Meet the team

The head office of the NGA is in the centre of Birmingham, where our staff team provide a service to members and manage the business life of the association.

Emma Knights OBE, Chief Executive

Emma leads the organisation under the direction of NGA’s board of trustees.

As chief executive of the National Governance Association (NGA), Emma Knights leads the charity to fulfil its aim of improving the educational standards and wellbeing of young people by increasing the effectiveness of governing boards in maintained schools and academy trusts, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the organisation.

Emma promotes the interests of the school governance community and amplifies the voice of NGA’s members at a national level with legislators, policymakers, education sector organisations and in the media.

Emma is an accomplished writer and speaker on a range of school governance policy and practice topics, and has a particular interest in vision, culture and strategy; accountability; stakeholder engagement; disadvantage; ethical leadership; and diversity and inclusion. Emma is co-author of The Chair’s Handbook and NGA’s Moving MATs Forward: the power of governance report. Prior to joining NGA in 2010, Emma was joint CEO of the Daycare Trust and before that, worked in a number of roles in the voluntary sector. She was a governor at a secondary school in Warwickshire for eight years.

Working across the education sector, Emma is currently participating in the Department for Education’s headteacher standards review group, NAHT’s accountability commission, the Department for Education’s flexible working advisory group, and the Ethical Leadership Commission, and has previously sat on the Commission on Religious Education and the Knowsley Education Commission.

Under Emma’s leadership since 2010, NGA has grown to become the leading expert charity for guidance, research, advice and training for school governors, trustees and clerks, with over 40 staff and a strong presence in the education sector.

twitter-icon.png Follow Emma on Twitter @NGAEmmaK

Heidi Copland, Chief Operating Officer

Heidi Copland is Chief Operating Officer at NGA. Heidi oversees the Finance Team, Business Development Team, Marketing & Communications Team, Membership Team and Professional Development Team at NGA.

Prior to joining the NGA Heidi worked in business development in the education sector working with further education colleges, universities, private enterprises, training providers and charities.

Heidi governs at a primary school in Warwickshire.

Emma Balchin, Director of Professional Development

Emma is a valued member of the Senior Leadership Team and directs NGA’s Professional Development services.  She has over 20 years’ experience in education, leadership and school improvement. She is a National Leader of Governance and has significant experience in maintained school and academy governance, as well as serving as an IEB member and mentoring others.  Her role includes exploring how lessons learned from her vast experience of working with educational leaders, governors and their boards can inform policy and guidance to support our broader membership base, scoping potential projects with new and existing partners, and ensuring that the professional development services impact positively upon standards of governance. 

twitter-icon.png @NGAEmmaB

Sam Henson, Director of Policy and Information

Sam oversees NGA’s policy, information and research service, ensuring it adds to the learning of the organisation and best improves the governance of schools while supporting the chief executive in leading the organisation to achieve positive change in the policy of school governance . Sam is also the policy lead for NGA’s work on multi academy trusts and specialises in MAT governance structures and schemes of delegation. Sam's other responsibilities include overseeing the delivery of NGA's e-newsletter and bi-monthly magazine, Governing Matters to NGA members.  Sam is joint author of the Staying in Control of Your Destiny series and has been lead author on NGA's induction guide Welcome to Governance for the last three years.   

Sam has been working in school governance for 10 years. Before joining the NGA, Sam worked for a large multi academy trust with more than 30 schools, leading an in-house governance team, supporting the trust board and it’s academy committees across a national network of academies providing training, advice and guidance. Prior to that, Sam has also worked for a local authority and in the financial services sector. 

twitter-icon.png @NGASamH

Steve Edmonds, Director of Advice and Guidance

Steve is the Director of Advice and Guidance at NGA. His role includes the development of high quality guidance for NGA members and supervising the delivery of high quality advice to NGA GOLD members as well as supporting NGA’s work on good governance practice.

Prior to working at NGA Steve was Governor Services Manager at Birmingham City Council overseeing the Council’s statutory responsibilities in relation to maintained school governing boards, and the advice, guidance and consultancy provided to both maintained schools and academies through the Council’s School and Governor Support team.  

twitter-icon.png @NGASteveE

Abbey Mann, Head of Operations

Abbey is the Head of Operations and leads the Membership and Administration Team to deliver a high quality service level to all of our members. She manages and ensures the smooth running of our systems and processes and invests her time in identifying and delivering innovative ways to improve our services.

Abbey is also responsible for the management of the day-to-day ICT and Facilities Management functions as well as taking care of our HR needs.

Prior to joining the NGA, Abbey worked for a number of client focused agencies within the public and third sector. Throughout her career, Abbey has developed a wealth of experience and skills in specialist people, office, financial and facilities management.

Illesse Trevis, Systems Development Officer

Illesse joined the organisation in 2018 and jumped head first into launching the new website and CRM (Customer Relationship Management). 

She is responsible for all things systems ensuring the design, development, enhancement and maintenance of core systems effectively support NGA members. 

Illesse also supports the Membership team with resolving technical member enquiries and supports the Comms and Marketing team with graphic design work. 

Prior to joining NGA, Illesse worked for a public sector organisation as a Marketing Adviser where she led on website design, graphic design, social media, sales and reporting. She started her career as a Business Apprentice with Sandwell Council.

Sandra Solomon, Administration Officer

Sandra is the Office Administrator and performs a wide and extensive range of administrative tasks which keeps our day-to-day office life running smoothly. Sandra manages our online purchases, processing web orders and dispatching publications, while also assisting our Finance Department with invoicing and handling card payments. Additionally, Sandra provides back-office support for all NGA events, ensuring the delivery of all NGA/promotional collateral.

Prior to joining the NGA, Sandra worked for a Credit Union, an Outreach Unit for challenging young people and a variety of Government Training Schemes for Birmingham, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton Councils.

Ella Colley, Knowledge Centre Manager

Ella joined NGA in June 2020 and oversees the Knowledge Centre. Members can access the Knowledge Centre to find information and guidance on a range of governance topics.

Before joining NGA, Ella worked in the retail sector as a buyer and category manager and has experience in project management and product development. Ella brings her customer-focused approach to NGA, supporting and reacting to the evolving needs of our membership base.

Ella has been a governor at a local primary school in Birmingham since January 2019.

Rani Kaur, Head of Advice

Rani oversees the Advice team and the GOLDline service. The GOLDline service offers strategic, procedural, best practice and legal information about governance. Rani leads on the policy areas of SEND and Clerking and facilitates the meetings of the Clerks' Advisory Group. She also contributes to the NGA weekly newsletter and Governing Matters magazine. 

Prior to joining NGA, Rani studied Law at the University of Birmingham. 

GOLD members can call GOLDline on 0121 237 3782, or raise a request

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Connect With Us
  • NGA, 36 Great Charles Street, Birmingham, B3 3JY
  • Phone: 0121 237 3780 | Contact Us
  • Charity Number: 1070331 | Company Number 3549029

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