The Trust Board

The Trust Board


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 Trustees have overall responsibility and ultimate decision-making authority for all the work of the Trust, including the establishing and maintaining of the Academies (which includes taking existing schools into the Trust and opening new schools). The Trustees have the power to direct change where required. 


The Trust Board: 

(September 2021)

Mrs Becky Hickford – Chair of the Trust

Becky was appointed as Chair of the Preston Hedges Academy Trust in 2016, having previously held the role of Vice-Chair of the local governing body for three years.   In her role as Chair, Becky currently sits on all the Trust committees and participates in the school improvement visits alongside the CEO and the external School Improvement Advisor.  She is also part of the annual performance management committee reviewing Senior Leaders performance and pay awards.

Becky is the Founder of Future Focus 360, which provides career coaching and support to young people aged 12 to 24 years.  Prior to this she worked as an HR Executive for a global FMCG company.  She held a number of roles, operating as a strategic business partner, leading departmental organisational design and transformation, designing and implementing global performance and talent management processes, as well as building capabilities and skills through development programmes and one to one coaching.


Mr Paul Watson – Chief Executive Officer

Paul led Preston Hedge’s Primary School to outstanding in all areas in 2014 and has previously supported school improvement as an NLE.

As CEO he has led the establishment of the Preston Hedge’s Academy Trust and its growth between 2017 and 2021 from one to five schools, successfully bidding for two new primary schools in Northamptonshire.

He understands how to grow schools, shape teams and deliver high outcomes for children.

He currently works within the Challenge Partners, CEO Network and represents Northamptonshire within the Jubilee network of schools, who collaborate across the Midlands.


Dr Jane Murray – Vice Chair

Dr Jane Murray is currently Vice-Chair for the Trust, and she sits on the Performance Committee and supports the work of the Culture, Values and Well-being group. Aside from her work as a trustee for Preston Hedge’s Academy Trust, Jane has longstanding experience in governor, trustee and advisory roles for education and arts organisations, and she holds qualifications as a teacher and school leader. Jane works as an Associate Professor in Education at the University of Northampton, where she has led Qualified Teacher Status and Education Master’s programmes, and currently co-leads the Centre for Education and Research. In that role, Jane combines teaching, research and consultancy, supervising PhD students, conducting research for schools, national and global organisations, and advising NGOs and governments on education matters. Jane has published extensively in the field of education and she is Editor-in-Chief for the International Journal of Early Years Education. Before working in higher education, Jane worked as a primary and early years teacher.


Mr Michael Brinkley – Trustee 

Michael joined the Trust Board in 2021 as a Trustee and sits on the finance and performance committees.  Previously Michael was Chair of the Local Governing Body at Pineham Barns Primary School within the Trust and is a member of the Institute of Directors. 

Michael is a Programme Director for a national rail infrastructure company specialising in business strategy and transformation.  Michael has a passion for pupil achievement and school performance and brings a wide range of skills and experience from a career in both large private and public sector organisations.  


Mr Paul Dawes – Trustee

Paul was previously a Governor and Vice Chair of Governors at Parklands Primary School and have seen first-hand the transition that the school has gone through since becoming part of the Trust and the significant benefits that this has provided to the education of the children at the school. He was subsequently appointed to the Trust board and is keen to play an active part in the running and future growth of the trust.

He is a Senior Chartered Financial Planner with over 20 years’ experience providing advice to directors and senior managers, specialising in tax and investment planning. This background will enable him to provide guidance and opinion to ensure we make the best use of the resources available and he also sits on the finance committee.


Mr Carl Dillow – Trustee

Carl was initially appointed to be a governor at Preston Hedge’s Primary School in 2016 before becoming Chair of Governors in 2019 and then became a trustee in April 2021.  During this time, Carl also helped form the trust compliance committee in 2018, which he has chaired ever since.

Carl was educated locally and has lived in the area with his young family since 2006.  He has always had a passion for science and technology, which has led him to work for a global IT outsourcing company as the Global Head of Solutions Architecture.  As well as being technology-focused, he has a diploma in leadership and management and loves to develop his team and bring out the best in them.

Outside of work, Carl is a keen triathlete, a qualified running coach who heads up athlete development for Wootton Road Runners, and a Cub Scout leader for 1st Hardingstone Mercia Cub pack.


Mr Lee Gentry – Trustee

Lee was previously appointed as a Governor at Preston Hedges Primary School back in October 2008 and has since been part of the process of the school converting to an academy through to the multi academy trust that it forms part of today.  He is currently a Trustee sitting on the Compliance committee.  He has previous experience of working with the Special Educational Needs or SEN provision within Preston Hedges School prior to its conversion to an academy

Lee is a Chartered Civil Engineer, Chartered Structural Engineer and Party Wall Survyour.  He is a director of a limited company offering building consultancy services, which is currently based in Northampton.


Mr David Hughes – Trustee

David volunteered as a Parent Governor at Preston Hedges Primary School approx. 10 years ago, as both of his daughters enjoyed very positive start to their education and he primarily wanted to give back some of his skills and energy to the school to help ensure that other children had a similar experience.  Throughout his time, he has seen the school convert to an academy and then further evolve into a Multi-Academy Trust, and  now serves as a Trustee with responsibility for chairing the Finance Committee and supporting Audit and Internal Scrutiny.

David qualified as a Chartered Accountant early in his career and has had a variety of financial and commercial roles and experiences since across Financial Services and the Automotive industry, including defining and implementing business strategy, and providing financial and operational consultancy.  In his current role he is responsible for overseeing the financial performance of a global network of independent business partners.

David’s aim is to utilize his skills and experiences to help support and grow the Trust for the benefit of the schools, the pupils, parents and staff.


Mr David Nyamatore – Trustee
David has supported Preston Hedge’s Academy Trust (PHAT) as a Governor since late 2017 when he joined the Finance, HR & Resources committee. Later in 2018 when the Trust created three Trustee committees David joined the Compliance committee which he continues to be a part of today. Following the creation of an Audit committee in 2019, David was later appointed as Chairman and Responsible Office for the Audit committee to help drive the audit readiness agenda for PHAT. 

Currently David works as an Associate Solicitor at Dentons law firm. Prior to this David has gained valuable experience working in various commercial and governance roles within the financial services sector.


Mrs Wendy Pearmain – Trustee

Wendy’s involvement with local community groups spans over sixteen years and ranged from volunteering with the Beaver and Scout Group to the local Preschool. She taught in Caroline Chisholm School and was Director of STEM at a school in Northampton Town Centre. In both schools, she worked to improve the career opportunities for girls and under-represented groups in the STEM sector.  

Currently, she holds the challenging, but rewarding role of Head of Science of a Secondary School in Wellingborough, where she is able to indulge in her passion for developing teacher expertise through continual professional development. 

Nationally, for three years she sat on the Board of the Chartered College of Teaching as one of seven teachers chosen to help develop the College before its launch in September 2017. As a member of the Association for Science Education, she sits on the11-19 committee and helps to represent the voice of science teachers and create research-informed education resources for secondary and further education institutions throughout the UK.  

All five of her children have attended Preston Hedges and as a family they have very fond memories of their time at school. 


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.


Mrs Liz White – Trustee

Having a 20+ year career in education, Liz wants to ensure that all children who attend one of the schools in the Trust receive an outstanding education through a broad and balanced, fun and creative curriculum where all children achieve their very best.  She is a qualified teacher and spent ten years teaching in the primary sector before working as part of the school improvement team at the local authority for 11 years.  She is now self-employed and continues to work alongside school teachers and leaders across the country to support school improvement.  These skills and experience are beneficial to the Trust.   Liz will be Chair of the Performance Committee.  She was previously a Governor and the Chair of Governors at Parklands Primary and has also been a governor at two other schools in the past. 




Mr Chris Gyles – Member

Chris Gyles has been a trust member since the trust first came into existence in 2016. He was formally Chair of the Preston Hedges Governing Body before being part of the team that created Preston Hedges Academy Trust. Chris is passionate about promoting the ethos of the trust and is supportive of the developments seen within the trust. Chris is a Senior Leader within Her Majesties Prison Service where he has worked for 22 years. He is a coach and mentor and specialises in project management within custodial settings. Personal interests include Scouting, being Scout Leader of 1st Wootton Scout group, Mountain biking and more recently wild swimming.