The voice of specialist further education

Board & governance

Natspec is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the membership. The Board meets four times per year, and appoints a Chair to lead the organisation. The Chief Executive is responsible for strategic guidance and operational leadership.

The Board of Directors is comprised of ten policy directors and eight regional directors. Directors are responsible for leading either the policy area at a national level, or for representing members at a regional level.

Download the Board Handbook including Memorandum and Articles of Association.

If you need to get in touch with any members of the board, please email them directly or contact

Meet our chair

Lynette Barrett, National Star College

Lynette has worked in Education, Health and Social Care for 24 years, joining National Star in Jan 2001. Holding over 18 years management experience, 12 years has been as a Senior Leader, recently achieving an MBA in Senior Leadership. Lynette has been instrumental in leading the diversification of specialist education and care at National Star and was appointed as Chief Operations Officer in 2019. Maintaining quality through changing environments has been her objective throughout her leadership career, this has been evidenced by achieving and sustaining outstanding with Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission across all regulated areas.

Lynette is passionate about the right for young people with disabilities to have choice of high-quality education and care that suits their needs and aspirations. She describes the opportunity to work with and represent young people with disabilities as a privilege, one that she will never take for granted.

The Natspec Board Vice Chair is Tracy Gillett. More information can be found about Tracy in the Policy Areas section below.


East Midlands / East of England

Martin Shelton, Linkage College

Martin SheltonMartin has over 20 years’ experience in post-16 education, following 10 years as a businessman in the service industries sector. Martin is a highly successful senior manager and prior to joining Linkage in 2016 spend 5 years in the post of Vice Principal at North Warwickshire and Hinckley College. Martin’s leadership responsibilities in Further Education have included Foundation Learning programmes, establishing unique vocational provision and quality assurance at one of the largest GFE providers in the country.

Martin joined Linkage in May 2016 as Principal, initially as a consultant. The ability and impact of the Specialist College sector to change lives every day was so inspiring to Martin he decided to apply and was successfully appointed to the permanent Principal position in July 2016. Martin has led Linkage through two Ofsted inspections and grown the College to become one of the top 5 largest Independent Specialist Colleges in the country, with 4 campuses across Lincolnshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire.



Kelly PhillipsKelly Phillips, Orchard Hill

Kelly has a wealth of experience with SEND, working in education and social care. She became a specialist teacher 13 years ago  and has continued to develop her skills within mainstream and specialist Colleges. Kelly joined Orchard Hill College as a Lecturer and progressed to Head of Centre then Assistant Principal Regional Lead and is now Principal.


North East / Yorkshire and the Humber

Joanne Rees-ProudJoanne Rees-Proud, Hedleys College

Joanne has worked in education for the last 16 years and is Principal at Hedleys College which is part of the wider Percy Hedley Foundation in Newcastle. She is passionate about supporting young people with physical and learning disabilities, complex needs and challenging behaviour through their education journey by providing high quality education opportunities. As a practitioner, her background is teaching PMLD learners with complex needs and this is an area she feels strongly about especially when promoting learner voice and preparing young people for adulthood. She has worked at Hedleys college from its beginnings and would like to support other providers on this journey.


North West

Jane YoungJane Young, Activate CES 

Jane has worked in Further Education for 12 years, with the past 4 years spent at a Specialist College heading up the education programmes. Recently appointed as CEO at Activate CES, Jane has a keen interest in developing curriculum for complex needs learners and sensory integration.


South East

Richard GargonRichard Gargon, St Piers School & College

Currently Principal of St Piers School & College, Lingfield, Surrey. A Specialist Leader of Education with substantial senior leadership experience across a range of educational settings, including Independent Providers, Academies, maintained and non-maintained schools. Over 20 years of special educational needs practice working with children and young adults with moderate, severe and profound learning difficulties and disabilities. Skilled in strategic leadership, change management processes, developing learning, teaching and assessment, continued professional development, academy conversion and educational business development.


South West

Jane BellJane Bell, InFocus Charity

Jane is currently the chief executive of InFocus Charity (previously WESC Foundation), who specialise in supporting children and young people with a visual impairment and complex additional needs through the provision of a residential school and college, adult residential and day services, supported living and work focussed programmes. Prior to joining InFocus, she was the founder and chief executive of Shared Lives South West for 15 years, which primarily supports people with learning disabilities and mental health issues to live in the community with a Shared Lives family. She was also the deputy CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society for ten years and a national director of Rethink for 6 years. Initially, she trained as a psychologist, and is passionate about services which empower people to live their best life in their community as active citizens. Although she is relatively new to the area of education, she hopes she can bring useful skills in adult social care, organisational development, designing new support services, co-production of services with young people and charity sector management.



John Mann, National Star College

John MannJohn has worked in the Health & Social Care sector for over 20 years. He has worked for 12 years in Specialist Education at National Star and is currently Director of Services for Wales. His expertise includes working with high needs students including those with autism, acquired brain injury, profound and multiple learning difficulties, sensory impairments and complex needs. He’s held registration with both CQC and CSW. Additionally, he has extensive experience in leading on the opening of new residential and educational services in England and Wales, including the opening of National Star’s first day college in Wales.


West Midlands

Bev JessopBev Jessop, Queen Alexandra College

Bev Jessop is Principal and Chief Executive at Queen Alexandra College in Birmingham. She has specialist education sector leadership experience of over 14 years at independent specialist colleges and mainstream colleges, having a diverse range of knowledge in the fields of learning disability and difficulties, special education and high needs students.

Bev has specialist knowledge in the fields of autism and Visual Impairment as well as a comprehensive understanding of post-compulsory funding developments and social, political and education changes. She is experienced at leading organisational changes and their wider impact on organisational behaviour.

Bev is motivated to ensure a person-centred approach and partnerships are used meaningfully to maximise adulthood opportunities for young people with learning difficulties and disabilities.


Policy Areas

Vice Chair / Quality

Tracy Gillet, Natspec Quality DirectorTracy Gillett, Condover College

Tracy is Vice Chair of Natspec and the Director of Education / Principal of Condover College. She has a master’s degree in ‘Special Education Needs and Inclusion’ and has dedicated her career to special education, initially teaching in GFE and then in ISCs as a senior leader. As a qualified tutor Tracy and spent many years coordinating the areas of Skills for Life, Work Experience and Employability. She has undertaken a range of quality assurance activities in specialist and general further education settings for students with high needs. Tracy has extensive experience in working with high needs students including those with autism, profound and multiple learning difficulties, sensory impairments and complex needs.


Paul CookPaul Cook, Hereward College

Paul has worked in further education for over twenty years in both the specialist sector and within the general further education sector. He has always focussed his attention on securing sustainable work outcomes for his students and as such has extensive experience in a number of vocational areas where he has been a senior curriculum leader, including, Public and Uniform Services, Hospitality, Tourism, Sport and Leisure, Applied Science and Renewable and Sustainable Energy. Paul led the creation of the UK’s first training tower for offshore renewable energy before then working as an advisor for work based learning providers, supporting them to improve the quality of their outcomes and to meet the needs of their local communities. He has expertise in managing SEN provision having successfully led ESPA College in the north east of England for five years as Principal and as the Principal and Chief Executive of Hereward College where he has led the creation of an employment hub with regional stakeholders. Paul served as a member of the Northumbria Police Strategic Advisory Group and was Chair of the JISC North East England Advisory Board as well as a School Governor. He currently serves on the AoC SEN Policy Group and attends the All Party Parliamentary Committee for Assistive Technology in the House of Lords.


Louise HarmanLouise Harman, St John’s College

Louise has worked at St. John’s for over 22 years with her main roles being within the children’s and adult’s residential care service. She joined St. John’s as a Care Worker in 1998. Since then, she has undertaken various roles within the Care Department. For over 10 years, she has been part of the senior leadership team at St. John’s. In her current role as Head of Learner Services she is responsible for the Adult residential Care Service and the Nursing, PBS and Psychology teams.

As well as providing consistently high-quality care and support for young people, one of her passions is to support young people who display behaviours that challenge, supporting teams to gain a greater understanding of these behaviours, their functions, and each young person as an individual and ensuring an improved quality of life for each individual young person who attends St. John’s.


Dawn GreenDawn Green, Karten Network

Dawn is Director of DEG Consultancy Ltd and the Karten Network Development Co-ordinator based in the UK. She has over 20 years’ experience working in Further Education, the majority of this time spent in senior leadership roles in Specialist Colleges. Dawn has always been motivated to use innovative methods to enable people with disabilities to engage optimally in all aspects of their lives. Technology is a powerful enabler and Dawn enjoys working with organisations who harness IT/AT in order to improve the life chances of the people we support.  Dawn is a Governor (Safeguarding Lead) for an ISC and is Chair of Governors for a non-maintained 3-19 Specialist Autism school.

LAs and Commissioning

Andrew SmithAndrew Smith, Derwen College

Andrew is a qualified Chartered Management Accountant with a wealth of experience in senior financial roles with retail and logistics companies prior to joining Derwen College in 2008. Being new to the sector at that time, Andrew completed the DTLLS course in order to gain a better understanding of the issues faced in the teaching profession.

Andrew left Derwen in 2014 to work in the private sector, but 3 years later returned as Director Business & Finance. He has extensive experience working with many Local Authorities throughout his years at College in both England and Wales.

Leadership and Governance

Bernie WhiteBernie White, Seashell Trust

Bernie has considerable leadership experience as the Director of Education and former head of an independent specialist college and has taught within specialist education at school and college level. She has worked as part of a specialist college network to raise standards in teaching and learning for people with severe and complex needs and has undertaken a range of quality assurance activities in specialist and general further education settings for students with high needs. Bernie’s particular areas of expertise are in low incidence disability, communication, personal health and social education and supported employment programmes.


Wider Sector, CPD and Training

Tracey FormanTracey Forman, Homefield College

Tracey began her career in as a Human Resources professional. She specialised in training development and delivery and spent a number of years as the Director of Training for the National Union of Students (NUS) where she developed an interest in enabling students to use their voice. Tracey spent over twenty years in HR and training mostly within the education sector and achieved fellowship status of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and qualifying as a teacher before switching her career to more student focused activities as Head of Student Services for a large general further education college. Tracey arrived at Homefield College as Principal in 2019. She has a post graduate Diploma in Inclusion and Special Education Needs from Birmingham University and continues to have a passion for developing the voice of students.

Policy Director

Tony Brown, Expanse

Tony BrownTony is a highly motivated strategic leader, CEO and founder of Expanse Group. With a passion for developing organisations that carry forward his values.  Tony has proven history of highly effective people and organisational management, strategic planning, performance management, strategic engagement and development of partner and stakeholder relationships. Marketing and PR are areas of Tony expertise, working with New Economy in the development of Higher Apprenticeships in Digital Media to project management of the brand in 2015 and more recent projects such as supporting partner organisations with development in the virtual events arena.

Tony has worked in Post 16 FE, WBL and SPI settings, Health & Social Care and Custody sectors holding varied roles from CEO, National Foundation Learning Manager,  HMP Prison Officer in the Separation and Care unit, Qualified Teacher with early career experience in educational administration, youthwork and outreach roles with Local Authority Services.

Tony’s experience in senior leadership and operational compliance lead to roles where he managed national contracts with some of the UKs largest National and Regional education and training providers.

share this page: