Our Governors

Oak Tree Federation Governors

Firle Church of England Primary School and Laughton Primary School have one governing body. Throughout the school year we update our parents/carers, staff and community with the main items we are working on and invite you to ask questions or to find out more.  

All schools in England are required by law to have a Governing Board.  We are volunteers who work with the Federation’s senior leaders to help ensure that children are receiving the best education they can while they are at school.  We support the school by helping to formulate clear aims and objectives for improving our two schools and look at data and other results to see how well we have done and what could be further improved.

We meet as a whole group six times a year and we have smaller working groups to focus on specific areas.  Individual governors are also ‘ link governors’ with specific responsibility for areas of the federation improvement plan.  The details of our working groups and link governors can be found below.

The objectives set for the board this academic year are:
  1. Ensure that working groups and link governors carry out effective monitoring
  2. Ensure that governors have suitable skills and training, including knowledge about SIAMS and OFSTED
  3. Ensure long term sustainability of the Federation 
Please contact Teresa Horan for enquiries through the school office tel: 01273 858260 or email on fireloffice@oaktreefederation.co.uk.
  • Debra Vice Holt

    Chair of Governors

    I joined the governing board as a parent governor in 2018 and became the Chair of Governors in 2019. I have a son at Firle School. I am a member of the Finance and Pay Committee, Head Teacher's Performance Management and am the link governor for Equality and Diversity.

    I have a background in education working with schools and colleges across Sussex and am currently working on a project with schools, colleges and universities in Sussex to increase the number of young people from under-represented groups that progress in education. I am Director of the community interest company, Work & Learning Opportunities and undertake coaching specifically focusing on careers and education. My formal qualifications include a BA in Drama and Theatre Studies and an MA in Gender Studies.I have served as trustee with two charities and was Chair of the Brighton Women’s Centre. I am keen to represent parents and carers through my role as a governor and would be happy to speak with you to ensure your comments, views and questions are addressed.

  • Rachel West

    Executive Head Teacher

    I have been at Laughton Community Primary School for 7 years and have been working in partnership with Firle Cof E Primary School for 2 years before becoming Executive Head of The Oak Tree Federation in September 2018.

    I represent our EIP on the East Sussex Strategic Management Board as I am on the Ashdown Strategic EIP group . I am committed to inspiring a love of learning in our primary schools to give children the very best start in life.

    It is a pleasure to work with such dedicated staff, governors, parents and children, we are all very proud of our success.

  • Victoria Mandy

    Staff Governor

    I have been teaching at Laughton Community Primary School for just under three years in the year 5/6 class. I lead maths, assessment and PE across The Oak Tree Federation. During my time at Laughton, I have taken part in a maths research group and begun embedding the use of mastery teaching in maths across the two schools. I am passionate about sport and providing children with opportunities to take part in sporting activities. It is a pleasure to work in such a lovely school community.

  • Janet McInnes

    Co-opted Governor

    I hold a professional academic qualification in podiatry and a qualification in adult education.
    In my early career I worked in clinical practice for the NHS before being appointed as a lecturer at the Glasgow School of Podiatry , and later ran a small Podiatry business in Motherwell Scotland .
    When I moved to East Sussex I lived in NHS accommodation at Laughton Lodge Hospital so I feel a connection and fondness for the the area.
    I retired from the University of Brighton, School of Health Professions in 2011 as head of the division of Podiatry and deputy head of The School of Health Professions.
    During my career I was privileged to serve both as the elected Chairman of The College of Podiatry ,and subsequently as the President of the International Federation of Podiatrists. These roles gave me the opportunity to travel widely both in the UK and abroad where I observed many different ways of working in health and education. I was involved in lobbying the government on a number of issues of importance to healthcare and education.
    I am convinced that a happy and safe school environment is critical in enabling our children to develop as creative and caring young people, providing them with a love of learning to set them on the path to a useful and fulfilling future.
    I am married and have one grown-up daughter.
    I am looking forward to working with the Board of Governors,the staff and the wider school community and hope that my experience will be of value to the Oak Tree Federation.

  • Steve France-Lewis

    Having spent 25 years in the Fire Service I now work for the Home Office as a Crown Premises’ Fire Safety Inspector. The role involves auditing Government owned or occupied buildings for fire safety compliance and providing professional business support to Government Departments. I hold professional membership of the Institution of Fire Engineers, the Engineering Council and the Institution of Operational Safety and Health. I have a Level 6 Diploma in Health and Safety and Level 4 Diploma in Fire Safety. I have been the managing director of my family run first aid training company since 2004 and a first aid trainer for 30 plus years.

  • Sarah Greed


  • Elizabeth Fitzpatrick

    Co-opted Governor

    I am the Cherry Class teacher
    I have worked at Firle for over 8 years. In addition to working in such a beautiful setting, it has been a joy to teach the inquisitive and enthusiastic children here.
    Throughout my lengthy teaching career I have taught in Hackney and rural Sussex. These contrasting areas have both provided different challenges and rewards!

  • Tamsin Mitchell

    I joined the Governing Board in September 2021 as the Temporary Ex-Officio Foundation Governor. I am a link Governor for Leadership and Management and a member of the Finance and Pay Committee. I have three children, all of whom attended Firle over the past 12 years. My intention in becoming a Governor is to be able to continue to support the school, teachers and the Federation in a meaningful and useful way. I have always appreciated the distinctive opportunities offered to children who access early years and primary education within a small, rural, community-based school and am keen to help in some way to secure and develop these very special places of learning.
    I work in a creative role for an international online retailer selling wallpaper. I create content for the website, blog and magazines. It is a very different path to my pre-children career with Sussex Police, which included roles in Call Handling and later in the Identification Unit at Brighton. Our family has recently moved to Firle and our children are now at secondary schools in Lewes and Brighton.

  • Gemma Collins

    Vice Chair and Parent Governor

    I have a son and a daughter at Laughton CP School. I have a degree in Communications and Media Studies, a diploma in Marketing and am an Accredited Clerk. I work on a self employed basis for a photography company, a building firm and The British Association of Paintings Conservator-Restorers. With a communications, marketing and governance background I hope to utilise my skills and knowledge in the role of parent governor. I am the link governor for Safeguarding and for governor training.

  • Kate Fleming

    Co-opted Governor

    I joined the governing board in 2019 as the link governor for Early Years and Personal Development.
    I have been the Principal at Ripe Nursery School since 2014 and am delighted to work more closely with Laughton and Firle schools, where many of the nursery children go on to attend. Prior to becoming the Principal at Ripe, I was a primary school teacher for many years in both the state and independent sectors. I am currently a guest lecturer at Sussex University on their Masters in Early Years course. I am passionate about children’s education and wellbeing and hope to use my skills and knowledge in this area to support the Oaktree Federation.

  • Arabella Bridge

    I joined the Governing Board in September 2021. I have just retired from a professional life in teaching at secondary level and my formal qualifications include a BA in English Literature and a PGCSE from Sussex University. I have had experience in many aspects of school life, head of department being the most recent. The importance of an education for all children is vital, therefore my interest in becoming a Governor is to support and promote The Oak Tree Federation schools in their roles as nurturer and educator of the next generation in their unique rural settings.

  • Patrick Fleming

    Co-opted Governor

    On a personal level, I have been a parent and now a Grandparent of children at Laughton Primary School. My professional life was spent in Primary Education, the last 25 of which were as a headteacher. As such, I had ultimate responsibility for children’s education and social and emotional wellbeing, as well as that of the staff teams I worked with. I have a wide experience of all aspects of school management which I hope will help and support the Oaktree Federation.

  • Charlotte France-Lewis

    I have worked my whole career in child care roles from a full time nanny in Laughton, then working in a variety of Early Years settings. I am qualified Level 4 Early Years practitioner, qualified Forest School leader, Health and Safety practitioner and SENCo. I currently work at Ripe Nursery School. I am one of the designated safeguarding leads at Ripe and compliance lead for both settings, assisting the Principle to ensure that we are compliant in all statutory areas. I have had the pleasure of caring for many of the children at Ripe Nursery, that progress through to the school at Laughton and Firle.