The role of Academy Councils within the Learning Trust

Academy Councils contribute to the work of the Learning Trust in ensuring high standards of achievement for all children and young people in the school by: 

  • keeping the focus on school improvement
  • being a critical friend to the school, offering support and advice 
  • providing assurances to the board about school performance and about the views of staff, parents and students
  • helping the school respond to the needs of parents and the community 
  • making the school accountable to the public for what it does 
  • working with the school on planning, developing policies and keeping these under review
  • working with the headteacher school staff to exercise the powers and responsibilities delegated by the board through the process of earned autonomy; and 
  • not intervening in the day-to-day management of the school unless there are weaknesses and a suitable course of action has been approved by the Board of the Learning Trust

Trust Governance Roles

Governance Recruitment

Stobhillgate Academy Councillors


Louise Banfield
I have worked in education for the last 20 years in both schools and the private sector. I qualified as a Geography Teacher in 2008 and I am currently a Head of Department in a large comprehensive secondary school in Newcastle. I am also a designated SLE (Specialist Leader in Education) and in this role have worked on outreach support with other schools in the city to help improve educational outcomes for all young people. I strongly believe that all children should be inspired and enthused by their time in the classroom and encouraged to achieve their full potential irrespective of their background. I am link Academy Councillor for SEND, helping ensure that pupils with disabilities and special educational needs are included in the full life of the school.

My husband grew up in Morpeth and I have lived here for 15 years. My children are 9 and 6 and have both attended Stobhillgate First School where they loved every minute of it!
Hayley Herbertson
(Deputy Chair)
I qualified as a teacher of Geography in 2004 and took up my first teaching role at Harton Academy where I taught for 14 years. During my time at Harton I took on the role of Advanced Skills Teacher, Lead Practitioner and was designated as an SLE (a Specialist Leader of Education) in January 2012. As part of these roles I carried out outreach work within the authority as well as providing training and support to many trainee teachers as part of both the PGCE and School Direct programme. I didn’t think that I could find another school that I would love working at as much until I applied for a job at Chantry Middle School. I was delighted to join Chantry in January 2018 and I am very proud to say that I am the Subject Leader for both Humanities and RE at Key Stage 3. As a teacher I am a strong believer in making every lesson a valuable learning experience and I believe that young people should be inspired, enthused and challenged to become lifelong learners and be encouraged to reach their full potential. I consider it be a privilege to be part of the Three Rivers Learning Trust and I am delighted to take on the role as an Academy Councillor for Stobhillgate First School. My daughter currently attends the school and is enjoying every minute of it.

I am link Academy Councillor for Safeguarding which means that part of my role will be monitoring safeguarding systems and procedures to promote the safeguarding of children at Stobhillgate First School.
Andy ClarkI am delighted to join the Academy Council at Stobhillgate. I am currently Deputy Headteacher at The King Edward VI School and lived in the Stobhill area for 15 very happy years. I have been a teacher since 1996, when I started my career as a PE and Geography teacher. I feel very privileged to do a job I enjoy so much and take great pleasure from seeing young people succeed. I believe firmly in equality of opportunity and inclusive education and will work hard to support the staff and students at Stobhillgate to provide a climate for learning in which all students can reach their potential.

I used to love nothing better than playing a game of Football or Rugby, but sadly those days are behind me now! I do still play Cricket and enjoy watching my children play their sports. I enjoy listening to Music, but also enjoy the peace and quiet of long dog walks with my wife in the countryside
Sondos BowkerI have spent my whole career working in education and on projects that tackle educational and economic inequality. This has included work in schools, universities and, most recently, the communities sector. I trained to teach within The Three Rivers Learning Trust and spent four very happy years working across The King Edward VI School and Newminster Middle School, where I was Curriculum Lead for English until 2021. I currently work in the communities sector, overseeing training and educational courses for refugee and asylum seeker women and children. I am passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion and I look forward to bringing my experience working with minoritised communities to my role as Academy Councillor. The Three Rivers Learning Trust has invested a huge amount in my personal and professional development and I am thrilled to be able to give something back as academy councillor of Stobhillgate First School.
Kelly JohnsonMy background is vocational education and I have 15 years of experience of working in the Further Education sector in various roles including a teacher, a curriculum leader, and a curriculum operations manager.

I specialise mainly in the subjects of Sport, Health and Fitness and I have educated young people from level 1 to Foundation Degree level, including A-levels. I am also very enthusiastic about promoting positive well-being and I am a qualified Mental Health First Aider. I currently work for NCFE, the technical and vocational awarding organisation where I support centres through the planning, on-boarding and further CPD opportunities for NCFE qualifications, in particular the V Cert qualifications, with a focus on promoting and advancing learning.

I am passionate about contributing to help create a fairer and more inclusive society through education where every young person has the opportunity, means and motivation to access high quality learning experiences to be successful and achieve their full potential.
Deborah WilliamsAfter living in London for over 20 years, I moved back to my native north east
in 2008 with my husband and young son. My son started as a Gosling at
Morpeth First School, and has moved through to KEVI, where he has just
started his A levels in the sixth form.
I have been a languages teacher for 25 years, and for the last eight years I have
worked at a large independent school in Newcastle. I am passionate about the
education and development of young people, especially students with SEND,
and firmly believe that every student should have the opportunity to flourish.
I wanted to become an Academy Councillor as I feel that my own experiences
as a parent and expertise as a teacher could benefit the Academy. I also
wanted to give something back to the Academy, as it has provided such a
fantastic educational experience for my own child.
Jenny Lehane
Mark RobsonI graduated in Modern History from Oxford University and initially trained as an accountant before qualifying as a teacher. I taught at King Edward’s for over 30 years, becoming Head of History and Politics, Literacy co-ordinator, and Teacher Governor. When King Edward’s converted into an Academy I was elected Staff director. Since retiring in August 2018 I have maintained my commitment to education, updating my A Level History textbook and volunteering at Abbeyfields school. My family have lived in Morpeth for many years and my daughter attended Goosehill, Newminster, and King Edward VI schools.
Katherine PimblottI am pleased to have been appointed as an Academy Councillor at Stobhillgate, I am firstly a parent of a child currently at the school and hope to bring to the academy council contributions from a parents point of view. As well as my parents voice I hope that I can bring new and alternative thoughts being from a non educational professional background. I fully qualified as an Architect in 2008 following over 7 years at Newcastle University, I have worked in practice since then becoming a company director in 2021. I specialise in design within the care sector; for nursing, the elderly and specialist care, throughout the county for the private sector. I have also completed numerous developments in the leisure, education and cultural sectors in the North East. I consider that there are many transferable skills from my profession that I can bring to my role as an Academy Councillor as well as bringing the voice of a current parent.
Ragnhild Knowlson