Who are the Governors?

Governor Pen Portraits

This page provides more information about who your governors are and why they have chosen to be Governors. If you are interested in knowing more about us, or about being a Governor, please contact us through our Clerk to Governors, Mrs Vicki Rutt, on clerk@sussexspires.co.uk

Catherine Cottingham - Executive Headteacher, Ex Officio

As the Executive Headteacher of the Sussex Spires Federation schools I probably have one of the best jobs in the world. It is a joy to work with the children at both schools, they make me smile every day, and working with children there is always something new to learn. I have been a governor at three different schools and fully appreciate the commitment and hard work that governors put in to their role. Governors from different backgrounds and different experiences enrich the leadership of our school.


Duncan Irvine - Chair, and Local Authority Governor

I am a career banker having worked in a variety of roles in the UK and Canada with a number of Financial Institutions. In addition to Chairing the Sussex Spires Federation, I am presently the Vice Chair of Uckfield College, a Trustee and Chair of the Finance and the Fundraising Committees of the Sandford St. Martin Trust, Hon Treasurer (Christian) of the Council of Christians and Jews, Church Warden for the Parish of Buxted and Hadlow Down and Lay Member of Chapter and Chair of the Finance Committee of Chichester Cathedral. I mentor youths through the Princes Trust in London. I am originally from Canada, but I attended St. Andrews University and the London School of Economics, and I now live in Sussex with my family.


Tina Nay - Foundation Governor

I have spent my working life in education. Most of these years were spent as a teacher of English within secondary schools, FE, HE and adult education. I am interested in culture and believe that the arts are essential in education to develop rounded and curious individuals.

Since having grandchildren I have become involved in primary education and have been a governor at Parklands Primary school in Eastbourne before volunteering for the Sussex Spires Federation. I sit on the General Synod as a lay member of this Church of England body and pay great attention to matters of national Christian education in addition to recognition of the pluralistic society in which we all live. At present I chair the Teaching and Learning Committee and am a member of the Ethos Group.


Nigel English - Co-Vice Chair and Foundation Governor

I have an extensive experience of the UK Financial Services industry. Until 2001 I worked in the Retail Banking arm of Lloyds Bank Plc, contributing to and leading a number of change and operational initiatives at both strategic and local level. I then joined Lloyds TSB Registrars (now known as Equiniti) where I led and contributed to large change initiatives. Latterly, I worked for A J Bell Limited and was responsible for managing the company’s Tunbridge Wells Change Team, whilst continuing to manage and deliver my own suite of projects. Now retired, I enjoy walking, watching rugby, natural history, reading, listening to music, travelling, and socialising with family and friends. I am a Trustee and Treasurer of the Heathfield and District Volunteer Centre and Chair and Treasurer of the Friends of Holy Cross Care Village. As a Foundation Governor, I am part of the Ethos and Steering Groups and I have recently taken on the role of Co-Vice Chair with specific responsibility for finance.


Jenny Alder - Co-Vice Chair and Co-opted Governor

I became a governor in October 2016 and have an interest in developing community links. As a governor, I am currently Co-Vice Chair have a specific responsibility for governor training and development, safeguarding, Mental Health and Wellbeing.

I have also been a Parish Councillor since 2014 and I am involved in Planning, Highways and the Neighbourhood Plan. I am officially retired with two grown up sons and two granddaughters. I enjoy crafting and working with metals especially silver and copper, beadwork, quilting, embroidery, knitting and when time allows I enjoy sailing, camping by motorbike, car and camper travelling whenever the opportunity arises. I am as busy as I was when I worked fulltime and in all my interests! I will retire again one day.

Reverend Christian Mitchell - ex officio Clergy Governor

I am the Vicar of Heathfield Benefice which includes All Saints’ Church in Old Heathfield, St. George’s Church in Broad Oak and St. Richard’s Church in Heathfield. I have been Vicar here since September 2017, having previously served my Curacy in Uckfield. I was an ex-officio governor of All Saints’ & St. Richard’s School before the federation, and am delighted to have been able to continue in the role. As well as taking a keen interest in ensuring that the distinctive Christian character and nature of the two church schools is developed and enhanced, I am also able to draw on my extensive background in strategic leadership from my previous career in the horse racing industry. I enjoy running (but don’t do enough of it!) and enjoy long walks on the Downs whenever I can. I am part of the Ethos Group.

John Barnes, Head of School at ASSR, and Associate Member

Having spent most of my career working within Church of England Schools, I have come to develop a vision for education that is deeply Christian, with Jesus' promise of 'life in all its fullness' at its heart. This is a vision I am deeply passionate about bringing to life. I have been fortunate enough to teach across the whole primary age phase after initially training as an Early Years practitioner and have developed a detailed understanding of how to achieve this across all age groups. As my career has progressed, I have been able to implement change on a whole school level, not just providing the best for the children in my class, but across all classes in the schools I have worked. Over the last four years, I have worked as a Specialist Leader for Education, operating out of St. Marks Hadlow Down Teaching Alliance. Through this role, I have worked for East Sussex County Council focusing on improving provision for Mathematics in the county, a subject I am hugely interested in. I have also worked alongside many children with a range of additional needs, and through developing a detailed understanding of these, have also led on SEND provision. Over the coming years I look forward to helping both ASSR and The Sussex Spires Federation continue to grow.


Bernice Burke - Foundation Governor

I spent my childhood in Maynards Green and went to the local primary school. I went on to attend Lewes County Grammar School for Girls and then studied English and History at University and followed this with a P.G.C.E., qualifying as a teacher in 1974. During my career, I worked in both Primary and Secondary education, mainly in East Sussex. My family have lived in Herstmonceux since 1979 and my children attended Herstmonceux Primary School. Since I retired, I have joined the P.C.C. at All Saints and am involved in many church activities. I also volunteer as a member of a local footpath group and help with activities and trips at another East Sussex primary school. My interests include gardening, reading and art.


Elizabeth Ford - Foundation Governor

I am a foundation governor. As a member of Herstmonceux Free Church, I have had the pleasure of leading church assemblies at Herstmonceux C of E for some years. I have really enjoyed getting to know the children and teachers in this setting, and have been impressed by the ethos of the school, and the way they value their pupils as whole persons. As a foundation governor, I hope to support both schools in the Federation in maintaining and developing this child sensitive ethos in line with our Christian values. I am originally from South Wales, but have lived in Herstmonceux for 10 years and am really thankful for this lovely community. I have experience in charity volunteer work in Romania and with the homeless in Eastbourne. I am a partner in our family farm, and have two children, both of whom attend Herstmonceux C of E.


Verity Keet - Parent Governor

My name is Verity Keet and I am the mother of two boys at Herstmonceux CofE Primary School. I am delighted to take on the role of Parent Governor because I am passionate about making a difference to my community and strengthening links between the newly formed federation and our families. Since 2017, I have been an active member of FoHS and most recently the new Parent Think Tank, which I thoroughly enjoy being part of as they go from strength to strength! When I'm not working or taking part in FoHS events, I am with my family exploring our beautiful countryside or visiting our favourite places and attractions. It is my belief that we are very lucky to have two wonderful village schools joining together in a federation to support one another and I look forward to the collaborations that take place between them to enrich the learning experiences and opportunities for our children and communities. As a parent, experienced primary teacher and former Herstmonceux Pre-School Manager, I hope to actively connect the parents and schools as well as further support the staff, the children and all community events, as we move forward together to achieve the very best for our children.