Meet our Trustees

We are pleased to introduce you to our Trustees below. NB. ‘Trustees’ means the Directors referred to in the Trust’s Articles of Association.

Sharon Blyth, Trustees

I am excited to be part of the Tarka Learning Partnership as a trustee, as I am passionate about education, learning and supporting families and children.  I have been involved in governorship for 8 years, and as a teacher for more than 25 years – most recently in post 16 provision . I look forward to supporting schools and teachers in the Trust to achieve this.

I am a strong believer in community work and supporting others to look after each other and build strong futures.  I see education as a way to do this and see learning as lifelong for all in North Devon.  I am currently undertaking a Masters with a desire to look at new ways to support children and families.

My background is in Education but my work now focusses on equipping churches to serve their local communities, as Diocesan advisor for Devon in the Diocese of Exeter.  I live in Barnstaple with my husband and we are guiding our fourth child happily through her GCSE’s, with three other grown-up children having successfully navigated GCSE’s and A-levels. Having lived in North Devon for much of my life, I am proud of the way the local schools and college have equipped our family to achieve and grow in their educational goals.

Jo Byrne, Vice Chair of Trustees

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, 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.

Sue Gibson, Trustee

I am very pleased to be a part of the Tarka Learning Partnership by taking up my role as Trustee. Education has played a large part in my life and I am strong in my belief that all children are entitled to a full and rich education.

I started my teaching career in London, in September 1974 and taught across the Primary age ranges, also Nursery and Adult Literacy. I returned to North Devon in 1988 and spent thirty years teaching in NCSPA, taking on a variety of roles of responsibilities including Assistant and Deputy Headship and Governor.

Within my experience of education, I have recognised the need for a fully supportive management to promote successful teaching and learning opportunities. I acknowledge that Tarka Learning Partnership champion this and I look forward to supporting this within my role as a Trustee.

Johnathon Hayward, Trustee

I am pleased to be part of the Tarka Learning Partnership and I look forward to supporting the trusts vision in this role.

I am a qualified teacher, deputy safeguarding lead, and Director of Quality of Education for two Independent Training Providers which support learners from 16+ to gain meaningful progression into further education and/or employment.

During my academic studies, and after graduation, I spent time training with British Rowing and held a role within The West Midlands Special Constabulary. My experiences have taught me a great deal and I am always keen to encourage development and learning through sport and physical activity.

I have lived in North Devon for the past eight years and currently enjoy a balance of working from home and getting out into the wilds of North Devon to make the most of the great outdoors with my wife and son, who has just started his reception year within the Trust.

Richard Light, CEO (ex-officio Trustee)

I am a qualified teacher and have worked both across the South West and nationally during my teaching career. Prior to becoming CEO at Tarka I was Director of Education at Westcountry Schools Trust for three years. The role involved working closely with headteachers to bring about school improvement across 19 primary and 7 secondary schools. I also lead on other areas such as apprenticeship work, ITT and the trust talent management strategy.

Previous to WeST I worked for Ofsted for eight years as a Senior, Her Majesty’s Inspector (SHMI) and one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI). This followed 18 years of teaching, including 12 years of successful headship.

I was particularly attracted to the tone and language articulated at Tarka. The approaches of pragmatism and empowerment resonated deeply with my own views. Reflecting on my own career I recognise I have empowered myself through ongoing professional development. This has included becoming an Ofsted inspector in 2005, an accredited School Improvement Partner in 2006 and a Local Leader in Education in 2011. In 2010, I completed a Master’s in Education while working as a research associate for the National College for School Leadership.

Despite my workload and ongoing commitments, I do find time for my family and thoroughly enjoy coastal and moorland walking. I spend many weekends supporting my local rugby club through coaching my son’s age group and provide some specialist advice through acting as a club safeguarding officer. I am very excited about working at Tarka and developing a strong network of schools for the benefit of children and young people in North Devon.

Jessica Patel, Trustee

I am delighted to be a part of the Tarka Learning Partnership. I am passionate about ensuring children in North Devon have access to a first-class education and have the same opportunities available to them as children across the country. I look forward to supporting schools and teachers in the Trust to achieve this.

A strong school community supported by parents, staff, governors and trustees plays such a large part in the development and happiness of our children, a community which I feel privileged to be part of as both a parent, previously a school governor and now as a trustee.

My background is in Marketing and Communications, and I am currently Director of Marketing for a large children’s charity in the South West of England. I live in Barnstaple with my husband and two daughters. Having lived in North Devon all my life, I can think of no better place to raise my family.

Chris Rice, Trustee

Having always been interested in, and keen to encourage, the provision of a quality education for all children, I am delighted to be a Trustee of the Tarka Learning Partnership.  In particular, I support the Trust’s objectives of collaboration between North Devon schools, and raising the aspiration of the pupils at our schools.  It is an honour to be able to contribute my part to this vision.

After completing a maths degree at the University of Bristol, I began work as a trainee Actuary, eventually qualifying and becoming responsible for pension schemes in a statutory role of Scheme Actuary.  My two children attend Trust schools.

I hope that my financial, analytical, risk management and commercial skills will benefit the Trustee Board and as such I am Chair of the Operations, Risk and Audit Committee.

Lyn Shaddick, Trustee 

I am delighted to join the Board of the Tarka Trust as a Trustee.

I have worked within education in Devon for the last 30 years across a wide range of education services. The last twelve years have been spent delivering on an outsourced contract to education services in Devon, Surrey and Worcestershire focusing on Governance,  Finance, Property and Health & Safety.

My daughters attended Newport and Park School and I have two grandchildren at two Tarka Trust schools.

I look forward to supporting the Tarka Trust with their future developments.

Charlotte Smalley, Trustee (EDEN)

I have a strong belief in the importance of a broad and inclusive education for all children. I am the mother of 3 children who were all educated in North Devon and enjoyed all the benefits of growing up in such a wonderful area.

I have gained valuable experience in the classroom as a Teaching Assistant at a village primary school and appreciate some of the challenges and rewards of teaching in that environment.

Subsequently I worked for many years in a support role and a secondary school which gave me an insight into the complex work behind the scenes.

Most recently, I returned to my main career as a Chartered Surveyor and managed a portfolio of residential property for a private rural Estate.

I am delighted to be able to support the work of the Tarka Learning Partnership.

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.