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 firleoffice@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 Firle Cof E Primary School since 2016 when I became Executive Head. I worked strategically with staff, parents and governors to formally partner Laughton CP and Firle CEP as the Oak Tree Federation in September 2018.
    I have been at Laughton Community Primary School for 13 years and became Executive Head of The Oak Tree Federation in September 2018.
    It is a pleasure to work with such dedicated staff, governors, parents and children, we are all very proud of our success.
    I help represent our local Ringmer Alliance 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.

  • 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.

  • Mrs Gemma Collins

    Clerk to the Governing Body

    I became Clerk to Governors for The Oak Tree Federation in October 2022. I was a clerk at another local primary school from 2016 to 2018. In 2018 my two children joined Laughton Community Primary School and I took on the role of Parent Governor for the Federation. Having served four years as a governor I stood down and took on the role of Clerk. I completed my clerk accreditation in 2017. I have a background in marketing and finance, as well as over 6 years governance experience.

  • Mrs Natalie Bayliss

    Local Authority Governor


    I joined the governing board as a Local Authority governor in 2023. I am the Safeguarding link governor at the Federation. I believe very strongly in the importance of education in helping young people become the very best version of themselves.

    I am a mum to two boys and work in promoting engagement with greener and more sustainable ways of living. I have a specific passion for working in the education sector and promoting pupil-led engagement in achieving net zero, as a result I have worked with a large and diverse range of schools throughout the UK. Prior to working in sustainability, I worked in banking and founded an ethical food business. I look forward to supporting the community surrounding The Oak Tree Federation.

  • Miss Irma Partono

    Staff Governor

    I joined the Oak Tree Federation as a PGCE student in 2018. After qualifying in 2019, I was appointed as the Year 3 and 4 teacher and have had the pleasure of staying in my role since then. I am subject lead for the humanities as well as equality and diversity. I take pride in working amongst a supportive and likeminded team. I joined the governing board in September 2022 and look forward to representing my colleagues as staff governor across The Oak Tree Federation.

    I grew up in Lewes and still live locally to the area. I have a BA in Fine Art which I achieved at Brighton University. I am passionate about providing children with a creative and stimulating curriculum which ‘Inspires Learning for Life’

  • Melanie Fowler

    Parent Governor

    I have recently joined the board of Governors (July 2023) as the link Governor for SEND.

    I have a BA Hons in Textile Design and worked for over twenty years as a Product Developer. I have also worked in the voluntary sector for the Samaritans and Brighton Council, on a program for looked after children.

    In 2015, I took a career break and completed my PGCE (16yrs+). I am currently a TA in a local secondary school, working closely with the SENCO and our SEN children.

    I have a child at Laughton school and as a parent I would like to see children gaining as much as possible from their individual school experience.

    As a Governor I hope to be the SEND champion for both primary schools - for the children and families. I believe strongly in inclusivity and a holistic approach to education.

  • Mrs Vicki Brown

    Co-opted Governor

  • Mrs Lucy Gribble

    Parent Governor

    I joined as a Parent Governor at The Oak Tree Federation in 2022 when my son started at Firle School. My older children also attended Firle, as did my husband, and our family have lived and farmed in Firle for 4 generations. I joined the Governing Board as I believe our small, rural schools have a hugely important role to play in maintaining strong links with the community, and forge a knowledge of the village and wider surroundings in the children.

    Prior to starting my family I worked in Team Management and in Marketing, and I currently assist my husband on our mixed farm and run a holiday let.

  • Alison Peeters

    Co-opted Governor

    I joined the Oak Tree Federation Governing board towards the end of the school year in 2023, as a co-opted governor. I have one son, at Laughton School, and I am excited to support the two schools as a governor.

    I have a background in working with looked after children of all ages, in a foster care setting, which I did for over fifteen years. I am now in business with my husband and family, mostly doing up houses…something completely different! I felt like I needed something a bit different too though so also became a magistrate in 2015 and really enjoy my days in court.

    I am hoping that my experiences, past and present, will help me to be a good governor for the Oak Tree Federation.

  • Mrs Kirsty Blackford

    Parent Governor

    I have recently joined the governing board as Parent Governor for Laughton School and I am keen to do all I can to support the Oak Tree Federation.

    My background is in Family Law which I practised in Uckfield for a few years before moving into my husband's coal business to take care of the paperwork and bookkeeping. My time as a lawyer was spent walking a line between providing legal advice and emotional support to my clients. I am passionate about the importance of communication in all areas of life and hope that I am able to properly represent the parents' voice in my new role.

  • Tamsin Mitchell

    Foundation Governor

    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.

  • 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.