Board and Governance
Natspec is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the membership. The Board meets each half term, and appoints a Chair and other officers to lead the Association. The Chief Executive is responsible for the strategic guidance and operational leadership of the Association.
The Board of Directors is comprised of eight policy directors and 8 regional directors. Directors are responsible for leading either the policy area at a national level, or for representing members at regional level.
Meet our chair
Ruth Thomas is CEO at Derwen College. She has primarily worked in post 16 education for more than 30 years and has worked with students with learning difficulties and disabilities for 27 years. Ruth has extensive experience in FE. She has worked in youth and community settings, adult and community learning, general further education and in the independent specialist college sector. Ruth has also worked in the statutory and voluntary sectors developing advocacy services and in community development.
She is passionate about ensuring all learners have equal access to a quality education to improve life chances and futures. Ruth achieves huge satisfaction when working to support and develop initiatives at local, regional and national levels particularly when there is a direct impact on student learning and quality.
- East Midlands / East of EnglandJune Murray
June Murray has worked at RNIB College for more than 20 years in a variety of roles, and has been Principal there since 2015. She is passionate about the value of specialist provision but also understands the need to be flexible and responsive to change. Since its inception in 1989, RNIB College has had a close working partnership with the neighbouring mainstream FE college, which has given June an insight into and empathy with the challenges that mainstream providers are also facing. It has also taught her the value of collaboration and cooperation.
- LondonAshley Jordan-Diaper
Ashley has taught and managed within SEN schools, FE and ISP sector for 26 years. He is Head of College at Orchard Hill, a specialist provider of post 16 education for students with profound, complex and challenging learning difficulties and/ or disabilities. He is also a governor of Bedlesford School in Kingston, which provides outstanding education for primary and secondary and children within profound disabilities. Ashley works very closely with local disability sports organisations to provide opportunities for young people to access sport and has worked with Chelsea FC for over 20 years as part of their foundation and match day team.
- North East / Yorkshire and the HumberAngela North
Angela has 20 years’ experience of the further education sector, and throughout her career the special educational needs and disability agenda has always been close to her heart, at all levels of study. She joined Henshaws Specialist College as Principal in January 2015, after one of its most challenging periods of time.
- North WestJane Young
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 EastRichard Gargon
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 WestKelly Rowlands
Currently Principal of Oakwood Court College, Dawlish, Devon. I have has worked in education for over 19 years with 13 years in special educational needs practice working with children and young adults with moderate, severe and profound learning difficulties and disabilities along with complex and challenging behaviours. My passion for working with young adults with additional needs is to ensure they are fully prepared for adulthood with all the skills set required to living and work as independently as possible whilst maintaining a healthy life.
- WalesDr Kirsten Jones, Coleg Elidyr
Kirsten is Vice-Principal for Education & Training at Coleg Elidyr and her background is in academic management and the Social Sciences. She joined the college following 12 years in higher education where her research interests were in work-based learning and social justice. She has also undertaken research into the wants and needs of parents of disabled children and advocacy and empowerment for young people with multiple and complex learning difficulties and disabilities. Her current interests are in developing pedagogic practice to support how different learning difficulties and disabilities affect learning.
- West MidlandsBev Jessop
Bev Jessop is Vice Principal 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.
- QualityBernie 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.
- EmploymentTracey Clare Grey, Foxes
Tracey became principal at Foxes Academy, a college and training hotel for young adults with learning disabilities, in 2015 following three years as the vice-principal. Throughout her 28 year career Tracey’s passion has been to empower young people to live fulfilling lives. When asked “What do you do at Foxes?” her reply is simple, “We change the lives of our young people. We enable them to gain employment and move into supported independent living.” Through her work with Natspec Tracey is determined to continue this vocation by challenging society’s perception of young people with disabilities and the opportunities on offer.
- CareLynette Barrett, National Star
Lynette has worked in the Health and Social Care sector for over 20 years and 16 years in Specialist Education. Lynette’s role on the Natspec Board is Director of Policy – Care. Lynette held registration with the Care Quality Commission for 10 years across multiple locations, being one of the first Registered Managers to secure Outstanding grading under the new framework. As part of National Star Senior Management team, Lynette has led on opening new services, developing new business streams and maintaining high quality services for young people with complex and multiple disabilities throughout. In her current role as National Director of Services, she is now the Nominated Individual for the Provider, National Star. Lynette’s main attributes and experience lie within leadership of Health, Social Care and Specialist Education services.
- TechnologyDawn 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.
- Public Affairs/LobbyingChris Walden
Chris has worked in public affairs and political relations for nearly 20 years, liaising closely with parliamentarians of all political parties on a range of policy areas including post-16 education and mental health. In particular, he worked closely with colleagues from specialist colleges during the passage of the Children and Families Act in 2013-14 and with FE and sixth form colleges on other education legislation during his time as Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the Association of Colleges.
- LAs and CommissioningTina Pagett, Fairfield Farm College
Tina has spent 25 years in education in leadership and teaching roles including researching education practice across a five-year period. She has worked with the DfE, QCA and Award organisations in developing programmes and qualifications that have been rolled out nationally. She spent six years as a Senior Education Advisor, leading on Post-16, working regionally and nationally with LAs, schools, academies, FEIs, HEIs, SPIs, voluntary groups and employers. After a short period working with a MAT as Head of Life Long Learning, supporting schools across the country, she joined Fairfield Farm College, a residential college set in Wiltshire, as Principal. Tina has also been a school governor, Director for OCNSW, LEACAN, South Wiltshire UTC and now at Natspec. She is also Director of Wiltshire and Swindon Sports Partnership.
- Wider Sector and associatesKathryn Rudd, Aurora Group Kathryn Rudd OBE has worked in partnership with young people with learning difficulties and / or disabilities for over 20 years. She led an “outstanding” (Ofsted) specialist college in Gloucestershire and is currently developing high quality learning and training services with The Aurora Group across the UK.
She is passionate about improving opportunities and outcomes for young people with additional needs.