Trustee Pen Portraits

Simon Willson

Simon is the Chair of the Trust Board.  He is a retired local government officer and has lived in the local community for 20 years. His career was spent largely in the Education and Social Care sectors in local Councils so he brings much relevant expertise to our Trust Board. As well as senior management experience across a range of school related services (including school governor training and support; special educational needs; school admissions and exclusions), Simon’s later career involved him in more strategic roles, supporting the development of service improvement planning and the monitoring of performance across Children and Adult Social Care Services. He gained valuable experience of Ofsted inspection regimes and developed skills in the analysis of information and data to help evaluate performance. He was also involved in a number of multi-agency partnerships relating to health, wellbeing and safeguarding. 

Ruth Parker

Ruth is Vice Chair of the Trust Board.  She lives in the local community and is a retired primary school Head Teacher. She experienced working in six schools, serving very different catchment areas, both in the local area and Manchester, before becoming Head Teacher of Easterside Primary School in 1994. She held this position until she retired in 2013. She returned to Headship for a period of six months in 2016, to lead Sunnyside Academy, until a permanent Head Teacher was appointed.

Ruth is passionate about raising standards, school self-evaluation and improvement, quality staff development, building effective teams and finding creative solutions.

She believes in striving to provide an excellent learning environment for the children, a relevant and stimulating curriculum that meets the needs of each child, as well as accessible pastoral support, in order for each child to thrive and enjoy school life.

Ruth also worked for twelve continuous years as a part time youth and community worker, during evenings, at the former Berwick Hills Community Centre, gaining invaluable experience of working and communicating with a wide range of people.

As a member of the James Cook Trust Board she will endeavour to make a positive contribution to the four schools and support the Heads, staff and wider community to create an exceptional group of academies with high standards and a reputation to be proud of.

Angela Barnes

In 2001 Angela became a parent governor of the Avenue Primary School and from 2007 served as vice-chair then chair until 2013. Maintaining her interest in education, after taking voluntary retirement from the NHS in 2015, Angela was appointed as a part time administrator for a partnership of 7 primary schools and clerk to governors for one of the schools. She was re-appointed to the Avenue Primary School as a community governor and subsequently, at its inception, as a Trustee of James Cook Learning Trust.

Born and educated in Middlesbrough, Angela graduated from Teesside Polytechnic in 1984 with a degree in Mathematical Sciences.  She started her career at Bradford Metropolitan Council as an analyst programmer and gained her first experience in education in 1988 leading a project to install computers and software for the Local Management of Schools initiative. In 1990 she returned to the northeast and was appointed as a public health statistician at Poole Hospital, the start of a 25-year career as a senior manager in the NHS. Angela had various roles in health informatics employed by South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust culminating in the position of deputy to the Director of IT and Health Records. She was responsible for the development of the corporate ICT strategy; procurement, implementation, maintenance and support of computer networks and hospital information systems; ICT and information governance policy; and the recruitment, selection, management, and development of departmental staff. She regularly attended Trust Board meetings and represented the Trust externally at a regional and national level.

Victoria Blunsdon

Victoria is currently the Associate Director of Operations for Improvement and Efficiency at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, and manages the Programme Management Office (PMO). She works closely with senior members of staff including but not limited to the Chief Executive, Director of Operations, Director of Finance and the Non-Executive Directors.  Victoria is a qualified Chartered Management Accountant with over 18 years of experience working in the public sector, both for the Local Authority and more recently the NHS. 

Victoria ensures that the Trust has a continuous ‘forward look’ both in creating a challenging but achievable business planning and development strategy alongside leading a talented and committed team to support implementation of the Trust’s Cost Improvement Programme underpinning the annual operational plan. She contributes to the delivery of a trust wide programme of training to support the development of knowledge, skills and expertise in improvement tools and techniques. 

Katherine Frazer

Katherine is a Chartered Accountant and has worked in Education for the past 16 years, primarily as a School Business Manager of a large Local Authority Special School and more recently as Head of Finance and Operations at One Excellence Trust. 

 Katherine has been a local Governor at Marton Manor since 2010 and is now the Trust Board link Governor, with both of her children having attended the School. 

Rebecca Elsdon

Rebecca is one of the newest members of the Trust board. She has lived in the local area since 2009, coming from Harrogate originally. Following attendance at Teesside University she began a career in Finance & Programme management for Lloyds Banking Group. Her background is varied with a strong passion for strategy, growth and implementation along with a keen eye on risk management. Alongside her job within the group, she held a pivotal role in the establishment of The Yorkshire and Humber Ambassador Programme; formed with the sole aim to help Yorkshire prosper. It was this that introduced Rebecca to the value of partnership with schools utilising knowledge gleaned in the private sector. Rebecca is looking forward to contributing to the future of children’s education in the local area. 

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