Meet Our Governors

Mrs Sarah Blakeman

Vice-Chair of Governors; Parent Governor

I have been a Parent Governor at Lanchester E.P. since September 2019, and I have recently been appointed as a Vice-Chair of Governors. I feel privileged to be able to support staff, to ensure that every child can fulfil their potential, develop hobbies and interests and benefit from a wealth of experiences during their time at Lanchester E.P.

Having been a secondary music teacher and Head of Faculty, I am now a local authority advisor and lead on the delivery of national professional qualifications for teachers and leaders. I enjoy using this expertise to support the school to continue to provide the best quality of education for our children.

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family, playing musical instruments, skiing and scuba diving.

Mrs Jane Davis

Head Teacher

I qualified as a teacher in 1990 and started my Headship here in 2005 never dreaming I would still be here all these years later! When I joined the school there were 210 pupils. We now have 450+ so you can see how my job and role has changed over the years!
I am very proud of our school. We have amazing children who never fail to bring a smile to my face every single day. Their enthusiasm, happiness and resilience has to be seen to be believed! We also have an incredibly talented and dedicated staff who give their all to this school and for that I am very grateful.
On a personal note, I have been happily married for 34 years to my patient and tolerant husband who often says he feels as though he’s married to the school as well as me! We have 2 wonderful daughters who are in their twenties and both working in education. We feel very blessed to have them after losing our first child Matthew aged only 8 months old to a genetic disease, spinal muscular atrophy. 30+ years after his death, we still raise money for the national charity in the hope a cure will be found soon.
In my spare time, I try to find time to practise the piano and enjoy walking our two dogs - a Labrador and a Westie and I am often to be found on the Waskerley Way on a weekend! I also enjoy spending time with my elderly mother who is remarkably active and positive despite her advanced years.

Ms Denice Atkinson

Community/Co-Opted Governor

Being a governor for the school continues to be really rewarding in terms of seeing a community thrive and develop to be the best it can be. I support provision for special educational needs within this role which feels like a good fit with my career. My twin boys loved all of their time in Lanchester E.P. and we treasure the memories and so I feel honoured to remain part of the school.

After 13 years of teaching, both in Durham and London and overseas, I went back to university and trained to be an educational psychologist in 2004. I love the variety and challenges of the role and especially enjoy working within specialist provision and supporting children who are looked after.

I don’t have a lot of spare time but yoga, reading and time with friends fill most of that.

Dr Michael Bell

Parent Governor

I was elected as a parent governor in October 2023. I volunteered for the role as I hoped to bring my perspective as a parent to school discussions which, combined with my experiences, would hopefully add valuable input to decisions that ultimately impact our children’s development.

Whilst I currently work for myself, I have previously spent time in academia as researcher and, most recently, in industry as a software developer.

One of the reasons I have chosen to work for myself is it allows me the flexibility to structure my life around my young family. This has really helped me gain a people-first focus, and this is a viewpoint I take in my parent governor role.

Mr Jason Exley

Parent Governor

I have taught secondary school Science for nineteen years and I am currently on the Senior Leadership team of a Church of England Academy. My role involves the strategic development of pastoral and safeguarding systems alongside a continued teaching commitment. I practise positive behaviour management of teenagers and deliver teacher training in this field. As a leader in a challenging inner city school, I have a vast experience of pastoral leadership, SEN support and safeguarding.
My wife is a primary teacher and together we have three daughters and three Granddaughters (!) I am very proud to say my youngest daughter attends Lanchester EP in Year 1.
In my spare time I am a keen musician, playing regularly in local pubs and clubs as part of a Soul and Blues band. I also play lead guitar in shows for amateur dramatics companies around the North East. I love outdoor pursuits and I am an expedition leader for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. I can often be found walking or running the local paths with my faithful dog, Kida, by my side. Failing that, I’ll be climbing the fells or Munros in the Lakes and Scotland, again with Kida in the lead!

Mr Ben Garside

Co-Chair of Governors; Co-opted Governor

I joined the governing body of Lanchester E.P. back in 2017. Having served as vice-chair, I am now very proudly the joint chair of the governing body alongside Michael Knowles.

My career to date includes 14 years as a secondary school teacher at a local school. I now work for an educational charity, providing support for teachers in computer science. More recently, I have been working with Google to develop AI education resources and training for children across the globe.

I, along with the rest of the governing body, am really proud of this school and its place in the community. As a governor, I will use my skills and experiences to continue supporting the dedicated staff in providing all children, regardless of background or circumstances, with the opportunity to be successful and enjoy school life.

I have three children, one of whom is currently in Year 5 at our school. My other two are former students who look back at their time at Lanchester E.P. with fondness.

Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family, often driving my children to various after-school activities or sitting on the side of a cricket field. I also get a lot of pleasure from being a keen amateur astrophotographer.

Ms Naomi Hawke

Staff Governor

I am the staff representative on the governing body, sitting on the Curriculum & Standards Committee as well as the Well-Being Committee. I have been a Staff Governor since 2017 and have worked at Lanchester EP since 2013, first as Admin Assistant and then as Office Manager. In the time I have been at Lanchester EP I have had two children, both of whom attend the school – in Year 5 and Nursery.
I have lived in the North East since studying at Durham University back in 2004, where I completed a BA degree in Sociology followed by a Master’s degree in Education. I have always wanted to work in the Education sector and know how important school is and the long term impact it can have on people’s lives.
I believe Primary School helps shape a person, and that all children deserve to have a wide range of opportunities and experiences with no barriers. I think educational attainment is just one part of the education experience that children have a right to, and I think it is obvious to all that Lanchester EP offers such a variety of enriching opportunities to all children; My family and friends are always amazed at the number of things the children get to take part in, whether it is performing in a theatre, experiencing a different culture abroad or enjoying workshops from specialists in their field.
I am very pleased to be the staff representative on the governing body, and am very proud to work alongside such a skilled and dedicated team of governors.

Mr Ossie Johnson

Local Authority Governor

I have been a Local Authority governor at Lanchester EP school for over 30 years. I live in Lanchester and my daughters both attended the school as do my grandchildren at the present time. This has ensured that I have had a pupils’ eye view of the school, warts and all, during my time as a governor.
As part of my professional life I taught at a secondary school and was part of the senior management team. During the latter part of my career I was Deputy Head of a Special School and experienced reorganisation of special ed in South West Durham.

I have represented Lanchester Division both as a District Councillor and a County Councillor. While a County Councillor I served as cabinet member for Children and Young People Services and on retiring from local politics I was awarded the honour of Alderman for both the District and County. I am still a Parish Councillor for Lanchester.

Our school is an integral part of church and village life and I have been honoured and happy to see our school develop over the years.

Rev Abbey Hughes

Foundation Governor

I have been Associate Priest at All Saints for almost two years and a Foundation Governor since September 2023. I have taught at both primary and secondary level and after leaving teaching studied for a MA in Theology and Ministry at Durham University. I was ordained a priest in 2020 and was Curate at St Giles, Durham for three years until moving to Lanchester.
I am married to Joe and we have three adult children and four gorgeous granddaughters. Originally, I am from Gateshead while Joe began life in Leadgate. I am delighted that my priestly ministry has furnished me with the opportunity to re-connect with school. I look forward to my regular visits into the school and the interaction with the pupils and the staff.

Mr Michael Knowles

Co-Chair of Governors; Co-opted Governor

I am a local businessman and long-standing Lanchester resident.

I have been a School Governor since 1994, during this period my children attended the school and more recently I have seen my grandchild follow in their footsteps. Throughout, I have actively been involved in the school’s development, growth and continued success. I see the school as central to a thriving local community and will continue to support this partnership to ensure our children have the best start in life and in time go on to enjoy healthy, productive and enjoyable lives.

Rev Lesley Sutherland

Foundation Governor

I became a foundation governor and vice-chair on appointment in 2019 as Priest in Charge of Lanchester, Burnhope, Harelaw and Annfield Plain. Born and brought up in the North-East, I pursued a career as a family law barrister until returning to university aged 53 to train for ordination. I served my title as curate in Ferryhill and Cornforth, where I became a co-opted governor of a primary school.
I am delighted to work extensively with school, devising the termly themes for collective worship and delivering worship each week. Children visit All Saints Parish church to enrich their understanding of Christianity, and the church welcomes the school for services at Christmas and Easter. Strong links between school and church are being cemented by our regular Sunday worship being led by children from school.
I am proud to be a member of a highly skilled, dedicated and supportive governing body, and proud that the school’s Christian ethos underpins the many and varied opportunities for learning, growth and enrichment offered to all of our children.
In my leisure time I enjoy sci-fi shows (especially Star Trek in all its incarnations), cooking, reading and watching cricket.

Mrs Margaret Matthews

Foundation Governor

I have been honoured to serve as a foundation governor representing the church of England, bringing my experience and love for the Church to our wonderful school. Prior to that I spent 38 years as a dental surgeon, latterly here in Lanchester village but also elsewhere in England and even in U.S.A.

I am very keen on the importance of community, kindness, and learning, which is why being a governor is such a joy for me.