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Meet the Governors

Meet the Governors of Rickleton Primary:


Ruth Forster (Chair)

Now retired for almost 7 years, I worked for an international banking group for 37 years, ending my career after having worked in the plastic debit and credit card merchant payment sector of the group for 24 years, specifically dealing with multinational companies as a National Payments and Enquiries Manager.  My family moved to Rickleton 33 years ago having returned to the North East after periods living and working in Nottingham and York (my husband also worked in the banking industry), and I was keen to get involved with my local community. Encouraged by my employer, I stood as a parent governor at Rickleton when my eldest son was 7 years old. He is now 36! My relationship as a governor with Rickleton has continued, first as a parent governor until my youngest son left in 1998, and then as a community governor for the last 22 years.

As you may guess I am very passionate about Rickleton Primary School, and believe it is, and has always been, the best school in the area. Over the years I have been a governor, I have seen many changes to both staff in school and in the wider national education field, the latter of which may not have always been for the best, but our school has continued to work for the best for the children, with staff supported by strong groups of governors with many skills. My background in finance has proved useful especially when coming to discussing budgets and the best ways to spend the money we receive to allow our children to receive the best of education and opportunities. As I am currently chair of the governing body, a position I have held since 1996, apart from a break for a couple of years from 2011, I continue to play an active part in the relationships between school, staff, governors and our parents. I am frequently in school, talking to staff and the children, and acting as a volunteer/helper for some out of school visits and activities, which of course have been curtailed and cancelled over the last few months! I also take great interest in the after-school activities, especially those involving singing, the arts and drama, and am always happy to talk to parents to listen to suggestions and ideas that would take the school forward on its journey to teach and support both the children and their families.


Louise Farthing (Vice Chair)

I am the local councillor for Washington south which covers the villages of Rickleton, Oxclose, Ayton and part of Lambton. I have a long experience of governance having served on both secondary and primary boards, since local management of schools was introduced. I take a keen interest in the progress of vulnerable children and those with disadvantages. Through my role on the council as cabinet member for Children Education and Skills, I gather best practice from other settings and keep up to date with current legislation and practice.


Darren Heathcote

I am a parent Governor at the school and have been involved since summer 2018. I have worked in education since 2002 in a number of different roles. I have been very fortunate to work with children and young people for over 20 years now. My passion for working with children and young people stems from coaching football in the community for my local football club. I coached boys and girls of all ages and abilities for 18 years and have recently started coaching again as my son is now playing for a local team.

I have 8 years’ experience in Governance in my day job as I am support staff Governor in an FE College. When my first child joined the school I began to take an interest in the school and was immediately impressed by the sense of community around the school and the hard work and desire of the staff to ensure every child fulfilled their potential. When the opportunity to become parent Governor arose I felt I could support the Leadership Team and the staff in being the best school possible for the parents and most importantly the children.

I am a Governor to represent the views of the parents and children. I am often at the school and am happy to take feedback from parents back to the school to ensure every child is receiving the best experience possible.



Helen Couling

I am a staff Governor at Rickleton Primary school. I have worked at the school for just over 8 years now and I am currently teaching year 6 with the added responsibilities for  UKS2 leadership and science across the school. 

I wanted to be involved in the governing of the school as I was interested in how the governing body worked and I wanted to be involved. As part of the governing body I am able to work effectively with the other governors to make decisions to further develop the school and ensure its effective running. 


Alan Baker

Since my first year in teaching in 2001, I have always chosen to be a teacher representative on the board of governors for my two previous schools. This has given me a good depth of knowledge of the impact that governors have on a school and, since joining the Rickleton governors in January 2020, it is clear that our governors have a very positive impact on all aspects of the school. From a personal perspective, I have spent 19 years mainly teaching in Year 6 and also previously worked as an Anglican school inspector bringing knowledge of the impact of values based education.  My own enthusiams are sport, outdoor activity and ICT and I hope these interests can be very beneficial to the governing body and the pupils of Rickleton Primary.


Jan Price

I was delighted to be appointed as Headteacher at Rickleton Primary School in September 2019, having been Deputy Headteacher at the school since 2017.  It is a pleasure to work alongside the Governing Body, staff and parents to ensure the children at our school have the best possible education and school experiences. After graduating from Sunderland University, I began my teaching career in 2009 where I worked in two different schools in County Durham, teaching in Years 3 and 4.  I have always had a passion for ensuring learning for the children is creative and links between concepts and subjects are made. In 2012 I moved to London as I wanted to experience working in a more diverse setting.  I taught Year 6 and was appointed as Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for leading English and Key Stage 2.  Following this I was promoted to Deputy Headteacher and my role was to lead on the whole curriculum across the school. 

Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time in London, I wanted to move back home to the North and did so in 2017 when I joined the wonderful Rickleton team.  It is a pleasure to serve our school community and I look forward to the next steps in the Rickleton journey!


Michael Dryden

As a newly appointed Parent Governor with a child who entered Rickleton nursery in 2019, I have a personal and vested interest in the immediate and long-term development of the school. I am a Chartered Manager working in the project profession and have a keen eye for organisational development. Being qualified in both health and safety, and the management of equality, diversity and inclusion, I have the best interests of our children at heart both physically and emotionally. My role as Parent Governor is to play an active part in the relationship between parents and the school. I am regularly at the school and am willing to listen to views, suggestions and ideas as to how we can continue to strengthen our school and the opportunities for the pupils at all ages. I look forward to developing relationships between the school and our parents and ensuring our children receive the best education and care, preparing them for a bright future.  


Joseph Hodson

I have recently started my second term as a Parent Governor, I have daughters just starting Reception and Year 5 who love being at Rickleton and bring home to me what a great community we have at the school. My professional life has been spent working in education as a Teacher and as a business owner, so I hope I bring understanding and perspective to the board. I am fortunate to be able to regularly make the school run with my girls and I am happy to listen to views, suggestions and ideas from other parents.


Michelle Barr

As a parent Governor with a child who joined Rickleton Primary School in 2017, I have a vested interest in the development of the School.

I am local to the area and manage my own Private Daycare Nursery business in Washington. With my background, I have a deep understanding and knowledge of the Early Years’ Foundation Stage Framework, while my business knowledge enables me to help support Rickleton School with policy planning and review.

I play an active part in my position as Governor and am always willing to listen to views and suggestions on how we can support the School and make it even stronger, building on its already excellent performance.


Gillian Walker

My name is Gillian Walker and I have worked at Rickleton Primary since the year 2000.

Prior to working at Rickleton I worked for Natwest Bank for 15 years which gave me the financial background which has helped with the role I have today. I began working in the school office as administrative assistant and in 2005 gained qualifications to enable me to undertake the role as School Business Manager. It was at that point that I began to be involved with the school governing body and I have remained part of the governing body team ever since.

I have three children all of whom attended this school at various times between the years 1998 to 2017. This has given me an interesting perspective as a parent, a member of staff and as a school governor. I have worked for three head teachers and have seen many changes over the years. For me personally one of the greatest strengths for Rickleton has always been the team spirit. This has been particularly evident during 2020 and remains strong to this present day.


Kirsty Ross