Pen Portraits

Rebecca Wallace (Head Teacher)

Growing up, my ambition was always to be a teacher. I started my teaching career in 2009 and quickly decided that Leadership was the route for me so I studied part time for my Masters in Education with a specialism in Leadership and Management. It fills me with excitement to begin my first Headteacher position here at Croft.

I am passionate about communities working together and I volunteer at a local amateur dramatics group during my spare time. I am absolutely thrilled to be able to join such a nurturing and supportive school where the children’s enthusiasm and independence never ceases to amaze me. I have a keen interest in supporting the professional development of staff and equally in harnessing leaders for the future within our children. I am a firm believer that we never stop learning and always seek to model this in my approach as an educator.

Derek Blenkharn (Co-opted Governor)

I am originally from Eryholme and subsequently Monk End Farm in Croft. I attended Croft Church of England Primary School up until I was 11 years old, when we moved to Eaglescliffe and attended Hurworth Secondary School. We returned to Hurworth some 30 years ago. Both my son and daughter attended Richmond Comprehensive School and following sixth form went on to University.

Until 2011 I was with a local architectural practice in Darlington, who, over a period of years, were involved with numerous extensions and alterations to the school.

I am currently Group Leader for Hurworth Scouts, President of Darlington Lads and Lasses Junior Football Club as well as being involved with Rockliffe Park Cricket Club.

My strengths lie in Health & Safety, Safeguarding and Premises in addition to Sport and Physical Activity.

Julia Clarke (Foundation Governor)

I became a parent governor in 2017, when my children were in Year 2 and Reception. I have a degree in Materials Engineering from Imperial College, London and I’m a Chartered Mechanical Engineer. I have many years’ experience in business and project management, both in the chemical industry and consulting. Voluntary work has always been important to me; I have volunteered for a major national charity for over 15 years and am now Churchwarden at All Saints’ Church, Hurworth. My hobby is music and I enjoy playing the violin in several regional orchestras.

Alison Russell (Co-opted Governor)

I became a Governor and coincidentally Chair of Governors at Croft School 21 years ago when my two children were pupils there. They went on to Richmond School, University and are now working as Doctors in London and Brighton.

I am a Pharmacist and have worked in hospital, the community and abroad, although not currently working. I also helped set up and manage a business in Newcastle and nationally with my husband when our children were young.

I was always very keen to be involved in my children’s education which is why I volunteered to help in school when they started and continued to do so. I thoroughly enjoy being involved in education and it is a huge privilege to work alongside such dedicated professionals in our school and see the progress and achievements of the children.

My strengths lie in my enthusiasm for science and desire to provide the best opportunities for every child in school.


Kathryn Billington (Parent Governor)

We recently moved to Hurworth from Bournemouth and my daughter started school at Croft in September. I was so impressed by the warm welcome we were given as a family by all the staff at Croft, that I was keen to apply for the parent governor position. I am looking forward to being actively involved in the school community, as both a parent and a governor, and working alongside the dedicated staff and governors to support the school.

I graduated from the University of Reading in 2005 with an LLB Law (Hons) and subsequently completed the further professional qualifications and training to qualify as a solicitor in 2008. After a short legal career, I decided to retrain as a teacher and I returned to the University of Reading to complete my Post Graduate Certificate of Education in 2011. I have taught in schools in Reading and Bournemouth as a class teacher, year leader, gifted and talented co-ordinator and most recently key stage 2 phase leader. In 2019, I decided to move from a classroom-based role to pursue my greatest interest in education, Special Educational Needs. I became SENCo at the large Bournemouth school that I have worked at for eight years and I am currently continuing that role remotely.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading, family days out and (Covid permitting!) holidays.


Chris Howard (Staff Governor)

Growing up in Hurworth, it is a dream come true for me to be a member of staff and on the governing body at such a wonderful school within my local community.
My secondary education at Hurworth School and Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College focused on languages, geography and earth sciences and English. Moving into higher education, I graduated from the University of Cumbria in 2019 with a degree in Primary Education (3-11).

I started my career as an Early Years teacher at a small rural school in Cumbria. After the COVID 19 pandemic allowed schools to reopen, I worked in a wide variety of schools across north and west Cumbria teaching all year groups from nursery to year 6.

Upon returning to Darlington in 2022, I spent some time working in schools in North Yorkshire before finally landing my dream job here at Croft.

David Roberts (Parent Governor)

Our family moved to Croft from Darlington in 2020 and both of my daughters now attend the school.

I became a parent governor in February 2023 and I am very proud to play a role helping and supporting the headteacher and the staff with their excellent work, ensuring that it continues to be a fantastic place for children to learn and be inspired.

For more than 20 years, I have worked in journalism and communications. I am currently a senior member of the communications team at Teesside University working to raise awareness of the University’s strategic aims and objectives.

In particular, I support the University’s business engagement agenda, facilitating and promoting relationships with key stakeholders across the public and private sector.

Prior to this I worked as a news journalist within the regional press and also as a digital journalist for Channel 4 Dispatches.

I am an MBA graduate and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.

In my spare time, I enjoy cooking and spending time outdoors hiking and gardening.