Updated April 2021:


Our MAT structure is as follows:

The Members are best viewed as guardians of the constitution, ensuring the charitable object is fulfilled.

The Trustees meet as a board of Trustees, generally known as the “Trust Board”

The Trust Board has the strategic and legal oversight of the Trust and will monitor all activities; determining the strategic direction of the Trust, assessing the performance of the Academies and establishing and reviewing the policies and practices governing the life of the Academies. 

The Trust Board has established “Local Advisory Boards” for the Academies to support the Trust Board and the leadership teams within the Academies.

The Local Governing Bodies are accountable to the Trust Board in relation to any matter delegated to it. Please see more information on the LAB’s below.


The Trust Board

Mrs Becky Hickford – Chair of the Trust

I work for Avon, a leading global beauty company, with nearly $9 billion in annual revenue. The organisation is Global with products sold in 100 countries.  I have 16 years’ experience as an HR professional.  My current job role is Senior Manager for Talent and Development across Europe, supporting 35 markets.  I am responsible for setting the strategic direction for talent and development for our Region.  My key accountabilities include performance management, talent management and succession planning, as well as developing the learning and development offering.  Prior to moving into this more specialised area, I was an HR Business Partner, supporting with recruitment, employee relations and organisation design for key client groups.

Mr Paul Watson – Chief Executive Officer

I have current experience of leading a school to outstanding in all areas in 2014 and have successfully supported school improvement across Northamptonshire.

As CEO, I have led a successful bid for a new primary school in Northamptonshire and shaped with the trust, the culture, and ethos for the school. This process has included developing and communicating the brand of Preston Hedge’s to a range of stakeholders.

As noted above I understand how to grow schools, shape teams, and deliver high outcomes for children.  I am presently leading the project to open our second Free School in 2019.

As an NLE, I had to work in challenging circumstances to secure long lasting improvement in different contexts. I currently represent Northamptonshire as part of the Jubilee network of schools, who collaborate in the Midlands.


Dr Jane Murray – Vice Chair

I am an Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Northampton, and Co-Director of the Centre for Education and Research. It is an extremely varied job, and includes PhD supervision, conducting research in local schools and for global organisations and writing for publication. I have advised governments in numerous countries – including the UK – on education matters and I have over 50 publications in the field of education.

Children’s early experiences influence the rest of their lives so the highest quality education and care for young children is vitally important for their future happiness and success. Preston Hedge’s Academy Trust is a very special organisation, and I am honoured to be a Trust Board Member working together with children, parents, staff, governors and trustees to secure exceptional educational experiences for all the Trust’s children.


Mr Lee Gentry – Trustee

I am a Chartered Civil and Structural Engineer running my own consultancy business in Northampton and am also a practicing Party Wall Surveyor with over 25 years of experience in the construction industry and built environment.

I was previously appointed as an LEA Governor to Preston Hedges Primary School in October 2008 but resigned in September 2016 to take up my new role on the new Academy Trust.

I have previously been Chairman of the local branch of the Institution of Structural Engineers and am an active member of the Joint Board of Moderators who are an organisation that accredit university educational programmes to allow graduates to register as professional engineers with the Engineering Council.

As a company director I am currently responsible for my own staff appointments, training, health and safety, business administration, marketing, business development and company accounting.

I was Chairman of the Resources Committee for a number of years at Preston Hedges Primary School, acted as the governor responsible for Special Educational Needs in my early years as a governor and completed a number of training governor courses during my 8 years of service.

I therefore believe that I have a good understanding of how the schools needs to perform from an operational perspective and what is required in terms of quality of education for all levels of ability within the school environment.

I hope that my business and commercial skills along with my technical abilities in respect of construction and property maintenance will assist the Academy Trust to oversee the operational function of each school whilst also being mindful of the educational standards that need to be maintained and developed.


Mr David Hughes – Trustee

Having lived in the area since starting a family, I initially volunteered as a Governor at my children’s Primary School as a way of giving something back: both of my daughters enjoyed very positive start to their school-lives and I primarily wanted to help ensure that other children in our area had a similar experience.  Throughout my time I have seen the school convert to an academy and then further evolve into a Multi-Academy Trust,

I qualified as a chartered accountant early in my career, however have had a variety of financial and commercial roles and experiences since, including defining and implementing business strategy, and providing financial and operational consultancy for smaller business partners.  As a trustee I aim to utilize these skills to support and grow the Trust for the benefit of the schools, the pupils, parents and staff.  I remain an active governor of Preston Hedges Primary School, and currently chair the Trust Finance Committee.


Mr Neal Prescott – Trustee

I have been associated with Preston Hedges Primary School for since 2003, and held roles on the Friends Group and then Preston Hedges Governing Body, retiring as Chair in January 2020.  During my time as Governor, I helped lead the school transition to Academy, and into the formation of the Academy Trust.  I am very proud of the development of our schools in terms of leadership and academic success,  as well as the establishment of a culture of enjoyable creative learning.

My background is in Construction/Civil Engineering, and I have specialised in building efficiency, and quality management.  This has been of use at school, particularly as much of my experience has been related to school design and construction.  More recently, as a Director in a consultancy practice I managed a growing team of consultants and technicians increasing the business turnover from £400k to £3M.

My skills and professional experience have allowed me to assist in the coordination and development of new schools within the Academy Trust.  There remain future opportunities for the Trust to expand, and I will continue to support the Leadership team and Trust in bringing projects to fruition, providing outstanding resources for communities that join the Trust family.


Mrs Wendy Pearmain – Trustee

I’ve been involved with our local community groups for over sixteen years, taught in Caroline Chisholm School and was Director of STEM at a school in Northampton Town Centre. In both schools, I worked to improve the career opportunities for girls and under-represented groups in the  STEM sector.
Currently, I hold the challenging, but rewarding role of Head of Science of a Secondary School in Wellingborough, where I’m able to indulge in my passion for developing teacher expertise through continual professional development.
Nationally, for three years I sat on the Board of the Chartered College of Teaching as one of seven teachers chosen to help create the College before it’s launch in September 2017. As a member of the Association for Science Education 11-19 committee, I help to represent the voice of Science teachers and and create research-informed education resources for secondary and further education institutions throughout the UK.
All five of our children have attended Preston Hedges and as a family we have very fond memories of their time at school. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with the team to further shape the future of the Trust.

Mrs Sharon Smith – Trustee

Sharon Smith is  a Senior Lecturer in Early Years at The University of Northampton .She is a  registered nurse and health visitor with over twenty years’ experience in family and community practice.  Sharon is currently an early year’s academic adviser for the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)  ‘A Fit and Healthy Childhood’ . She has had extensive experience in school governance at secondary and primary level, including previous Chair of Governors at Preston Hedges for 7 years.


Mr John Rickett – Trustee

I am delighted to offer my experience and energy to Preston Hedges Trustee Board.  I live in Milton Keynes having moved back to the UK with my family following a 15 year secondment to The Netherlands.  I have worked in the commercial arena of business [Sales, Marketing and International development] for many years from leading transformation in one of the UK’s brewery businesses to heading up sales and marketing for David Lloyd leisure building a network of clubs in the UK and Europe.  Prior to moving back to the UK I was responsible for global customer and capability development at Heineken International.  Today, I’m shaping a new business in the UK to distribute high quality ready to drink Cocktails, a small enterprise but demanding of the skills and experiences of any business wanting to make progress into today’s market.  
We have four children who have gone through various streams of education, local and International, private and state and we have experienced a wide range of educational execution, most of which has been positive.  My career provided wonderful opportunities to explore the world and engage with interesting people and businesses in a dynamic way and I would like to promote and encourage this at every opportunity.  I have experienced visiting many schools where young adults have difficulty in seeing the possibilities open to them and that these potential opportunities may appear beyond reach but I feel passionate about fostering the excitement of being challenged and the confidence to chase them.  I believe I can add value to the trust in supporting the goals and challenges that face us and our children in education today by taking responsibility to share my experience. 

Local Advisory Boards

The primary focus of the LABs is to promote the best interests of all the children and their families within their school and the wider Trust. They will provide an opportunity to support the ‘uniqueness’ of each school in terms of learning opportunities available, enhancing school wellbeing and a focus on the needs of the local community. The LAB will enhance community engagement through being a collective channel of communication. The focus of enhancing community engagement reflects the Trust’s values and will be particularly important for the growth of the PHAT.  


The LABs will achieve their primary focus by:  

  • Understanding the broad curriculum. 
  • Supporting each school through the promotion of the Trust’s values and ethos. 
  • Supporting educational priorities within each school by engaging with local communities and sharing, within the appropriate forum, the views of the various local community stakeholders (including children, parents, staff and members of the wider local community).  
  • Acting as a crucial communication channel between the Principal, the wider school community, the CEO and Trustees. 


Membership of the Local Academy Boards:  

  • The Chair, who will be appointed by the Board of Trustees  
  • School Principal. 
  • Two staff members  
  • Three parents who may be elected or appointed as determined by the Trust. 
  • Two such other members representing the local community as the Trustees decide to appoint.  
  • Such other authorised attendee(s) as appointed and invited by the LAB to attend a meeting in order to assist or advise on a particular matter or on a range of issues. 
  • The Chair of Trustees, CEO and Executive Head may also attend the LAB meetings.  

NOTE: The above LAB members will be expected to both take an interest and participate in the School’s activities, and where appropriate, Trust wide training events as well as attending the Trust AGM. 



Key Documents:


Our Scheme of Delegation is as follows:

Scheme of Delegation October 2020


Our Terms of Reference are as follows:

PHAT Terms of reference September 2020


Our Articles of Association:

Preston Hedge’s Academy Trust Articles of Association


Model Funding Agreement:

PHAT Model Funding Agreement


Declarations of Interest:

Trustee Interests 2020-2021


Risk Register

Compliant & updated


Becoming a LAB member / Trustee at Preston Hedge’s Academy Trust

If you would like to register an interest in working with us as a Governor/Trustee and support our vision and ethos please contact