Pen Portraits

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.

Nicola Linsel (Staff Governor)

After completing university with a first class degree in Childhood Studies and Guidance and Counselling in 2014 I moved to Bedfordshire to begin my teacher training. I completed my teaching training in 2015 with an ‘outstanding’ grading. I began my teaching career in 2015, where I worked in a primary school in Bedfordshire. I taught in Nursery and Reception. Here I was able to experience working in a culturally diverse school and was able to gain experience supporting children with English as an additional language. I moved to Croft Church of England Primary school in 2017. During my time in Croft I have been given many opportunities in the early stage if my career to develop my leadership skills. I now lead Early Years, History, Geography and PE. This year I will take on the role of associate assistant head and staff governor. I am looking forward to supporting the governor and head teacher in taking the school forward to achieve the best outcomes for all children.

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.