Groombridge St. Thomas CE Primary School
Groombridge School Governors Pen Portraits
Stuart Fraser – Foundation Governor - Chair of Governors
After a period of post-graduate study I started a business career in management consulting, working across many sectors. I then moved into general management roles, first in media and telecoms, most recently in medical diagnostics. In between, I ran an education and training business for over 10 years, and have taken a keen and long-standing interest in education generally. I am particularly interested in the areas of languages, bi-lingual teaching, and the role of music in furthering educational and cognitive development. I am also very interested in the area of assessment. I am preoccupied and concerned about mental health among young people. I played an active role in trying to set up a bi-lingual free school in Barnet, which sadly failed; however the experience gave me an abiding interest in the evolving landscape of school governance. I have four children aged 19 – 28 who are all at university. I am looking forward to helping St Thomas’s School sustain and enhance its outstanding performance, and deepen its engagement with our Church.
Angela Nicholls - Headteacher Ex-Officio
I joined St Thomas’ as Headteacher in 2000 and this is my third headship of a Church of England Primary School. After graduating, my first teaching role was in a sixth form college (hard to believe primary jobs were like gold dust) where O level and A levels were the focus. After three years I returned to Primary education and after a journey through Cyprus where I helped set up schools in the Middle East, I spent nine wonderful years teaching in Cairo where I eventually founded Maadi British International School in partnership with a team of local businesses, Governors, the
British Embassy and the Anglican Church. From there I carried the motto ‘Learning for Life’ which has always been my passion for children – a broad, balanced and creative and sporting curriculum, a nurturing child-centred ethos and as much fun and inspiration in learning as we can give them. There were 22 nationalities represented in the school from every continent which was dynamic, inclusive and inspiring. I am now privileged to lead the team in Groombridge School who share these values. We want all our children to do and be their best. In my spare time I love reading, the arts, dog walking, experimental cooking and walking and swimming along our beautiful coastline.
Garry Saunders – Appointed by the Local Authority – Vice Chair of Governors
I wanted to become a Governor as, after I retired, I felt that my previous business experience could be put to good use in a voluntary/charitable situation. Having reviewed the voluntary/charitable areas, I decided that I did not want to work a prescriptive day/time basis. This, together with encouragement from my wife (who had a career in teaching), led me to volunteer as a school Governor. I have been a Governor for over two years now.
I am Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (FCA). Positions held include Finance Manager, Company Secretary and Managing Directorships in businesses varying from ‘All Inclusive’ holidays to subscription based architectural magazines and Further Education establishment (Woolwich College of FE). Experience in and responsibility for estate and financial management, human resources, liaison with internal and external bodies, and changes in business directions. Children need education to achieve their full potential. It enables them to take control of their adult lives by providing them with the necessary skill set to get a job.
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.
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’.
Guy Orridge – Elected Parent Governor
As a proud parent of a child at St Thomas’ I am keen to play my part in ensuring that Groombridge School is governed to the same high level and exacting standards that appealed to us in choosing this school and Groombridge Community upon returning from living overseas. My extensive background in both IT and business will be of immense support to the school and community. Outside of work I enjoy running, cycling and recently got involved with early morning running club on a Tuesday.
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
Foundation Governors were appointed by the Diocese of Chichester.
Any co-opted /Associate Governors will be appointed by the Governing Body.