Meet our Trustees

Tarka Learning Partnership’s Trustees are responsible for setting the direction of the Trust, holding the CEO to account and ensuring financial probity. As charity Trustees, they must also ensure that they are complying with charity law requirements. We are pleased to introduce you to our Trustees below. NB. ‘Trustees’ means the Directors referred to in the Trust’s Articles of Association.

Andy Cotton, CEO

Great schools are created by great teams; where everyone pulls together to support the children and the development of the school as a whole. It is about the whole not individuals.

As CEO of the Tarka Learning Partnership I am privileged to work alongside some outstanding and gifted colleagues who work hard on a daily basis to make their school a better place. I was appointed as CEO in 2017, but with others created the Tarka Learning Partnership through a bid to the RSC in 2015. Previously I have been Head Teacher of three schools ranging from a small school in rural Leicestershire to a 500 pupil primary school – Newport in North Devon where the team secured two consecutive outstanding Ofsted inspections (2008 and 2015). In 2010 I trained to be an Ofsted Inspector.

My passion is to work alongside schools to support school improvement which I have been doing in various guises as an Assigned Head Teacher with the Local Authority for the past 15 years and as an NLE for 7 years. This has brought me into contact with over 40 schools and it is always rewarding to see the school team taking action and gaining confidence over time.

The Trust also leads with Horizon MAT, Plymouth a 45 strong Teaching School known as the Devon Teaching School Partnership covering Devon including parts of Torbay and Plymouth. Devon Primary SCITT, which has secured 3 consecutive outstanding Ofsted outcomes, is also a partner in the Trust.

Nationally I have worked with Ministers, DfE personnel, RSC, Academics and national leaders to compile a report on the future development of the school led system through the NCTL Fellowship. This was a rich and rewarding experience and one which allowed me to see the school system in a new light.

As CEO the Trust aims to better the education outcomes for the young people of North Devon under the Trust’s care by supporting schools. The Trust provides essential support including personnel, IT, GDPR, Estates, governance, compliance, finance etc. as well as Head Teacher support. As lead for the Trust I am blessed with a high-quality team to support these services to allow Head Teachers, teachers and support staff to focus on teaching and learning. We are here for the young people and that is at the heart of what we all do at the TLP.

Paula Stein, Chair of Trustees

My connections with North Devon go back many generations with family working on the Railway in Barnstaple. I have fond memories of many happy family holidays in the area visiting Grandparents and enjoying the wonderful beaches and the surrounding countryside. I grabbed an opportunity in 2000 to relocate, with my husband, from London to take up a managerial role with a local Bank, from which I have since retired. This enabled us to establish our own roots in this beautiful county.  

While in London I had opportunity to be a Governor in an Adult College and on moving to Devon was invited onto the Board of Petroc College; a role I enjoyed for many years. I was also, until taking up this new role with Tarka Learning Partnership, a Governor at Eden Park Academy (formerly Forches Cross Primary School).  

My husband and I are members of a local church and my retirement also allows me some time to follow my interests in patchwork, quilting and gardening.  

I wish to continue to support children to achieve their full potential, to have aspirations for their future and achieve their dreams. To help create an environment where this is possible and to see education in North Devon grow into a seamless educational journey from 2 to 19. For North Devon to have a voice in the national education debate and development of education for our children.

Jo Byrne, Trustee

I’m delighted to be a part of the Tarka Learning Partnership and to be able to support the schools and teachers that educate my own children. I am a working mother of 2 children and have lived in Barnstaple with my family for the past 13 years. I am passionate about teaching and learning and I lead a Faculty at Petroc. I am a qualified teacher, teaching English to young adults at various stages in the academic journey.  I have volunteered on a preschool committee and spent several years as a governor at Sticklepath School.  In my spare time I enjoy running and walking our family labradoodle.

Graham Cockell, Vice-Chair of Trustees

I have been a governor for 15+ years at both primary and secondary schools and, during that time, I have been involved in most aspects of school governance including a spell as Chair of Governors. I was a governor at Newport during the academy conversion and have seen the benefits that has brought. For the past 6 years I have been a governor at the Park with a focus on the collection, analysis and interpretation of the ever-growing amount of data available to schools.

I have three children who have all been pupils at both Newport and the Park and have now progressed to further education (A levels and university).

My background is in engineering and software development and I am currently a co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of a US based healthcare IT company involved in the delivery of health improvement programs to the government and large employers.

I was a governor at the Park Community School when the possibility of forming a local MAT involving both primary and secondary schools was first discussed. The potential for this MAT to have a significant impact on the education young people in the area from nursery through to GCSE was obvious and I am excited to have the opportunity be part of that continuing journey.

Tony Giddings, Trustee

Having retired a few years ago, my wife and I moved to North Devon, to Barnstaple itself just over a year ago, and have fallen in love with the area and the people of this community. My career background has been varied but always with education at its core. After a first degree in Chemistry from Durham University, where I also met my wife, I then did a Masters Degree in Education at London University, followed by six years teaching as Head of Chemistry in secondary schools.

I then entered the Royal Navy as an Instructor Officer and served for 16 very interesting years on board ships and in shore establishments. When I retired from the Navy, I was offered a position in the Diocesan Education Office in Exeter, where my work for some 12 years until retirement consisted of supporting the governors, headteachers and staff in over 100 Church schools throughout Devon. I served as a Governor of 3 schools. Together with LEA officers, my work also involved helping school governors to recruit and appoint headteachers, and it also consisted of project management with governors and architects of building work in the schools, and the training of school governors. My wife was a Secondary Headteacher for many years and was ordained in the Church of England in 1994, and now assists at St. Paul’s Sticklepath where I, myself, am an active member and a retired Reader.

We have one married daughter and two grandchildren and we are both devoted supporters of Exeter Chiefs and England rugby as well as cricket enthusiasts! I am very much looking forward to playing a part in supporting local children in their education, through my involvement with the work of the Tarka Trust.

Neil Hookway, Trustee

A key quality is my comprehensive strategic appreciation and vision, developed as a result of my senior leadership and managerial expertise. This can be evidenced by my time leading East Devon College through the merger with North Devon College, this required a rapid and positive change to the staff culture, which in turn resulted in a positive Ofsted Monitoring report. In particular Ofsted recognised the shared vision of staff in meeting student needs and that management structures places significant emphasis that positively affected student success. The paramount focus in my leadership ethos is learner experience and involvement, with participation in their own successful education outcome being a key motivator.

I am able to build and implement sophisticated and detailed plans, both in terms of quality assurance, leading to measurable improvement, and organisational business need. My motivational skills are excellent and combined with my experience and high capability brings teams and strategies together to deliver cultural change and ultimately an organisation’s vision. I have successfully delivered six capital projects in the last five years, pulling together diverse teams and resulting in inspirational learning environments. I have delivered growth at all curriculum levels within the areas I have led and successfully engaged with business to shape and enhance innovative partnerships.

I would like to support the ongoing educational structure at a strategic level for young people in North Devon. I believe I have significant experience in a broad range of areas relating to education and have remained throughout my career, highly committed to the student experiences and have carried that through my volunteering work as a Governor. I believe that keeping students at the heart of the decision making process is an essential part of setting strategy.

Andrew Pierce, Trustee

I moved to North Devon in the early 1960s from my native Manchester.

I attended Sticklepath School, The Boys’ Secondary and what was then “the Tech” before employment as an accountant’s clerk in a local firm.

From 1972 – 2004 I served in the Devon & Cornwall Police, latterly as a Detective Superintendent with the lead on Child Protection, the Management of dangerous offenders (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) amongst other responsibilities.

In my Police career I served in Plymouth, Tiverton, Exeter, Barnstaple and at HQ, with a brief excursion into Cornwall.

I have been a governor at an Exeter school, Sticklepath School and Petroc – chairing all three.

I have maintained an interest and involvement in Safeguarding which has included chairing a number of Serious Case Reviews in the early 2000s.

I am now Chairman of thirty one:eight, a UK-wide independent Christian charity helping others protect vulnerable people from abuse

Locally I attend Grosvenor Church, Barnstaple where I was previously part of the leadership.

I count myself very fortunate to have been married to Hilary, a true North Devonian of many generations, since the early 1970s. We have two sons and six grandchildren.

Chris Rice, Trustee

I am a qualified Actuary who specialises in advising trustees and companies on their pension schemes and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I am responsible for ensuring pension schemes with combined assets of over £800m have an appropriate investment strategy and contributions are paid that are sufficient to provide for member benefits. Part of my role is also managing a team of qualified and trainee actuaries. I began training as an Actuary after completing a mathematics degree at the University of Bristol.

As well as financial and analytical skills, I bring to the Board commercial, risk management and governance expertise and am Chair of the Audit and Remuneration Committee.

I have always been interested in, and keen to encourage, the provision of a quality education. With my children attending local schools, I am pleased to support the vision of the Trust in raising aspiration of the pupils at our schools.

Clare Tope, Trustee

I began my teaching career in a junior school in Hertfordshire in September 1988. Following employment in several primary schools, I joined Buckinghamshire local authority as an advisory teacher. In this role, I worked with schools to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in mathematics.

I then spent seventeen years as a senior lecturer in the Institute of Education at the University of Winchester. I led the PGCE primary programme and taught mathematics on a range programmes working with both students in the initial stage of their teacher education and practising teachers.

I have now relocated to North Devon and work for the Open University on a range of projects including supporting the education of adolescent girls in Zimbabwe.