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Paula Whittle

Chair of Trustees - MA, MBA, B.Ed.(Hons), PPQ, FRSA.

Her long career in education included teaching in primary and secondary schools before moving into further and higher education colleges.  She has held a range of senior posts including Principal/CEO of 2 large FE/HE colleges. During her career she has been an Ofsted inspector; Vice president of 2 chambers of commerce, a company director and Chair of a dyslexia charity. She has 30 years of experience as a school governor in a range of schools including Vice Chair and LA appointee.

 Currently she is Chair of two charities and a Trustee/Director of a third. She is also Chair of Governors at a maintained school and is a governance and leadership consultant.

Jill Pickering

Vice-Chair of Trustees

Jill has been involved in local education for more than 40 years. She has taught all primary ages and been involved in governance for more than 25 years. After retiring, Jill continued as a governor at Wyburns. She then became a Trustee for SEAMAT, taking on the role of Chair of the Education and Standards Committee. Her teaching experience brings a wealth of educational expertise and insight to the Trust.

Jill is passionate about childrens' learning, wanting it to be both creative and stimulating and often arranged French, Art, Diwali and Chinese New Year Days, to broaden the curriculum. She has mentored many students and ECTs, focussing on developing new talent for the profession.

Jill enjoys languages, theatre, swimming, travel and table tennis and can often be found making wedding cakes or flower arrangements. She also dabbles in watercolours.

Francine Bissenden

Francine spent her childhood in Manchester before studying pharmacy at The University of London. She has lived in Essex for over forty years and  was a pharmacist until retiring in 2019, shortly after joining the Board of Trustees. 

Francine attends both the Education and Standards committee and the Risk and Audit committee. Her key responsibilities are as Safeguarding Trustee across the Trust and Link Trustee for North Crescent.

Mandy Law

A law graduate, Mandy has been a Chartered Secretary for over 35 years, working in both local government and the private sector.

Initially as a Parent Governor, she has been involved in school governance since her own children were young (almost 30 years ago!). She believes passionately that primary education in a happy, safe and nurturing environment is vital in providing the foundation and skills for success in later life and should be a stepping stone for lifelong learning. For Mandy, this resonates perfectly with the Trust’s core principle of Learner First, keeping the learner at the heart of decision-making. She is proud to have been a Trustee of the MAT since its inception.

When circumstances (and grandchildren!) allow, Mandy enjoys foreign travel and culture, and sport - both watching and playing. She is a keen member of the National Trust and RHS; and is part of a local litter-picking group.

Darren Smith

Darren is an experienced senior leader within the education sector. He currently works as the Director of Data and Compliance for a Trust, with responsibility for Data, Governance and Compliance. His previous roles have included assessment, curriculum, and operations as well as leading various phase groups. Darren also leads on various science programmes for the Prince's Teaching Institute (PTI), a national charity that aims to enhance the educational experience of every child no matter their background or ability through supporting teachers to continue to develop their subject knowledge and deliver their subject in a way that both enthuses and engages pupils.

Adam Davis 

Adam is a qualified barrister and solicitor, who practices at a local solicitor’s firm which has offices in Rayleigh and Basildon and principally specialises in construction law.  Adam joined the Trust as a Trustee in 2019 and was Chair of Finance until 2022, and after a brief absence has returned as a Trustee and is currently the Chair of Finance since May 2023. As a local business owner, Adam is a firm believer in the Learner First ethos of the Trust and investing in the education of the next generation. In his spare time Adam enjoys, travelling, playing and watching Rugby and spending time with his family.

Stuart King

After training originally as an economist, Stuart's executive career was primarily spent in financial services where he worked extensively in the areas of governance, risk and compliance. He was as a regualtor at the Bank of England and FSA and subsequently worked as a consultant and as Aviva's Group Compliance Director. He is currently a Non Executive at Pension Corporation and is a Commissioner of the Guernsey Finanical Services Commission. 

Stuart has a particular concern for mental health issues and is the treasurer of two charities working in the mental health sector. 

His spare time is spent at rugby matches and gigs.