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 is Chief Executive of the National Governance Association (NGA) - the leading charity for guidance, advice, research, and professional development for school governors, trustees, governing boards and their clerks. Prior to her appointment in 2010 she was joint CEO of the Daycare Trust. Before that, she worked in a number of roles primarily in the voluntary sector, including Child Poverty Action Group and Citizens Advice, but also at the Legal Services Commission and the Local Government Association. As well as leading projects on child poverty and educational attainment, Emma has written on a wide range of topics and is co-author of the NGA’s Chair’s Handbook.

Emma regularly addresses legislators and the media on governance issues, as well as audiences of those governing and leading schools. She was a governor at a secondary school in Warwickshire for 7 years, a founding trustee of the Foundation for Leadership in Education and currently a member of the Chartered College’s Leadership Advisory Group. She has served on a number of recent commissions: ASCL’s Ethical Leadership Commission, NAHT’s Accountability Commission, the Commission on Religious Education, and the Knowsley Education Commission.

Emma was awarded an OBE in the 2018 New Year's Honours list for services to education.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.  

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Carys Ward, Information Officer and PA to the Chief Executive

Carys is Information Officer and PA to the Chief Executive (Emma Knights). Carys works closely with our Policy and Information team in supporting the e-newsletter and other policy work and position statements. Carys is the project officer for the Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education pathfinder project, championing the role of ethical leadership in schools through resources and events we provide. She is hugely passionate about this after her previous studies in Business Management shows the importance of ethical leadership. Carys ensures that Emma is adequately supported to meet our strategic objectives and regularly supports our wider senior leadership team with external events, external stakeholders, and board communication and papers.

Prior to joining NGA, Carys studied a masters at the University of Warwick in International Politics and Europe and worked at the University of Winchester as Student Records Officer, where she also undertook a PG Diploma in Business Management and BA (Hons) in English Literature. She is currently governing on a local governing board at a secondary school in Birmingham.

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.

Bernadette Everton, Membership and Projects Officer

Bernadette is one of our Membership and Projects Officers.

As part of the Membership Team she provides telephone and administrative support to NGA members and assists internally with events and project delivery.

Prior to joining NGA, Bernadette worked for a multi-channel e-commerce design agency, where she managed the Customer Support department.

Sam Connor, Membership and Projects Officer

Sam is responsible for providing administrative support to NGA members and any prospective applicants. Sam regulates the information on our database, uploads new memberships, and answers incoming phone calls. She also assists with the internal preparation for any NGA or external events. Sam is also a Projects Officer where she leads on Inspiring Governance events, recruiter workshops, mentoring courses, and the Young Governors’ network events.

Prior to joining NGA, Sam worked for a small community transport charity in Sussex. Being their only fundraiser at the time, she built her knowledge of events and assisted with members’ enquiries and administrative tasks giving her the experience to provide customer care.

Sandra Solomon, Administration Assistant

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 , 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.

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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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