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 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.
If you need to get in touch with any members of the board, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet our chair
Bernie 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.
- East Midlands / East of EnglandJune Murray, RNIB College
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, Orchard Hill
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 HumberJoanne 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 WestJane 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 EastRichard 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 WestJane Bell, WESC Foundation
Jane is currently the chief executive of 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 WESC, 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.
- WalesJohn Mann, National Star College
John 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 MidlandsBev 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.
Tracy Gillett, Condover College
Tracy is currently the head of an Independent Specialist College and has a master’s degree in ‘Special Education Needs and Inclusion’. She 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.
- EmploymentPaul 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.
- 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 associates
- Welsh PolicyDr 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.
- Leadership and GovernanceRuth Thomas, Derwen College
Ruth has primarily worked in post 16 education for more than 35 years and has worked with students with learning difficulties and disabilities for 30 years. Ruth has extensive experience in post 16 provision. She has worked GFE (general further education) and the independent specialist college sector as a lecturer, manager and leader. In both settings Ruth lead the provision to Ofsted outstanding. She is also a Director of a mental health charity.
Ruth is passionate about ensuring all learners have equal access to a quality education to improve life chances and futures. She 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.
- PR & CommunicationChris Horrocks, Marketing and Communications Consultant
Chris is a former Police Officer, accomplished in several specialist fields of policing from 1990-2007. He has since gained experience as a Policing, Criminal Justice and Terrorism Consultant on national TV and Radio, appearing regularly on BBC and Sky News. As a Marketing and Communications Director, Chris has directed international marketing campaigns in Oil and Gas, Transport, Leisure, Education and Manufacturing sectors in the UK, Europe and the USA.
Chris presents workshops on social media, human factors and employee advocacy to all age groups and major corporates, such as EY. He is a regular host of fundraising events for charities, including The Christie and Willow Wood Hospice. Chris is a School governor at a local primary school and sits on the Pride of Tameside Business Awards Judges’ panel. He is a published Author of a Children’s book, Gregory the Greenfield Giant.
As a keen football fan, Chris supports Manchester United and Stalybridge Celtic and relaxes by spending time with his family, travelling and taking walks in the countryside.