Our Trustees

The effective governance of our schools is vital to their continued success. As such, we have a range of experienced and pro-active Trustees who know our schools well and champion for them to be leading schools within their communities. Please click on each Trustee’s name for their Register of Business Interests.

Stuart Crowther – Chair of the Board

Stuart was born in 1945 to a mining family in the South Yorkshire coalfield. After working for the National Coal Board for several years, Stuart attended university at the London School of Economics, graduating in 1970. Following Ph.D. research at the University of Leeds, Stuart taught Industrial Relations, Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology at several universities until retirement in 2008. Stuart also served as Justice of the Peace and Judge of the Family Court for 20 years until 2015. Voluntary activities since retirement: Educational: – Governor, St George’s Church of England Academy, Darlington (2005-2016) Chair of Governors, Mt Pleasant Primary School, Darlington (2009 – ) Governor, Hurworth Primary, Darlington (2011 – 2015) Chair of Board of Trustees, Lingfield Education Trust, Darlington (2014 – ) Others: – Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board, HMP Kirklevington, Yarm (2008 – 2015) Councillor, Middleton St George Parish Council, (2004 – 2011) Councillor, Low Dinsdale Parish Council, (2015)


Nick Blackburn MBE

Nick is the Chief Executive Officer of Lingfield Education Trust. Prior to his move into school leadership positions, Nick was a Local Authority Lead Teacher for Numeracy, Literacy & Inclusion and provided exemplar/modelling of best practice for the National Strategies. He also sat on the DFE National Strategies Steering Group as a teacher representative.

Following two deputy headships, one in Kings Cross, London, then in Darlington and a period of acting headship, he became a substantive Headteacher in 2007. In 2012 he became Executive Headteacher of two primary schools and subsequently led on the formation of Lingfield Education Trust.

He has successfully coached and developed leaders at all levels in schools and has a strength and a great track record in supporting leadership in schools that are in challenging circumstances.

He brings a very strong set of personal values coupled with very strong sector experience. Nick is very outward facing in leadership and has undertaken a wide range of roles across the sector from Peer Support to Quality Assurance of National Leadership Programmes and NPQEL Programme Delivery & Development. He has led & facilitated the Tees Valley Primary MAT learning set for the DfE and has undertaken a wide range of mentoring activities for new CEOs and school leaders.

Nick is Founding Trustee of North East Wellbeing, a charity dedicated to building emotionally healthy school communities thorough high-quality services. He is also a member of HMP Independent Monitoring Board and volunteers as an advocate for local refugee families.

He was awarded an MBE in the Kings Birthday Honours list 2023 and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.


Graham Fitzgerald – Vice Chair of the Board

Graham is a chartered accountant and a partner in Teesside-based accountancy firm Azets LLP​, where he works closely with over 40 academy trusts across the north east as well as a wide variety of commercial organisations. He was Chair of Governors at Hurworth Primary before being appointed as a Trustee of the board at its inception. Graham is chair of the finance committee, where he brings his experience of academy finance and audit to the trust. He has a young daughter and in his spare time enjoys following cricket, supporting Middlesbrough FC and getting as much value as possible from his National Trust membership.


Kathleen Whitmore – Chair of Curriculum and Standards Committee 

Kathleen Whitmore had been a Governor at Heathfield Primary School for a number of years before joining the MAT Board in 2014. She taught in a local Secondary School for many years and has now retired. She has a keen interest in the development of curriculum standards and pupil welfare and to this end is chair of these committees both at LGB and MAT Board level. Recruitment of staff is high on her list of priorities and she has enjoyed short-listing and interviewing many people for posts both teaching and non teaching in Heathfield Primary and latterly for Senior Staff at MAT Board level. Her commitment and enthusiasm is appreciated by the staff and fellow governors who know her, and she will continue to challenge and support the work of Lingfield Education Trust for the foreseeable future.


John Martin

John is a retired father of one who is an ex local authority employee of 26 years. John has lived in Darlington all his life and has a vast knowledge of the town. John also used to be health and safety rep for Unison. He has been involved in several building projects which he enjoyed very much and has a keen eye for detail on paper and in productivity. John was a Primary School Governor for many years having a particular focus for health and safety and looked after children. John also enjoys helping on school trips. He enjoys challenging, questioning and supporting as a Trustee on the MAT board and is a founder member of Lingfield Education Trust.


Allison Mckay

Allison McKay is Chief Executive of The Forum Music Centre in Darlington – After moving from the North at a young age, Allison gained employment within a chain of Salons in central London and was promoted to Artistic Director before she reached 30yrs of age. The next decade saw Allison work around the World in artistic direction and presenting for major advertising campaigns in TV and media. In 2008 she registered a Community Interest Company- Humantics, who’s purpose has been to save the Forum Music Centre in Darlington from closure. Allison and the dedicated team at the Forum have since developed it into a sustainable Social Enterprise and more recently the company has converted to a Community Benefit Society.”


Andy Lancashire

In his career, Andy has been a Leadership Consultant, as well as a Service Director, for Education and Inclusion, Children and Young People Services at Wakefield Council. Since retiring, he has become the Chair of the Barnsley Schools Alliance, the Independent Chair of Rochdale’s Fair Access Panel and a Trustee with Lingfield Education Trust, Accord Academy Trust (Wakefield) and Leeds Diocesan Academy Trust.

Andy qualified as a Reception Teacher in 1984 in London, and has taught all primary age groups as well as holding senior leadership positions across several Local Authorities; including being a Primary Headteacher for 12 years. He has also worked in school improvement since 2005; first as a school adviser and latterly as Head of School Improvement for North Yorkshire County Council.

In his spare time Andy likes to play guitar(badly), follow Salford Red Devils RLFC and is an avid reader of various genres of literature from Grayson Perry to Bernard Cornwell.


Kevin Draisey

Kevin had been a Governor at Vane Road Primary School for a number of years before joining the MAT Board in 2024, and has a keen interest in schools achieving maximum value for money from their procurement and contracts. Kevin is an experienced procurement professional with a career spanning over 20 years in both the private and public sector. He has broad experience in all aspects of strategic procurement, and before his current role with DfE as Head of Procurement Operations in the Get help buying for schools service he was Head of Procurement and Contract Management at North Yorkshire County Council and chair of YorProcure – the Strategic Procurement Group (SPG) for Heads of Procurement in the Yorkshire and Humber region, covering over £5.8bn of annual regional spend. He also sat on the Local Government Association National Advisory Group for Procurement and the Cabinet Office Public Sector Procurement Policy Working Group. Kevin has three children and in his spare time enjoys following rugby and supporting Liverpool FC.


Shawn Laws

Shawn is a Hub Leader and Primary Improvement Partner for a multi-academy Trust based in the North-East of England. He has extensive experience as a Head Teacher, but has also taken leadership roles in other sectors, including retail and the automotive industry. In his limited spare time, Shawn enjoys family time, usually transporting his son to various swimming events all around the country. Shawn represented Team GB at age-group level for triathlon and loves time outside exercising, dog walking and exploring. As an educational leader, Shawn is extremely passionate about education and believes that every child deserves an excellent environment and the absolute highest standard of teaching and learning to be the best they can be.


Charlotte Benjamin

Charlotte has been a governor of Preston Primary school for more than 10 years – latterly acting as Chair of Governors – before becoming a trustee. A practising solicitor with over 20 years’ experience, Charlotte works for a local authority as a director with lead responsibility for governance, people, strategy, performance and ICT. She is interested in a vision and values based approach to leadership, is a champion of inclusivity in our schools and brings a strong expertise in good governance.


Carl Faulkner

Carl Faulkner is the Chief Executive Officer of Ironstone Academy Trust.

A proud father of three children, he has lived in Teesside for thirty years, and has worked in Outdoor Education and Schools since he moved here.
Carl has committed his career and ‘spare time’ to working in education and helping others. Alongside his school role he has served as a Team Leader of a Mountain Rescue Team. Having worked as Head teacher of two very different, and rapidly improved schools, he recognises how important it is that our school leaders are both supported and challenged, ‘one without the other and no school will thrive’.

He has worked as an Additional Inspector for OFSTED and a School Improvement Partner for the Local Authority.



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