Trust governance

The governance arrangements for Horizons Specialist Academy Trust, as prescribed in the Articles of Association, are set out below:


Horizons Specialist Academy Trust has five Members:

Dame Dela Smith
Martin Clinton
Maurice Jones
Ian Cunningham
Brenda Kirby

As charitable companies limited by guarantee every Trust has Members who have a similar role to the shareholders of a company limited by shares. They:

  • oversee the achievement of the Company's objects (as detailed in the Committees section),
  • are the subscribers to the Memorandum and Articles of Association (where they are founding Members)
  • may amend the articles of association (the articles include a definition of the trust’s charitable objects and governance structure) subject to any restrictions in the articles or in the trust’s funding agreement or charity law
  • have powers to appoint and remove Directors in certain circumstances
  • receive the Trust's Annual Accounts (subject to the Companies Act). 

Board of Directors

Directors manage the academies on behalf of the Trust, through undertaking the core functions as detailed in the  The Governance Handbook  - ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction; holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils and the performance management of staff; and overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure its money is well spent.  Directors also need to ensure that the Trust complies with charity and company law and operates within the Funding Agreement that has been signed with the Secretary of State.

The Articles of Association state that the Board of Directors shall have the following directors:

  • Chief Executive
  • Up to 6 Directors appointed by Members
  • There is also the facility for the Board of Directors to appoint Co-opted Directors.

The current membership of the Board of Directors, along with Directors' terms of office, are detailed below. 


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Elizabeth Horne CBE

Term of office: Ex officio

Elizabeth is the Chief Executive Officer of Horizons Specialist Academy Trust (HSAT), which was established as a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) on 1 August 2013 and has been a recognised Sponsor MAT since November 2015.  Elizabeth is also the Trust's Accounting Officer.

After graduating from university, Elizabeth gained postgraduate teaching qualifications in both secondary and primary education and taught in both sectors.  Building on this experience, Elizabeth moved into the area of special education and gained a range of postgraduate qualifications.

Elizabeth already had wide experience of leading and managing in a variety of settings prior to taking up post in 2009 as Executive Headteacher of Stockton Borough First Federation: a "hard" federation of two special schools, having been a headteacher of three special schools in Scotland, including that of Principal of The Royal Blind School in Edinburgh (giving her valuable experience of the independent and charitable sector).  In addition, she gained valuable experience of working as an Associate Assessor with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIe) in Scotland – a role which involved Elizabeth in the inspection of specialist SEN and mainstream-based provision across Scotland and the Highlands and Islands.  She also had the experience of heading up services for SEN at local authority level as a member of the education directorate in East Dunbartonshire Council.

Under Elizabeth's leadership, Stockton Borough First Federation evolved from a modest amalgamation of two special schools into a more dynamic organisation where staff and financial resources were increasingly moved and reorganised seamlessly to meet pupil and student need.  Consequently, Elizabeth viewed the move to academy status as a natural, necessary and sound progression on the journey towards ensuring that student needs and support for their parents and carers were the primary "drivers" in organisational change and professional development and focus.  Her philosophy of "no child left behind" is at the heart of Horizon Specialist Academy Trust's determination that innovation and sound practice based on robust self-evaluation are key elements in improving learning and teaching.  Furthermore, the freedoms of academy status - combined with successful funding applications to the ESFA - have enabled HSAT to improve the quality of its facilities as well as employing its own specialists in areas such as speech and language therapy and educational psychology.  The Trust’s strapline “to do more and to do it better” continues to underpin the work of the Trust.

Elizabeth is a co-opted member of the Regional Schools Commissioners Headteacher Board for the North of England.  She is also the representative for Special Schools Academies on Special Schools' Voice  - a national group which seeks to provide a collective voice for special schools and those seeking to create the best possible outcomes for children and young people.

Elizabeth was made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for services to Education in The Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours List of June 2016.

Maurice Jones

Chair of the Board of Directors
Term of office: 12 July 2017 - 11 July 2021

Maurice is the Chair of the Board of Directors and prior to this was Vice Chair since the Trust’s inception in 2013.  He has been involved in the governance of the Trust’s academies/schools for over 28 years.  Maurice is also the Lead Safeguarding Director for the Trust. 

Prior to retirement, Maurice was a senior police officer directly responsible for 300 staff and a £10m+ budget.

He is a former Trustee of North England Children’s Cancer Research Fund and also of Tees Country Products and Tees Country Products Enterprises.  He is a current Director of La Bastille Ltd.

Speaking about the Trust, Maurice is very clear in his vision that the Trust can continue to deliver the best possible education to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities across the Tees Valley, to help them maximise their potential and realise their aspirations.

As well as Chair of the Trust Board, Maurice is a member of the Finance & General Purposes Committee and the Standards Committee, and is also the Lead Director for Safeguarding/Child Protection.

Colin Whittaker

Term of office: 12 July 2017 - 11 July 2021

Colin has been a governor for 29 years, including 18 years at Abbey Hill (Vice Chair for 2 years and Chair for 4), Chair of Stockton Borough First Federation from its formation until its conversation to Horizons Specialist Academy Trust (7 years) and Chair of the Trust from its formation in 2013 until 2017 (4 years).  Additionally, he was a governor of Ash Trees Special Primary School for 3 years.

Colin graduated in Metallurgy and worked worldwide in production, processing, computerised production planning, business development and commercial management roles until early retirement from the position of Sales and Marketing Director of a multinational multi million turnover engineering contracting company with 500+ employees. 

His charitable activities include 15 years in the Round Table organisation in several continents and 4 years in Rotary International, plus numerous years as a director of charitable trusts providing work for people with learning difficulties.

Colin is the Chair of the Trust Board’s Finance & General Purposes Committee and is a member of the Standards Committee.

Linda Laidler

Vice Chair of the Board of Directors
Term of office: 12 July 2017 - 11 July 2021

Linda has worked in the private sector for 22 years followed by 24 years in the voluntary sector in a senior management capacity; first in the training sector for unemployed youth and adults, and then in health and social care.  Experience includes strategic thinking and planning, contracting with government agencies, successful funding grant applications, performance management, report writing, business planning and financial management.

Linda was previous vice chair of a secondary school and also chaired staffing and finance committees and was involved in the recruitment and performance management of head teachers.  Previously a governor of Stockton Borough First Federation for 3 years Linda became a Director of Horizons Specialist Academy Trust in August 2013 and Chair of the subsidiary company Sheraton Choices Ltd in October 2013.

A retired Justice of the Peace Linda sat on the criminal and family court benches and was also a member of the Cleveland Advisory Committee, responsible for the selection of new magistrates and dealing with complaints and disciplinary matters.

Linda is also a member of the Independent Monitoring Board of HMP and YOI Kirklevington Prison, a resettlement prison and has been vice chair for 3 years.  She is also an Independent Interviewer for the IMB involved in chairing interview panels in the selection of new members for prisons across the region.

As well as Vice Chair of the Trust Board, Linda is the Chair of the Audit Committee and is a member of the Finance & General Purposes Committee and the Standards Committee.

Dr Baxi Sinha

Term of office: 16 December 2018 - 15 December 2022

Baxi has been a Member appointed Director since 2014. After completing medical training about 20 years ago, he specialised in mental health and is currently working as a Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director in Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust which is a leading Mental Health Trust in the area. He has experience in research, medical education and clinical psychiatry. He is passionate about use of technology and data as tools to improve efficiency and overall productivity.

Baxi is a member of the Trust Board’s Finance & General Purposes Committee

James Bromiley

Term of office: 1 September 2016 - 31 August 2020

James has worked in the charities, central and local government sectors for over 20 years. He is currently Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer of the Elevate Multi Academy Trust in North Yorkshire. 

Previously he was Strategic Director of Finance, Governance and Support Services at Middlesbrough Council; and he has also worked at the National Audit Office and as a Senior Civil Servant at the Department for Education, where most recently he led the academies programme in the North of England.

James has been a Director of HSAT since 2015.  He is passionate about education and is also a Governor at Northumbria University and a Governor at East Durham College.

Sue Richardson

Term of office: 8 December 2016 - 7 December 2020

Sue retired from the post of CEO of The Education Village, Darlington in 2015. This multi-academy trust  comprised an all age general Special School, Primary SEMH Free School, two mainstream Primary Schools and a mainstream secondary school. Following thirty six years of working in schools, Sue had extensive experience across all phases and specialist as well as mainstream provision. She is committed to providing a level of challenge and support to Horizons Specialist Academy Trust’s academies which will drive forward the high levels of provision within the Trust that the Board seek.

Sue has continued her involvement in the development of school leaders by acting as a training deliverer for Ambition Leadership (a charitable trust which aims to address the inequalities of opportunity that exist in the UK for children born into poverty).

Sue is the Chair of the Trust Board’s Standards Committee and is also the Director representative on the Trust’s Joint Consultative Group.

Sian Wilson

Term of office: 30 April 2018 - 29 April 2022

Sian has worked in vocational education for 17 years specialising in strategy, marketing, business development and customer experience. Experience includes commercial strategy development, marketing and communications, leadership development, UK and International operations, HR and performance management. Sian works closely with government agencies, large employers, schools, colleges and training providers in relation to skills development and vocational education. Sian is currently a Director at NCFE.

Sian is a member of the Trust Board’s Standards Committee.

David Walker

Term of office: 1 September 2019 - 31 August 2023

David is a highly experienced and well respected education professional who has unrivalled experience and expertise in supporting school leaders and trustees in the development of effective governance models.

David brings over 40 years of experience in the education sector to his work and this includes extensive headship experience, a range of senior management roles in local government, a national advisory role in the DfE's BSF programme and consultancy and leadership roles in the private sector. He also worked with the MoD for two years on supporting the transition of service children. 

He has Qualified Teacher Status and is a graduate of the University of Warwick. He was an Ofsted inspector for 13 years. David was selected as the NGA’s Outstanding Clerk of the Year in 2015 and was a member of Sir David Carter's expert group that developed the DfE's Competency Framework for Governance. He also helped to develop the DfE's framework for school/academy clerks. Latterly in his career, David provided governance support to a number of Multi Academy Trusts in the north east of England.


The Board has a robust Committee structure in place - information on the Committees' membership, scheme of delegation and terms of reference can be accessed via the following link.


Please follow the link to access information on the Trust's local governance arrangements, which are undertaken by the Academy Councils.


Helen Dyson - Appointed by the Board on 02.03.15 as a Parent Director, and reappointed as Co-opted Director on 02.03.19, resigned with effect from 31.12.19 to take up a position of Co-opted Governor on the Academy Council (SEMH).  Helen had declared no business or pecuniary interests 

Horizons Specialist Academy Trust
Abbey Hill Academy
Ketton Road
TS19 8BU

Tel: 01642 677113


Horizons Specialist Academy Trust is a company limited by guarantee (Company No 08608287) and exempt charity registered in England and Wales.

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