Margaret Wright-Stephenson

Chair of Trust.  Recently retired, Margaret Stephenson worked in the Faculty of Education and Society at the University of Sunderland, where she was the Associate Dean for Student Experience and Quality.  She has worked in Education throughout her career as a primary school teacher, working with young children and later as a teacher trainer with a particular interest in early years education.  Whilst at the University she has worked as Programme Leader for an Undergraduate Primary Programme and an Early Childhood Studies Programme and prior to taking up her last post, she was Team Leader for Childhood Studies Area before taking responsibility for the Education Department in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University.

Her research interests focus on investigating what constitutes effective teaching and professional behaviour in early years.  She has published work in this area and presented at national and international conferences.  She has been involved in the professional development of teachers and acted as an advisor to Head Teachers and governing bodies.  Margaret has served as University representative on a Local Authority Children’s Trust and as a member of a Local Authority Safeguarding Children Board.

John Gibbon Wood C.B.E.

Chief Executive – Tolent Construction. . An engineer, established Tolent Construction in 1983 after working for Wimpey and Balfour Beatty and expanded the Tolent Group to include additional companies associated with the building and civil engineering industry.  The Tolent Group is principally engaged in the construction industry within the United Kingdom, with the main country of operation being England. It is registered in England and Wales. Tolent operates across the construction sector providing services in building, civil engineering and property development.  Tolent Construction has 450 employees and has regional offices in Teesside, Yorkshire and London, working alongside its Head Office in Tyneside.  Tolent undertakes construction projects valued at many millions of pounds each year.  John Wood has an Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration (HonDBA) for his outstanding contribution to the building and civil engineering industry.  John Wood is also a Deputy Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear.

Revd Richard Gordon Edward Bradshaw

Vicar within the parish of Monkwearmouth.  Formerly Area Dean within Durham Diocese of the Church of England.  Previously an experienced governor of a number of schools of religious character.  Qualified within the legal profession prior to serving as clergyman.  Joined WISE Academies as a Member in 2015.

Professor Roy Sandbach O.B.E.

Until September 2017, Roy was Director of the £40MM National Innovation Centre for Ageing at Newcastle University,. He remains engaged with the University as Professor of Practice in Ageing Science & Innovation. He sits on the All Party Parliamentary Group Advisory Board for Longevity.

Roy developed the regional innovation strategy for the North East and was the founding chair of the NE Local Enterprise Partnership Innovation Board.

Until 2012, Roy spent 31 years with the Procter & Gamble Company holding global R&D positions in the UK, Europe and Asia, and leading innovation programmes across the world. He has several patents. One of his inventions is a $150 million business in the US.

Nationally, Roy is President of the Royal Society of Chemistry Industry & Technology Council. He is on the board of the National Centre for Universities & Business and holds visiting Professor positions with both Newcastle & Northumbria University Business Schools, Cranfield University and Central St. Martin’s College of Art & Design, London.

Roy sits on the regional committee of The Prince’s Trust & is a trustee at the Centre for Life and the Reece Foundation.

In formal education, he has been a board member at the national awarding body, NCFE, and a governor at Seaton Burn College and North East Futures UTC. He is currently a governor at The Beacon School in Sunderland.

Roy was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2017 for services to science, innovation & skills.


Margaret Wright-Stephenson

Chair of Trust. See Members Section for details.  Margaret has also previously served as Chair of the Local Governing Body of Welbeck Academy and Adderlane Academy.  Margaret is now serving on each of the Regional Hub Boards that have been established across the Trust.

John Gibbon Wood C.B.E.

See Members Section for details.  Mr Wood is Chair of the Finance & General Purposes Committee where his expertise in the areas of running a multi-million pound company and his experience of the property sector are invaluable.

Robert Symonds

Robert is a Chartered Accountant.  Currently Head of Finance Operations at Grainger plc, the UK’s largest private landlord.  Responsible for the Rents collection team as well as Accounts Payable, Service Charge Administration and Property Insurance for the portfolio.  Former Business Process Manager at TSG (Information Technology and Services industry) responsible for the design and delivery of internal systems as well as common business policies and procedures across the Group.  Has also held temporary Regional Finance Director positions when required, as well as Group Financial Controller .  Previously held positions as Head Internal Auditor at OSG Ship Management and qualified while working with Deloitte.   Mr Symonds is Chair of the Audit Committee.

Paul Smith

A highly experienced Health and Safety practitioner with over 14 years’ experience in multiple high risk industries.  Has delivered training on risk management and Health and Safety to a range of people since 2007.  Holds a range of NEBOSH and IOSH qualifications.  Is a Registered Construction Design and Management Co-ordinator (RmAPS), a graduate member of IOSH and working towards Chartered Status.  Member of International Institute of Risk and Safety Management (MIIRSM) (working towards Fellowship status).  Chairman of Teesside Safety Group – 2008- 2011.   Employed by Cleveland Fire Brigade as H & S Officer/Trainer/CDM Co-ordinator (2009 – 2013) and from 2013 to the present day is Health and Safety Manager at ‘Beyond Housing’. Previous professional experience in the industrial commercial and public sector.

Christine Collins

Former Headteacher of an Outstanding Nursery School. Retired in summer 2015 Also serving as Chair of Local Governing Body of Town End Academy (ATC Member). Also a serving governor of Hetton-le-Hole Nursery School. Christine led Hylton Red House Nursery School for a number of years to great success. Ofsted praised Mrs Collins for her inspirational leadership which fires all staff with the enthusiasm and determination to provide the very best opportunities for every child to succeed. Ofsted commended the school for its outstanding teaching and exemplary behaviour.

Christine brings detailed knowledge and experience of high quality early years education together with a firm belief that effective EYFS provision can transform children’s lives and prepare them extremely well for their next stage of education.  Among her skills, Christine has a sound understanding of SEND provision and how to build excellent partnerships with parents and communities. She also has been successful in developing outdoor and indoor environments to promote emotional well being, offer challenge and promote active learning.

As a local governor of Town End Academy Christine has brought a high level of scrutiny to the work of the Local Governing Body. She regularly visits the academy meeting with staff and acting as a link governor.  Christine is well placed to perform the role of a Trustee of WISE Academies as a result of her ability to set targets and analyse data to promote positive outcome.

David Pearson 

David is Managing Partner, Elliott Associates.  He is a Chartered Surveyor, Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS) and a Chartered Construction Manager Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building (FCIOB).  David is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).  In addition he has a Diploma in Management Studies from Newcastle Polytechnic (DMS – 1982).  David is a board member of Constructing Excellence in the North East.

David’s business, Elliott Associates, was established in 1988.  It is a firm of Chartered Quantity Surveyors and Cost Consultants, working across all sectors of the construction industry, but principally Housing (social and private housing), Office and commercial development, Hotel and leisure

David’s company has also undertaken some education work for Newcastle University and Newcastle College of Further Education.

In the voluntary sector, David has previously served as a school governor (Vice Chair) of a large secondary school in South Tyneside (7 years).  He is a trustee of Riding for the Disabled in Washington and is a trustee of the Bubble Foundation, the sick children’s charity based at the RVI for children with immune deficiency.

Zoe Carr O.B.E.

Chief Executive Officer of WISE Academies since 2013.  Previously a school leader in Town End Academy (rated as outstanding by OFSTED) and spent whole professional teaching career in Sunderland primary education.   Qualified as an Advanced Skills Teacher.  Has been the driving force behind the development of WISE Academies as a high performing MAT.  Qualified as a Local Leader of Education (LLE).  Currently serving on the Regional Commissioner Headteacher Board and has been active in promoting the academies agenda in the northern region.  Recently appeared at a Parliamentary Committee to give evidence on the Education and Inspections Bill.

Qualified as an OFSTED Inspector in 2017.  Awarded the OBE in the new year’s honours list 2017.

Nikki Vokes

CEO of the Sunderland North Community Business Centre which offers a range of services including recruitment and employment services and training.    The organisation that she runs is responsible for two local day nurseries in the Sunderland area.  The SNCBC is involved in work with young people who are NEET or at risk of becoming NEET, young people who are at risk of exclusion from  school and young people who are involved in or at risk of becoming involved in anti-social behaviour.

Roger Ward

Roger started his career as Year 6 teacher at John F Kennedy Primary School in Washington in September 1999.  He was promoted to the SLT in 2001 as maths and PE lead.  He became a Deputy Headteacher in 2005 in Seaham – Westlea Primary School. It was there he gained the experience needed to move onto a headship, as well as a lot of experience working in close partnerships with other schools.

In September 2010, Roger took over as Head at Esh CE Primary School in Esh Village (Durham), a small village school with 90 children.  During his time there he was asked by Durham LA to support a number of new Headteachers.  Roger was also asked by the Diocese of Durham to support other Church schools part-week. This led to the Diocese seconding him in 2015 to set up and open a new Free School on Wynyard Estate. He was given the opportunity to form a vision and follow it through.  He opened the school in September 2015 on a temporary site which then grew.

Roger’s school was awarded an outstanding Ofsted judgement in April 2018 and an outstanding SIAMs judgement in June 2018.  His school finally moved into its permanent school site and will grow to 420 plus 39 FTE nursery.  Roger has recently submitted another application for a second primary Free School and his own school is looking to convert to MAT articles in the near future.  In addition to being a trustee of Wynyard CE Primary, Roger was also recently asked to take over a governor role at another CE primary in Durham to help them out of RI.   Roger brings valuable educational experience and skills to the work of the Board of Trustees, and is a link to the Church of England Diocese.