The voice of specialist further education

Meet the board

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 either for leading a 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 BarrettLynette has worked in education, health and social care for 24 years, joining National Star in Jan 2001. She has over 20 years management experience and 15 years as a senior leader and holds an MBA in senior leadership. Lynette has been instrumental in leading the diversification of specialist education and care at National Star and, after three years as Chief Operations Officer, was appointed as Chief Executive in 2022. Maintaining quality through changing environments has been her objective throughout her leadership career, as evidenced by achieving and sustaining outstanding grades from Ofsted and from 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 SheltonMartin Shelton, Linkage College

Martin 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 spent five 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 initially joined Linkage as Principal on a consultancy basis. The ability and impact of the specialist college sector to change lives every day inspired him to apply for the permanent principal position to which he was appointed in July 2016. Martin has led Linkage through two Ofsted inspections and grown the college to become one of the five largest specialist colleges in the country, with four campuses across Lincolnshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire.



Kelly PhillipsKelly Phillips, Orchard Hill College

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 before being appointed as Principal.


North East / Yorkshire and the Humber

Jo Rees-ProudJoanne Rees-Proud, Hedleys College

Joanne has worked in education for the last 16 years and is Principal at Hedleys College, 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 in promoting learner voice and preparing young people for adulthood. She has worked at Hedleys College from its initiation and would like to support other providers on this journey.


North West

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.


South East

Ben BastinBen Bastin, Treloar College

Ben has worked for 15 years with a wide variety of students in a range of SEND education settings. Since June 2021, Ben has been  Head of Treloar College  He is passionate about supporting all young people to have a sustainable place in society. He looks to coax the rest of the world to better understand young people with additional needs and for those with SEND to be less isolated and have better access to their communities. Ben was also once a professional jazz musician.


South West

Jane BellJane Bell, InFocus Charity

Jane is currently Chief Executive of InFocus Charity (previously WESC Foundation), which specialises in supporting children and young people with a visual impairment and complex additional needs. Its provision includes 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 and a national director of Rethink. A trained psychologist, she is passionate about services which empower people to live their best life in their community as active citizens. She brings into the sector a wide range of useful skills in adult social care, organisational development, designing new support services, co-production of services with young people and charity sector management.



Karen FordKaren Ford, Cambian Pengwern College

Karen has worked in education for 22 years including in further education, adult and community learning and offender learning.  She joined Pengwern College as Head of Education in 2017 and progressed to Assistant Principal in 2021. Karen also has experience working nationally with the Welsh Government and NGfL Wales, and has managed a team training teachers and tutors in the use of technology in the classroom for a national project over a period of three years.

She is passionate about teaching and learning. She is a peer inspector for Estyn and an experienced principal moderator and examiner.


West Midlands

Meryl GreenMeryl Green, Derwen College

Meryl is Principal and CEO of Derwen College with over 20 years’ experience working within the specialist education sector and an MSc in Educational Leadership.

Following a career in the design industry she originally joined Derwen as Head of Arts and moved into a quality management role, including a period as an Ofsted Inspector, before progressing into her current position. Meryl believes that her design background continues to influence her leadership style. She is a strong advocate of staff development and of finding creative solutions to problems.

Meryl has led Derwen College through periods of significant strategic change. She has wide-ranging experience, including the development of customer-facing vocational programmes leading to sustained employment, through to the implementation of highly bespoke provision for learners with PMLD.

Meryl is incredibly proud to work in the SEND sector and is committed to changing lives for the better through the promotion of high-quality education that enables young people with SEND to achieve their true potential.


Policy Areas

Vice Chair / Quality

Tracy GillettTracy 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  general FE and then in specialist colleges 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 MBE, 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 has extensive experience in a number of vocational areas where he has been a senior curriculum leader, including, public and uniformed 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 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 for five years 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. Paul was awarded the MBE for services to young people with disabilities in 2022.


Lou HarmonLouise 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.

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.


Jane FergusonJane Ferguson, Hereward College

Jane has worked in education for over 20 years in both the mainstream and specialist FE sector, Jane worked as a safeguarding consultant following management positions in both the NHS and Local Authority. Jane is the Vice Principal for Safeguarding & Pastoral Care at Hereward College and has been a Designated Safeguarding Lead for the past 12 years. She is responsible for all aspects of safeguarding and behaviour management and for ensuring that safeguarding is integrated into practice development. Jane has experience of safeguarding adults’ reviews, and their learning events, she is an experienced school governor, member of the Coventry Adults Safeguarding Board and has chaired the Natspec Safeguarding Forum for the past three years.

New provision

Angie FisherAngie Fisher, David Lewis College

Angie is the Director of Education at David Lewis College based in Cheshire. She is a highly experienced leader in both education and in the private sector. Educated to Masters level in educational leadership, Angie has been working within the specialist education sector with children and young people with complex learning difficulties for over 20 years. Angie’s particular area of interest is the individualisation of learning programmes. She is committed to ensuring that young people with Special Educational Needs have the opportunity to be as independent as possible and to become the very best version of themselves. Angie and is incredibly proud that David Lewis has been judged Outstanding three times and is dedicated to driving through a culture of continuous improvement and sharing good practice to ensure the best learning outcomes for all.


Jane YoungJane Young, Activate CES

Jane is Principal / CEO of Activate Specialist College in Merseyside. Her experience of the FE sector spans over 20 years, with the latter 10 years being spent in specialist education. Jane has a particular interest in innovative practice which ultimately leads to greater progression and outcomes for people with SEND. Jane has previously held the NW regional post for the Natspec board and has also worked collaboratively with the Department of Education in designing the new accessible PSE qualification standards.

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