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Trustee Pen Portraits

Central Schools Trust Board of Trustees


Graeme Burgess - CEO

Graeme joined Balsall Common Primary School as headteacher in April 2009. He graduated from Warwick University with a BA (Hons) in English, with Qualified Teacher Status. He spent his early teaching career in inner-city Coventry. He moved to Solihull as a Deputy Head in a one-form Church School in 1997 and then to Warwickshire, in another one-form Church School in 2000, as the headteacher.

During his time in education, Graeme has been seconded to Warwickshire LA for four years, one day a week, to deliver the Work Force Remodelling Programme, has served as a school governor since 1997 and as a Team and Lead Inspector between 2009 and 2016.

Graeme has 23 years of school leadership experience as headteacher, executive headteacher and Chief Executive Officer. In his spare time, Graeme enjoys spending time with his family and friends, building home extensions and restoring classic cars and bicycles.

Sarah-Jane Miller - Chair of Trustees

I joined Central Schools Trust as a trustee in 2017. Prior to this I completed eight years as staff governor at a maintained school in Coventry. I have always believed that good governance in schools is a vital part of maintaining strong leadership and standards for children on their educational journey and for staff in their career progression. I became Vice-Chair of the Trust in January 2021 and recently became Chair in July 2022. I am responsible for Safeguarding and  I currently sit on the Finance Committee, although I have also previously been part of the Audit and Risk Committee.  I qualified as a teacher in 2002 and in my career I spent many years as a network leader in IT, mentor for trainee teachers and gained the majority of my teaching experience teaching children in Key Stage 2. I also sat on the admissions' selection panel at Warwick University for PGCE students. The skills acquired in my prior career, combined with the training and experience I have received as a trustee, give me a unique insight into the challenges schools currently face.  Outside of CST I enjoy researching genealogy, take an avid interest in US politics and have also enjoyed volunteering with the dog unit for West Midlands Police. 

Julia McConaghy - Vice Chair of Trustees

Julia retired in 2010 as a secondary school maths teacher, and has since been involved with tutoring and conferences for the Further Mathematics Support Programme at Warwick University.   Julia’s interest in education has been life-long as a teacher of  Mathematics to secondary school students. Julia has lived in Balsall Common for 31 years; she was, in fact, born and brought up there. Julia was a pupil of Balsall Common Junior and Infants school in the 1950s, as were her three siblings. Both of Julia’s parents were at school in Balsall Common, and both of her children went to the school when she returned to live in the village in 1987.   

Gary Fenton - Chair of Finance Committee

Gary joined the Trust in 2021 and became Chair of the Finance Committee later that year. He is a chartered accountant and joined the Trust to share his knowledge from his professional career in an Academy structure and to help, alongside the other Trustees, to guide the Trust through some of the most difficult financial challenges it has faced.

Gary’s commercial financial experience has helped the Trust enhance its finance procedures and processes and allows the Finance Committee to oversee the Trust's budget and financial performance. Gary’s corporate governance experience also helps the Trust to show good governance in its activities and decision making.

Helen Dean - Chair of Audit and Risk Committee

In 2017 I joined CST as a trustee. Having gained several years of experience as a trustee my knowledge of the Trust, its schools and its vision enabled me to progress into the role of Chair of the Audit and Risk committee.

As an educationalist I have been fortunate to have had many roles within a school setting. Initially I trained as a Teacher of Secondary Music and SEN. Having progressed through a series of Middle and Senior Leadership positions within a secondary setting I have in more recent times returned to the classroom to work with children within a primary school setting. As an experienced music practitioner, I continue to examine for GCSE Music and assess applicants for an Initial Teacher Training programme.

Music continues to play a large part in my non-working life which I enjoy sharing in with my children and husband who are also keen musicians. As a former parish councillor for Balsall Parish Council I have considerable understanding of the challenges faced by Balsall Common and the wider Solihull area.

Claire Roberts - Trustee

I have been with Central Schools Trust (CST) since March 2021 as a member and more recently a trustee.

I am currently a self-employed Early Years, Safeguarding and Mental Health Distance Learning marker/moderator and lead verifier, supporting learners in the quality, training and management of early years and educational settings. I have over 20 years’ experience within Early Years and Foundation stage education. Training numerous managers, teaching assistants and early years professionals in the Coventry and Warwickshire area. Prior to this I successfully managed several Early Years settings.

Alongside education I was also a Latin and ballroom dance teacher for over 20 years, turning professional at the age of 21, then more recently retiring to have a family. This was a childhood hobby that developed and became a career path that reaffirmed my love to educate others. This allowed creativity as well as ensuring safety of those who enjoyed learning the sport/art too.

Mark Thumpston - Trustee

Mark grew up in Solihull and has lived most of his life in the Borough. He obtained a BSc. in Money, Banking & Finance from the University of Birmingham, and then qualified as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG. Mark has worked in a number of senior Finance, Audit and Governance roles across FTSE100 and large unlisted businesses, currently heading up a team of 22 as the UK Financial Controller of a global real estate advisory and professional services business. Mark's key strengths include experience working with large corporate Boards and Audit Committees, a large Corporate perspective on Financial and Governance management and  reporting matters,  and leadership and people development skills - this gives him the ability to provide constructive challenge to existing leaders. 

Katie Barker - Trustee

I was appointed a Trustee in October 2022. I choose to volunteer for this role as I have a desire to use the knowledge and skills I have developed in my career to work with another organisation and to support the continued development of the Trust.

I have been a secondary school mathematics teacher since 2007, working in a school in North Solihull. During my time there, I have held many roles, including Head of Faculty, and I am currently Director of Curriculum Design and Timetable. I have completed professional leadership qualifications, namely the NPQML and the NPQSL, which have given me additional valuable experiences in leadership and leading sustained change and improvements. I am very experienced in data analysis, curriculum design, and monitoring staffing requirements as well as the wider mathematics curriculum from Key stage 3 to 5.

I have two children who attend Balsall Common Primary School; one in Year 3 and one in Nursery. Outside of work, I am a Brownie leader with a local pack and also play clarinet in a wind band.

Elizabeth Walsh - Trustee

I was appointed as a Trustee in 2023, having worked professionally with other Trustees over the years. I have worked in secondary education throughout my career and am passionate about supporting schools, teachers, and pupils to ensure that all children have the best chance at an education. I was keen to take on a different role that would allow me to support in primary education.

I am currently the Subject Lead for Music at Teach First where most of my work involves training the next generation of great music teachers. I qualified as a teacher in 2011 and taught music in an 11-18 school in Birmingham before becoming Head of Music at a school in Mexico City. My professional experiences to date give me a key insight into schools, teaching, education, and training, all of which I hope to bring to my role as a Trustee.

Away from work, I continue my own musicianship as a guitarist as well as being a keen distance runner. I live with my partner in Sutton Coldfield and can often be found out on (slow) runs around Sutton Park

Alison Evans - Trustee (effective 23rd May 2023)

 I was appointed to the Trust Board in May 2023 and I also sit on the Audit and Risk Committee. I decided to volunteer because I’m passionate about public service and I wanted to use the skills I’ve gained in my professional life to support education in my local community. 

I have been a Civil Servant since 1996 and have had a long and varied career. I am currently the Deputy Director for Corporate Services at the Scotland Office with responsibility for the department's Finance, Governance and HR functions. I also have extensive policy delivery experience, both in the Scotland Office, where I previously held the role of Deputy Director for Constitutional Policy, and at the Department for Work and Pensions where I’ve headed up a variety of policy and change teams, including Automatic Enrolment for Private Pensions, Parental Employment and Jobcentre Plus Support and Programmes. 

Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my husband, children (aged 14 and 12) and dog, attending music gigs and festivals, entertaining and gardening.