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Our Trustees

Beth Taylor, Chair of the Board

Trustee, Chair of the Board and Member
Appointed by the Members
Term of Office: 18/10/18 - 17/10/22

Beth Taylor recently retired as chair of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, following a varied career with the UK Department of Energy, the British National Oil Corporation, the USA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell, and the Institute of Physics where she was Director of Communications and International Relations.

Beth has lived in Westcot near Wantage for thirty years.  She has four grown-up children, who all attended Wantage CE Primary (where she was a parent governor) and King Alfred’s.

Chris Williams, Vice-Chair of the Board

Trustee and Vice-Chair of the Board
Appointed by the Members
Term of Office: 19/07/20 - 18/07/24

Chris has lived and worked in Oxfordshire for over 30 years. His four children have attended both state and private schools in the county.  Chris’s career has focused primarily on HR; he was HR Director of AC Neilsen and Unipart.  During his time with Henley-based Qube Consultants he set up and developed a government-funded apprentice training company, Qube Qualifications, and has retained a keen interest in employee development and engagement.  Chris is a governor of Southwold Primary School in Bicester.

Philip Harrison

Appointed by the Members
Term of Office: 11/10/21 - 10/10/25

Philip is a Chartered Surveyor who has practised in both the private and public sectors and currently manages suppliers of professional services in the roll-out and operation of national infrastructure for EE and 3.  His two children attended Trust schools from Year 1 through to Year 13.  Philip has previously volunteered for a national charity for many years providing direct support to vulnerable people.   As a Trust director, Philip is Chair of the Audit & Risk Committee which provides assurance that the Trust is properly managed. Having joined King Alfred’s Academy as a Parent Governor in 2010 he was soon seconded to St Nicholas CE Primary School after it went into Special Measures and joined the Interim Executive Board.  Subsequently, Philip became Chair of Governors before the school later joined the Trust as a ‘Good’ school – a fantastic example of partnership between secondary and primary schools and the transforming impact it can bring to the young people, the community and our staff.

Beverley Hobbs

Appointed by the Members
Term of Office: 23/10/21 - 22/10/25

Spurred on by her incredibly positive experience as a pupil at secondary school, and following graduation from Southampton University, Beverley has spent her entire career working in education.  Beverley began by teaching English to pupils aged between 11 and 18, then undertook various middle leadership roles, including assistant head of sixth form and head of year, before entering senior leadership, in 2005, as deputy headteacher.   

Beverley has served as headteacher in three schools; all mainstream, but each very different and, as a result of this experience, now works on a part-time basis as CEO in a small, but ambitious multi-academy trust.  In this role she acts as lead education professional for day-to-day operations within the trust and has responsibility for working alongside the chair of trustees to create, evolve and deliver the trust’s strategic development plan.  In addition, she line manages the head of finance and operations and the headteachers of the member schools, which enables her to maintain a detailed understanding of the challenges and opportunities experienced within both the primary and secondary phase. 

An essential aspect of her role as a headteacher and CEO has been to develop an understanding of effective governance.  Experience has taught her that the most effective governance is based upon respectful uncertainty – the best school leaders want their governors to ask good questions, rooted in a genuine interest in the important work they are doing, day-in, day-out, to secure excellence in their schools. 

Having retired from the role of full time headteacher in 2019, the additional “bandwidth” this has created has enabled Beverley to sit more regularly as a magistrate, a role to which she was appointed in that same year.  Her purpose in undertaking this voluntary activity has been to embrace new learning and to put to use some key skills developed in school leadership, such as careful listening and the processing of complex information in order to make discerning judgements.   

Not surprisingly, having served her final period of headship in a Church of England school, membership of her local church community has also had a key role to play in her personal and professional life.  As a result, she has for a number of years served as secretary on the PCC, a role which, like the magistracy, calls for an understanding of human nature - very familiar territory for anyone with experience of working in schools and leadership. 

From a personal perspective, the opportunity for Beverley to join the Board of Directors of the Vale Academy Trust arose at precisely the right moment.  With detailed experience of securing sustainable school improvement and an understanding of the value of working collaboratively as part of that process, she understands and embraces the business of building brilliant futures together.

Alison Jestico

Appointed by the Members
Term of Office: 05/07/21 - 04/07/25

Although a Chartered Accountant by qualification, Alison has spent the majority of her professional career in various organisations within the Not-for profit sector. Her first role was Finance Manager at the Downs School, a grant-maintained school in West Berkshire, and this was followed by 12 years working for Oxfam GB where she held various roles finishing as Head of Finance in the UK.  Her last role before retirement was Director of Finance for the Diocese of Oxford where she was part of the Senior Management team supporting the Diocese and its 1000 parishes, schools and chaplaincies. As part of this role, she was responsible for the financial planning and reporting for the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education. She is a member of the Audit Committee of the Oxford Diocesan School Trust, one of the Diocesan Multi Academy Trusts, and is now Chair of the Trustees of the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage.

Iain Littlejohn

Appointed by the Members
Term of Office : 22/02/21 - 21/02/25

Iain lives in Abingdon with his wife and three children, and runs his own management consultancy business, specialising in organisation design and change management. He has been a governor at Larkmead for seven years, and has held the position of chair of its local governing body.  Two of Ian’s children are students at the school.

Iain is also currently a director of the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA) and Oxfordshire Science Festival, and has previously served as a town councillor and as a trustee of Christ’s Hospital of Abingdon.

Stephen Marshall

Appointed by the Members
Term of Office : 14/05/21 - 13/05/25

Stephen has worked within the university sector for a number of years at five universities, each with a distinctive mission and range of challenges and now pursues a portfolio career including board level roles in the charity sector, consultancy and interim work within the higher education sector.  

Most recently as University Secretary and Registrar at University of the Arts London, Stephen had a leadership responsibility for student facing services, corporate governance and, as a member of the executive board, implementation of university strategy and operational planning. 

Stephen has been a trustee at a local Oxfordshire school, becoming Chair of the Learning Committee and then Chair of Governors. Other educational board roles include sitting on a midlands-based university board of governors. 

Wider involvement in the lives and learning of young people includes volunteering work at a homeless charity where he advises on a mentoring and coaching programme and was trained as a mentor to young homeless people. 

Stephen currently sits on the Board of an Oxfordshire mental health charity, Bridewell Gardens, which offers therapeutic horticultural placements to adults and young people with severe mental health challenges.

Jeff Penfold

Appointed by the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education
Term of Office: 01/11/18 - 31/10/22

Jeff has been a research scientist for most of his working life and is currently an Honorary Scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Oxford University. He was born and brought up in the local area and has lived in Wantage for more than 40 years. He is a regular worshipper at St Nicholas Church, East Challow, and is a Diocesan nominated director for the Trust.  Jeff sits on the Finance & Operations and Risk & Audit Committees, and Chairs the Disciplinary Committee.

Joe Pillman

Appointed by the Members
Term of Office: 17/12/19 - 16/12/ 23

Joe is a commercial solicitor who has lived in Oxfordshire for 35 years, working latterly as a partner in the London office of a US law firm and, before that, as a partner in the Oxford Law firm Cole & Cole. He used to appear regularly as an advocate in Wantage Magistrates Court in the days when it operated. Joe has a daughter at King Alfred’s and a son at the Ridgeway Church of England Primary School in Childrey.

Kirsteen Roberts

Appointed by the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education
Term of Office: 01/01/21 - 31/12/24

Kirsteen has spent most of her working life with the John Lewis Partnership, joining them as a graduate having studied Zoology at Bristol University. After a range of posts including General Manager at Peter Jones and Managing Director John Lewis High Wycombe, Kirsteen moved to the development division at Head Office, developing and delivering new department stores in a range of cities. During a career break she secured a Diploma in School Business Management and then joined the Oxford Diocese as Assistant Director with responsibility for Free schools and Academies. Kirsteen lives near Newbury and is a governor at Welford and Wickham CE primary school. She is also a trustee of the Friends of St Gregory Church in Welford.

Trish Sangwine

Appointed by the Members
Term of Office: 17/12/19 - 16/12/23

Trish trained as a teacher in Queensland, Australia, and taught in Papua New Guinea and Singapore for 18 years before returning to the UK.  She has worked in a broad range of schools and has a strong background in the leadership of early years education, children’s centre services and provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Trish has held three headships in the past 16 years, all of which involved working across multiple sites, and retired in August 2019.  She has lived in Oxfordshire for nearly 17 years and is enjoying spending more time with her family and friends, as well as pursuing her passion for a wide range of textile arts, yoga, swimming and walking.  She is keen to continue contributing to improving the life chances of children through involvement with the Trust.

Former Trustees who left office in the Past twelve months

Chris Ferguson

Appointed by the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education
Last Term of Office: 11/10/17 - 31/12/ 21