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 Knights OBE

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 Follow Emma on Twitter @NGAEmmaK

Heidi Copland, Chief Operating Officer

Heidi Copland

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 Balchin

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 @NGAEmmaB

Sam Henson, Director of Policy and Information

Sam Henson

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 @NGASamH

Steve Edmonds, Director of Advice and Guidance

Steve Edmonds

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 @NGASteveE

Abbey Mann, Head of Operations

Abbey Mann

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 Trevis

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.

Aine O'Sullivan, Membership Officer

Aine O'Sullivan

Aine is a membership officer at the NGA. In this role she works alongside our membership team in order to provide our members with support throughout their time with us. Prior to joining the NGA, Aine worked closely with charities such as the British Heart Foundation and obtained a BA in English and History from the University of Birmingham.

Belinda McCarthy, Membership Officer

Belinda McCarthy

Belinda is a membership officer at the NGA. In this role she works alongside our membership team in order to provide our members with support throughout their time with us.

Prior to joining the NGA, Belinda worked in various customer service, HR, events and office support roles in various countries.

Belinda obtained a BA in English with Film and Television, and a Level 4 in Professional Marketing.

Sandra Solomon, Administration Officer

Sandra Solomon

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 Colley

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 Kaur

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

Michael Barton, Senior Advice Officer

Michael Barton

Michael Barton is a senior advice officer at the NGA. He provides advice to Gold members via email and telephone, alongside writing for the website, magazine and weekly newsletter. His policy specialisms are disadvantage, pupil premium and staffing.

Prior to joining the NGA, Michael studied History and Politics at the University of Warwick.

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

Dr Samuel Tranter, Senior Advice Officer

Dr Samuel Tranter

Samuel Tranter is a senior advice officer at the NGA. He provides advice to Gold members via email and telephone, alongside writing for the website, magazine and weekly newsletter. His specialist policy areas include admissions, behaviour, complaints, data protection, and governor effectiveness.

Prior to joining the NGA, Sam received his PhD from the University of St Andrews, where he was tutor in Modern History. He was also employed as historical researcher by the National Theatre of Scotland. He was previously educated at Aberystwyth University and King’s College London.

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

Adelaide Chitanda, Senior Advice Officer

Adelaide Chitanda

Adelaide Chitanda is a senior advice officer at the NGA. She provides advice to Gold members via email and telephone, alongside writing for the website, magazine and weekly newsletter.

Prior to joining the NGA, Adelaide studied Criminology at the University of Manchester.

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

Kirstie Ebbs, Public Relations Manager

Kirstie Ebbs

Kirstie is NGA’s Public Relations Manager, responsible for communicating our vision, policies, guidance and research to the education sector and beyond. Kirstie leads on the Visible Governance, Everyone on Board and Educators on Board campaigns and project manages NGA’s work on diversity and equalities.

Kirstie has been vice-chair of trustees at a large secondary SAT in Shropshire. Prior to joining NGA in September 2017, Kirstie obtained a first class degree in BA Business Management and Marketing at Keele University and worked in the financial services sector and for a large multi academy trust. Kirstie has completed the CIPR Professional Diploma in Public Relations and is currently completing the Women in PR 2020 mentoring programme. 

Hannah Garrington, Research Officer

Hannah Garrington

Hannah is a research officer at NGA. She assists with the organisation’s research-based projects and supports the wider policy and information team by contributing to NGA’s guidance, communication and publications, writing for both Governing Matters and its weekly e-newsletter.

Prior to joining NGA, Hannah read English at the University of Bristol and she currently serves as a co-opted governor for a primary school in Halesowen.

Nina Sharma, Policy and Information Officer

Nina Sharma

Nina’s role involves developing NGA’s policy agenda and positions adding to the learning of the organisation and improving the governance of schools. She is responsible for policy relating to Ofsted and the broad, balanced curriculum. Nina also assists with NGA’s guidance, research and weekly e-newsletter.

Prior to joining NGA, Nina achieved a Ba(Hons) in Childhood, Family and Education Studies and recently received her MA in Professional Law from Birmingham City University.

Clare Collins MBE, Head of Consultancy

Clare Collins MBE

Clare leads and manages NGA’s consultancy service which undertakes external reviews of governance for all types of schools and academy trusts including MATs, as well as providing specialised consultancy support and bespoke support, training and development for MATs. Clare works alongside NGA’s Head of Training Development recruiting, training and managing NGA’s team of consultants, developing the training offer, and ensuring effective delivery. Clare also contributes to NGA publications, speaks at events and represents NGA.

Clare’s background is in governance and trusteeship. She has chaired the governing board in a number of schools in different phases and in varying stages of their development. Clare has also chaired her local authority Schools Forum, and her trustee experience includes chairing the NGA trust board from 2008-2011.

Paul Aber, Head of Training Development

Paul Aber

Paul leads and manages NGA’s face to face training, e-learning and funded development programmes for schools and academies.  This includes working alongside NGA's Head of Consultancy recruiting, training and managing NGA’s team of consultants and trainers. 

Prior to joining NGA, Paul was centre director at the University of Law in York where his role included strategic planning and quality assurance. A former solicitor, Paul has also held course director roles at the University of Westminster and City University and course assessor roles for The Law Society.

Paul has many years’ experience of governance including maintained schools and academy trusts.

Charlotte Harding, Leading Governance Programme Manager

Charlotte Harding

Charlotte is NGAs Leading Governance Programme Manager and project manages the DfE funded Chairs, Clerks and Board Development. Charlotte works closely with the Department for Education to ensure programme delivery is timely, on budget, and effective. In addition, she works with local partners across the UK as well as our team of NGA Consultants to facilitate delivery.

Charlotte has over 20 years recruitment and business management experience, coupled with more recently developing her local government expertise as a member of the education directorate in a Local Authority. Her experiences supporting and advising school governors and trustees, alongside delivering an extensive programme of governance training perfectly equip her for Leading Governance. She is also an experienced manager of a clerking service.

Charlotte is currently governing at a maintained primary school and a secondary academy.

Bryony Lovell, Professional Development Officer

Bryony Lovell

Bryony’s role involves coordinating the NGA Leading Governance programmes, which includes being one of the main points of contact for participants and facilitators throughout the learning journey. Bryony is also a safeguarding governor at an infant and junior school in the south of Birmingham.

Prior to joining the NGA, Bryony worked as a constituency caseworker for an MP in the Midlands and obtained a degree in Philosophy and Politics at the Universities of Leeds and Cape Town.

Henry Wilson, Professional Development Officer

Henry Wilson

Henry is a Professional Development Officer at the NGA. This role involves coordinating the NGA Leading Governance Programmes and includes being one of the main contacts for participants and facilitators throughout their journey of learning.

Prior to joining NGA Henry worked as a research assistant and obtained a BA in History from University of Birmingham and an MSc in Global Governance and Ethics from University College London.

Matthew Swann, Learning Link Manager

Matthew Swann

Matthew manages NGA Learning Link, developing and delivering the Learning Link system, and overseeing the administration of the service.

Before joining the NGA, Matthew worked in the NHS as part of the Child Health Department, and studied Psychology and English at Keele University.

Daisy Edwards, Professional Development Officer

Daisy Edwards

Daisy provides administrative support for NGA’s e-learning, training and consultancy. She is most likely going to be the person on the other end of the phone or responding to email regarding  Learning Link questions.

Before joining NGA Daisy worked with the Stratford Literary Festival and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and gained a Masters degree in Shakespeare and Creativity with the University of Birmingham in 2016.

Molly Taylor, Professional Development Officer

Molly Taylor

Molly’s role includes coordinating the NGA Training and Consultancy offer, providing support for Leading Governance and being a main point of contact for the national team of NGA Consultants.

Before joining the NGA Molly worked in Higher Education as a Student Engagement Executive officer and completed her BA (Hons) in Children and Integrated Professional Care at Birmingham City University.

Bally Kaur, Finance Manager

Bally Kaur

Bally is our Finance Manager and joined NGA in March 2019.  Bally monitors the day-to-day financial operations within the charity, such as payroll, management accounts, forecasting and cash-flow.  She has a wealth of experience in similar roles working with Charities and 'Non for profit' organisations'. 

Simon Richards, Chairs Development Manager

Simon Richards

Simon leads Future Chairs, the succession planning and chairs recruitment and development element of the Inspiring Governance programme. Working with a range of strategic partners, Simon supports schools and academy trusts that have a foreseeable need for a chair of governors/trustees, vice-chair or committee chair, and oversees the induction and development of future chairs. Simon also manages the Inspiring Governance Mentoring Scheme.

Simon is an experienced governor, vice-chair and chair having governed in four different schools on the Isle of Wight in recent years, and is currently chair of governors at a primary school in Birmingham.

Before joining the NGA, Simon ran a governance development consultancy and had a long-term career in business management across public sector organisations in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

Judith Hicks, Head of Inspiring Governance

Judith Hicks

Judith has worked as an HR professional within the retail & logistics sector for fifteen years, working for Tesco, Pets At Home & Booker.  She has held a variety of national roles focusing on recruitment, talent management, performance management, organisation design and learning & development.

She is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

In 2008 Judith became a parent governor at a school in Warwickshire and was elected vice-chair and then Chair of Governors, a post she held until 2018.  Judith now governs on a Local Governing Board for a secondary school within a Multi-Academy Trust.  Most recently, Judith has worked for Warwickshire County Council as a consultant within the governor development service, where she has worked with maintained schools, academies and Multi-Academy Trusts to design & deliver bespoke interventions, mentored Chairs and conducted external reviews of governance.

Judith joined the NGA in September 2016 as Head of Inspiring Governance; the governor recruitment and support service. 

Francey Smith, Head of Marketing

Francey Smith

Francey is NGA's Head of Marketing and Communications. Francey's role includes developing NGA's marketing engagement strategy for promoting NGA's membership and training services, overseeing digital campaigns, NGA events and publishing the Governing Matters magazine and NGA publications.

Prior to joining the NGA, Francey worked in the education sector including universities and further education colleges overseeing marketing communications activity.

Richard Crabb, Head of Communications

Richard Crabb

Richard is NGA's Head of Communications and oversees NGA's communications activity, NGA events, publishing the Governing Matters magazine and NGA publications.

Richard has over 20 years’ experience developing and implementing marketing activity in the education and not-for-profit sectors to build audience understanding and impact.

Shanice Rai, Marketing and Events Officer (Maternity Cover)

Shanice Rai

Shanice is a Marketing and Events Officer at NGA. She is responsible for supporting the Head of Marketing to develop NGA’s strategy by promoting their membership and training services through the website and other marketing materials. Shanice is also responsible for ensuring NGA's presence at all external events, such as co-ordinating exhibitions and speaking opportunities.

Prior to joining NGA, Shanice achieved a BSc (Hons) in Business and Sociology at Aston University.

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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