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.

Simon Robson (Head Teacher)

After completing a BSc Sports Science Degree at the University of Teesside in 1999, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in Primary Teaching. I completed a BScEd in Primary Science at the University of Durham and was awarded QTS (Qualified Teacher Status) in 2001 after successful placements at Seaton Carew C of E Primary School (Hartlepool), St Cuthbert’s RC Primary School (Stockton-on-Tees) and St Bede’s RC Primary School (Darlington).

I started my teaching career at St Bede’s (250 pupils) as Year 5 teacher and later as Year 6 teacher with the responsibility for leading ICT across the school. At this time, I worked closely with Darlington ICT Advisory team and led seminars around ‘best practice’. During this period I received an award from BECTA (British Educational Communications and Technology Agency) for ICT best practice and I also received a nomination for Teacher of the Year.

After 5 years, I became Assistant Head Teacher and led Assessment, Mathematics and PE. During my time at St Bede’s I experienced two OFSTED visits where the quality of my teaching was judged as outstanding. In a PE subject inspection, my leadership was judged as outstanding. At this point I decided that I would like to further develop as a leader.

I moved on from St Bede’s in 2009 to another Assistant Head Teacher post at Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School (240 pupils) in Hartlepool with the responsibility for leading Assessment, Mathematics and Gifted and Talented. Mathematics was a key priority and over my period of leadership standards of progress and attainment in Mathematics increased significantly. In 2010 we were rated outstanding by OFSTED and Good by SIAS. Standards continued to improve and in 2014, outcomes in the core areas were the highest in the town with 100% of pupils achieving L4+ in Reading, Writing and Mathematics and significant proportions of pupils achieving beyond level 4.

I completed the NPQH (National Professional Qualification for Headship) in 2011 and took up a new post as Deputy Head Teacher at Holy Trinity in 2013. As an outstanding school we became a Lead Teaching School in 2012 and worked collaboratively with St John Vianney RC Primary School to develop the Hartlepool Teaching Schools Alliance (Together to Succeed). In 2013 I was a member of the Alliance’s Appropriate Body to quality assure judgements of Newly Qualified Teachers across the town. In 2014, I played a lead role in developing the future of the school by taking a lead role in the successful completion of a new school build as part of the Priority Schools Building Programme. In December 2014, the school achieved Outstanding under the new SIAMS framework.

I have been at Croft Church of England Primary School since January 2015 I am thoroughly enjoying the role and challenges associated with managing a small school. My vision is to continue build on the strengths of the school and work with governors and the community to provide the best possible education for our wonderful pupils. I look forward to continuing on this journey.

I am married to Sarah, who is also a teacher and I have two children, George and Rosie, who are both presently at Primary School. I enjoy cooking, playing and watching football, listening to music and playing the guitar.

Nicholas Potts (Parent Governor)

My first child recently started attending Croft and I am going to be involved with the school for at least the next 6 years. During this time, I would like to actively participate in the education of my child and help the school children be, “happy, aspire, believe and achieve” in any way I can. Professionally I am experienced in working with tech startups, where being creative with restrictive budgets and hitting successive growth targets is the norm. This means I have a strong set of skills handling data, leading sales campaigns, and scaling businesses. I am looking forward to working alongside a highly experienced team of governors and assisting the school in achieving outstanding results year-on-year. In my spare time, I enjoy going away in the campervan with the family and trying to stay fit.

Nicola Bleasby (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.