Communion, receive children in the church to teach them about various aspects of church life. Recently Year 2 enjoyed a session in church led by Trevor Wells on Baptism. I think there was even a ‘Mummy and Daddy’ who brought the dolly for Baptism. My role is to support the Headteacher and staff through listening and prayer, to take a full part in Governors’ meetings, and to encourage opportunities for the church and school to work together. Through my role as ex-officio Governor, and with joint responsibility for Collective Worship, I am delighted to support St Thomas’ school in its vision that ‘a happy child is a learning child’.

Angela Nicholls - Headteacher Ex-Officio

After graduating with a BA Honours and a PGCE in Primary Education, Angela’s first teaching role was in South East Essex Sixth Form College for three years (hard to believe primary jobs were like gold dust at that time) where RE/English O level and A levels and Foundation Studies were the focus. She then returned to Primary education teaching in a private school in London for a year. Wanting to teach abroad, Angela found a position in Cyprus where she also helped a team set up pre-schools in the Middle East – mainly Lebanon and Cairo.

On a school visit to Cairo Angela fell in love with the country and culture and spent nine wonderful years teaching in Key Stage Two at Maadi British International School. Every summer holiday, Angela enrolled and funded herself on quality professional development and leadership training in the UK and increasingly took on leadership roles in the school starting with Key Stage Two Co-ordinator and then acting Headteacher for a year. After the departure of the Headteacher, Angela was the founding headteacher for the the new Maadi British International School in partnership with a team of local businesses, Governors, the British Embassy and the Anglican Church. It is still a thriving school. There were twenty nationalities represented in the school from every continent and learning based on the British National Curriculum was dynamic, equality based, inclusive, inspiring and fun. Angela stayed as Headteacher there for three years and organised an Ofsetd inspection (which had a very good outcome) before returning to headship at Framfield School in England. After three years, Framfield received the most improved school in East Sussex award.

Angela joined Groombridge primary School as Headteacher in 2000, with 19 years teaching experience, seven years Key Stage 2 leadership experience and six years Headteacher experience. This is her third headship of a Church of England Primary School. The school has been validated in her tenure as Ofsted Outstanding 2006 and 2009, having Healthy School status, Gold Standard PE provision since 2017, ongoing Financial Management Standard, Safeguarding Compliant 2019, SEN Standard ESCC 2018 and an overall outstanding inspection for Religious Education and Collective Worship 2019. With all the changes in Ofsted goalposts and staff turnovers Angela would say that the school is a GOOD school with some elements of Ofsted outstanding practice. The journey of development never stops! Over the last 20 years the school built a library, SEN room, First Aid room, and aims to create a beautiful and dynamic learning environment. A wellbeing room and play area are planned, with an application for a grant already sent off. ‘Learning for Life’ is a motto which has always expressed Angela’s passion and aspirations for children underpinned by a broad, balanced and creative and sporting curriculum, a nurturing child-centred ethos and offering as much fun and inspiration in learning as possible. We want all children to do and be the best they can be.

Angela is a trained and experienced leadership coach and mentor, a trained and experienced local leader of education, and a Headteacher peer coach and mentor. Whist working collaboratively as an Education Improvement Partnership (EIP) Leader comprised of approximately 40 East Sussex schools from 2014 -2017, Angela co-wrote the English improvement plan which contributed to a rise in overall school performance in writing. Angela initiated and organized a county-wide leadership coaching initiative with the Institute of Human Development attended by 60+schools, and is totally committed to this essential approach for all levels of progress, development and school improvement. Angela also initiated and organized a local EIP coaching hub where Headteachers shared good practice in writing, EYFS good practice, supporting SEN pupils, improving attendance and cascading coaching through schools.

Angela is currently studying for a diploma in therapeutic practice with Therapeutic Life Story Work International (TLSWi) which she aims to roll out into all levels of school life and PSHE to embed what she calls ‘The Therapeutic School’ initiative - following the trauma of COVID-19 and its impact on children, parents and staff. Everyone is aware of the wellbeing crisis and the rise in emotional and mental health issues globally. Children need skills for life, work and positive relationships.

In her spare time Angela loves reading, researching professional best practice in education, the creative arts, dog walking, speaking at adoption trauma intervention conferences, experimental cooking (prefers a Rick Stein do it yourself box delivered) and walking and swimming along our beautiful coastline and areas of outstanding natural beauty on - travels at home and abroad when possible!

School Facebook: Groombridge St Thomas School

Thomas Swann - Foundation

I am the father of two boys at St Thomas’ School. My work as the UK sales manager for Harvard Apparatus (medical research equipment supplier) is home based which allows me flexibility with my time. I am lucky to get involved in volunteering to support PTA activities and I am impressed by what an amazing job they do. Groombridge is an incredible school which I feel privileged to be a part of, not only consistently outstanding academically, but a vibrant and vital centre of the community alongside St Thomas’ Church. As a school governor I would welcome the opportunity to assist the governing body in its role. School is about so much more than academic learning and I will support the broad, balanced and holistic work of the school. I will bring my professional attributes, a willingness to use my skills to serve as a governor along with a passionate commitment to the school and its ongoing success.

Peter Symes – Foundation Governor

I am a retired Chartered Accountant having spent most of my working life in the oil industry in various commercial and financial managerial roles. I have some experience of working with children other than my own as I am Treasurer of EHAS which is a charity supporting children who are from deprived and under-privileged homes in the Edenbridge area. Although I have been a resident of Groombridge for over 25 years my children were settled at other schools when we moved to the village so did not attend St Thomas’. I have been impressed by the school’s excellent reputation and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to its continuing success through the governor role.

Helen Denton – Staff Governor

I am now Year 2 Class Teacher ( previously the Year 1 teacher since 2013) and Deputy Headteacher ( appointed 2019).

Richard Hayes – Elected Parent Governor

I am a father of four, our two eldest children currently attend St Thomas and our three year old twins will start Reception Class in September. We are very lucky to have such a wonderful school on our doorstep and, as a Parent Governor, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute my skills and strengthen my ties with the school body. I have worked in the world of shipping derivatives for the past fifteen years, managing teams of brokers in London and Singapore. Away from the office I love being a Dad and all that this encompasses be it: cheering on from a chilly sideline or toasting marshmallows on the bonfire!

Ann Saunders – Foundation Governor

I am a mother of three, grandmother of six and a retired Primary School teacher who moved to Groombridge two years ago. I began my career by teaching in Shepherd’s Bush in London (where I only survived one year!). I decided to travel, which gave me the unexpected opportunity to become an ‘Enrichment Teacher’ in an all-black school in rural Louisiana, USA. I then taught in a variety of schools in New Zealand and Australia before returning to the same school in Shepherd’s Bush. I discovered that I had learnt a great deal from my experiences! After getting married, I taught in a number of Primary schools in West Kent and finally in an Independent school with a Christian ethos until I retired. More recently I was a volunteer at our local school and had small groups on a weekly basis for ‘extended learning’. Among other things, I enjoy spending time with the grandchildren, walking in the countryside, holidaying in Devon and Cornwall, visiting art exhibitions, and learning to play Bridge. I feel that the combined community of the Church and School contributes an invaluable richness to village life in Groombridge so, as a committed Christian, to be a Foundation Governor will be a huge privilege and an exciting new role for me. I greatly look forward to joining the Governing Body of St Thomas’ School.

Caroline Watkins - Foundation Governor

I am a parent of a boy in Year 2 and this is my first position as a Foundation Governor. I am a lone parent and I love being mum and dad, especially in a wonderful community like Groombridge which offers a safe, nurturing and beautiful environment for the children to grow up in. I am a solicitor specialising in commercial construction, and previously worked for Southern Water before returning to mainstream legal practice. The school benefits from an incredibly supportive church community which my son and I have been part of for a few years now and we love the various initiatives and community events run by the school and church. I consider it a great privilege to be a part of St Thomas' governing body

Local Authority Governor Awaiting New Appointment – Appointed by the Local Authority

We have two Foundation Governor Vacancies

Foundation Governors are appointed by the Diocese of Chichester.

Any co-opted /Associate Governors will be appointed by the Governing Body.