The Pioneer Federation About the Governors

Mandy Watson the Chair of Governors can be contacted at

Mandy Watson

It has been very exciting being a governor at our three amazing schools this year and I feel very privileged to be the Chair of Governors of the Pioneer Federation. I have spent more years than I would like to admit in schools, many of them as a teacher and Headteacher in Sussex. I have five grandchildren between 10 and 27 and am going to be a great-grandmother in March! As you can imagine I have a special interest in education across all phases and I am totally committed to helping all children succeed in school and in the future. Since 2016 I have worked as Senior Schools Improvement Adviser for the Diocese of Chichester and was previously in a similar role in the London Borough of Greenwich for 13 years. I have been a school governor since 2006 and am a National Leader of Governance.

I look forward to a very successful and enjoyable year for our children and staff and hope I will have many opportunities to meet parents and friends at all of our schools.

Phil Hodgins

I grew up in west London, close to Heathrow Airport. Following spells in the north of England, Bristol and Lincoln I moved to Sussex in 1990. I am married with two grown-up sons and have been an Ordained Minister in the Church of England since 1985.

A large part of my working life has been spent in secular employment as a Human Resources professional with my last job being Head of HR at Age Concern England. Since then, I have been the (full-time) Vicar of Chiddingly and East Hoathly for the past 14 years. I have been involved throughout that time, in one way or another, with both the schools here. I am very much looking forward to getting to know St Mary’s better, now they are part of the Pioneer Federation.

My particular focus as a governor is the ‘SMSC’ – spiritual, moral, social and cultural – development aspects of school life, also the additional obligations for East Hoathly and St Mary’s as Church Schools.

Juliet Stirrat

I moved to Sussex from London 25 years ago with my young family, leaving behind a career in the art world and returning to study to embark on a second career in primary education. During this time I have also chaired a PTA, been a governor at two other schools and am currently a trustee of two local charities. I have been volunteering regularly at St Mary’s for five years and been a governor there for the last four years, as well as teaching for one term as a temporary last-minute replacement! I am looking forward to getting to know the other Pioneer schools and will be particularly focussing on SEND.

Alan Brundle

For those of you that don’t know me I live in Hailsham. I am married (to a teacher) and have one son. I am a Civil Servant and work in London. After the joys of commuting, I relax by playing, umpiring and coaching hockey for Hailsham. I also have an allotment, though I am struggling to find enough day light hours to do it justice. I also seem to get roped into a lot of running. I think if someone highlights a good cause, I appear to be easily persuaded! I have now completed the London Marathon and the Brighton and Eastbourne half marathons over the last 12 years. I am supposed to be in training for the London Marathon next April as well! Not to mention the Mince pie run in December that Mr Procter has successfully convinced me to run for the last three years.

I started as a Governor of Chiddingly School nearly 18 years ago when my son was a pupil. (He is now nearly 24!) During that time, I have also served as Chair for approximately 11 years and am now one of the vice-chairs. It is a very rewarding role while at the same time being sometimes quite challenging. As Governor, you are responsible for influencing the strategic direction of the schools, but have to avoid the temptation to get involved in the day to day management of the school. We are responsible with the senior leadership team for the schools/federation’s performance and direction, but have to get the balance right so that we allow the senior leadership team to manage the schools/federation on a day to day basis without interfering. We have to learn to fulfil the “critical friend” role.

I have seen many ups and downs over the 18 years but the most exciting was the move to the Federation and more recently the expansion with St Marys joining. I have been amazed by the progress each school has made over the period it has been in the partnership or federation. The results and the Ofsted judgements have been so good to see. The benefits of schools and professionals working together cannot be underestimated and I think the evidence speaks for itself. There is, of course, still work to be done but I think the foundations have been laid and we have a good team of professionals in the Pioneer Federation who will drive us all forward for the most important aspect, which is of course the children.

Why have I stayed for 18 years? Well, there is no substitute for seeing the excitement on the children’s faces and hearing their chatter as they grow and develop. They are always so willing to share what is important to them. Seeing the schools move forward and develop is so rewarding. I often get into school either on formal visits, to interview for staff or just to look round the classrooms and chat with the staff and children. It just puts the day job into perspective! The Governors normally have their badges on when they are in school so if you see any of us, by all means stop us, introduce yourselves and have a chat.

Heidi Twort

I grew up in Wales and moved to Sussex after studying maths in University. I work as a pensions analyst in Crawley and my hobbies are yoga, pilates, swimming, cycling and the occasional triathlon. I have 2 very happy children in St Mary’s school and always felt that, given the opportunity, I would like to be more involved in the future of the school.

I became a parent governor at St Mary’s 2 years  ago focusing on Safeguarding. I have enjoyed the challenges and rewards that the position brings. I am really looking forward to working with our enthusiastic new Pioneer Federation Governing Body to be the best we can be for all the children and the 3 schools.

Katy Norris

My name is Katy Norris and I am the teacher governor for the Pioneer Federation. I have been a teacher for 6 years teaching year 1 and 2. I have been at St Mary the Virgin for 2 years. Previously to that I taught at Cross-In-Hand school. I very much enjoy teaching KS1 as it is a time of great development both academically and socially for all children. Becoming part of the Pioneer federation has enabled all staff to learn from each other and benefit from shared
ideas. When I am not at school, I love going to the theatre, reading books and taking our chocolate Labrador for walks on the Ashdown Forest.

Chris Forsey

We moved to Hailsham 7 years ago, having lived in Guildford for over 10 years after meeting my wife at Uni. I originally studied civil engineering, and construction but unfortunately illness halted that idea, and I soon became involved in IT. I now have my own business delivering IT solutions and supporting other small businesses across Sussex and Surrey. I do however, still enjoy putting my practical learning and skills to use when I can, and with our 2 daughters at Chiddingly, I have helped complete a number of projects for the school and become more involved in and seen the issues and challenges faced by the school. I enjoy the outdoors the most, from walking in the woods, to down on the beach, anything really to do with the countryside and fresh air.

This is my first role as a governor and I am looking forward to working with the Pioneer staff across the 3 schools in what is going to be a very challenging role, and just as importantly, being able to provide input and feedback on behalf of the parents in the learning, teaching, and in the vision and ethos delivered across the federation schools to our children. As a governor I have been asked to focus on Health and Safety as well as ICT across the 3 schools and will be working hard to help maintain the high standards already achieved and look at how technology is used across them and where this can be improved both in and out of the classroom.