Speakers’ biographies

Fiona Carnie
is an educationalist with an interest in how schools can become more democratic in order to meet the needs of their key stakeholders. She has been involved in supporting schools in introducing parent engagement strategies and developing student voice.

Up until August she was Director of Partnerships at the RSA Academy in Tipton in the West Midlands. Prior to taking up this position she was a Visiting Research Associate at the Institute of Education, University of London where she was involved in projects on innovative school leadership and on student voice. From 1991-2002 Fiona was National Coordinator of the charity Human Scale Education and she is currently Vice President of the European Forum for Freedom in Education (based in Germany).

Publications include The Parent Participation Handbook (Optimus, 2011), Pathways to Child friendly Schools: A Guide for Parents(Human Scale Education, 2004) and Alternative Approaches to Education (Routledge Falmer, 2002).

Christine Gilbert
was chief inspector at Ofsted from 2006 until 2011. Prior to this, she was chief executive and director of education in Tower Hamlets. Christine spent 18 years in schools, eight of them as a secondary school headteacher.

Currently, Christine is visiting professor at the Institute of Education and interim chief executive in Brent. She is also involved in a number of local and national educational projects.

Chris James
is the Professor of Educational Leadership and Management in the Department of Education at the University of Bath. He researches the leadership and management in schools and colleges, the affective aspects of educational organisations, collaborative working in schools and school governing and governance.

Chris has worked with a range of public, private and not-for-profit organisations including numerous local authorities and schools. He has directed a large number of educational research projects and published over 200 items including six books. In the past six years, Chris has completed five research projects on school governing in England. Chris is the vice-chair of the governing body of Ralph Allen School in Bath, which his four children attended.

Emma Knights
took up the role of Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association in January 2010. The NGA is the representative organisation for school governors from both maintained schools and academies in England, seeking to influence policy at national level and providing independent information and support to governing bodies in order to improve standards.

Before joining the NGA, Emma was joint Chief Executive of the Daycare Trust, a policy and information charity working on early education and childcare for school-age children. Emma has had a number of roles in the third sector, particularly in the advice sector, including at Child Poverty Action Group and Citizens’ Advice.

She has also previously worked for the Legal Services Commission and the Local Government Association, leading projects on performance management, child poverty and educational attainment. She has written on topics from child support to the costs of early education. Emma is vice-chair of governors at her children’s secondary school in Warwickshire.

Brian Lightman
became General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders on 1st September 2010. Brian was Headteacher of St Cyres School – a large, mixed 11-18 comprehensive in Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, from 1999-2010. He taught Modern Foreign Languages for 16 years in three comprehensive schools in the South East of England before becoming Headteacher of Llantwit Major School in 1995. He was President of ASCL in 2008-9.

With his extensive experience as a teacher, school leader, external examiner, Estyn inspector and representative of school and college leaders, Brian is an acknowledged and high-profile authority on the English and Welsh education systems.

Siobhain McDonagh MP
was the Labour candidate for Mitcham and Morden in the 1987 and 1992 general elections, before eventually winning in 1997.

As a local MP, she has led a variety of campaigns, including ones to open a new train station at Mitcham Eastfields, to improve exam results by replacing three struggling schools with brand new Academies, to introduce new community “Safer Neighbourhood” police teams, and to tackle graffiti, abandoned cars, vandalism and other anti-social behaviour. Siobhain is a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Education.

Bridget Sinclair has been involved in school governance for 18 years. With a background in clinical biochemistry, research and education, she has taught in secondary and in further education.

Bridget currently works as manager of Swindon Local Authority’s Governor Services, leading on governor training and development. She is chair of National Co-ordinators of Governor Services (NCOGS), which represents eight regional networks of governor services across 152 local authorities in England. Its membership includes co-opted members from the Church of England National Society and Catholic Education Service. A number of independent providers for governors and diocesan education services are also included in regional groups.

David Wolfe
works as a barrister, specialising in public law, particularly education law. For four years he was also an SEN Tribunal Judge. He is the author of the acanofworms blog, which provides information for people concerned about academies/free schools and the law. He has acted in most of the legal challenges involving academies including, recently, the forced conversion of Downhills Primary School in Haringey.

David has been a school governor for over 20 years. He is currently a governor at a school in Suffolk (which his daughters attend) under threat from a free school which opened this term.

Full report of the seminar

Themes for discussion