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Willowdown Primary Academy

Happy Children, Successful Learners, Confident Individuals

Meet the Governors

Welcome to our Governors’ section. 


At Willowdown, we have a supportive governing body, who strive to work hand in hand with the school to assist in raising standards. They play a key role in developing and supporting the school. In order to do this effectively, they meet regularly to discuss every aspect of school development and improvement; with them they bring a wide range of skills and experience! These are the people who are currently on our board of governors. 


Chair of Governors: Mr Simon Peck

Clerk to Governors: Mrs Helen Roper


Lindsay Gabriel - Executive Principal



Oliver Priestley - Head teacher of Willowdown Primary Academy

Having spent three years studying politics at Swansea University, I decided to follow my parent’s footsteps in becoming a teacher.  I qualified in my home town of Cambridge in 2002 and spent the next four years in a village junior school.  After this I relocated to the South West and taught in Devon for two years before becoming the Literacy co-ordinator at Wellesley Park in Wellington.  In January 2013 I was appointed Deputy Headteacher where I worked successfully alongside the Executive Principle Lindsay Gabriel and Assistant Head Anita Curtis.  In this period, I developed as a leader which inspired me to take on the role of Head of School at Willowdown Primary.  I am thrilled to be working with such enthusiastic and talented children, staff and governors, alongside the supportive community.

Outside of school I live with my family in Taunton and enjoy every opportunity to explore the outdoors, travel and experience different physical pursuits.  In recent years I have completed a number of half marathons and triathlons.  My love of sport has left me following Southend United and Tiverton Town, without a great deal of success!  There has been more joy on the terraces of Exeter Chiefs and following England at Twickenham, with rugby close to my heart.  


Anita Curtis - Assistant Headteacher/Head of KS1 and EYFS

Anita Curtis. Assistant Head/ Early Years Lead and Associate Governor at Willowdown School since June 2016. Anita has been teaching for 18 years with the last 14 years as an active member of the senior management team at another of our Academy Family schools, which drove the school from Special Measures to a good with elements of outstanding. Early Years is both her specialism and passion where she has taught and managed across the Early Years to include Nursery, Reception and Key Stage One.  Anita also has strong links as a Professional Tutor and Guest Lecturer for Somerset SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training), she is Co-founder of Ace Early Years, a support network website and social media platform for Early Years professionals. Anita is married to Richard and Mum to two teenage children.

Her hobbies include travel, dog walking and amateur photography.


Pam Rodger - Business Manager

Pam has held roles in accounting and finance for the majority of her career, taking up her first job in education as accounts manager in a large Devon secondary school in 2001.  Working for the local authority Finance team on secondment, she visited many local schools providing financial and administrative support to school administrators.   In 2010, whilst studying for her school business management qualification, she widened her remit taking up a post in a large primary school, responsible for the business functions of finance, premises, health and safety and HR.  She later played a significant part setting up a multi academy trust and converting 2 schools to academy status.  Joining Willowdown before it had opened to pupils, Pam was heavily involved with the team setting up the school both in terms of resourcing, recruitment and systems. She enjoys travel, particularly to France, walking her dog and spending time with her husband, 3 grown up children and their partners.



Andrew Venn - Assistant Headteacher/ Head of KS2- Curriculum and Learning

My name is Andrew Venn and I am currently the Assistant Head of Curriculum and Learning at Willowdown Primary Academy, although I have been involved with the Senior Leadership of the Academy, since it’s inception in September 2014.  
I have worked in Education for 27 years.  Twenty of these were within US International Education, where I was Associate Dean of an American University Study Abroad campus for 10 years. I left in 2008, gaining my PGCE in 2009 and began Primary teaching in 2009. From this time I have taught across the primary age range and currently lead the year 6 team.  Regardless of year or the school, I aim to teach across the curriculum, continuously inter-weaving all the subjects together, so the children find themselves ‘doing’ Maths and English in a variety of setting with unconscious competence.
In addition to teaching, I am also the designated Safeguard Lead for the school, where I work closely with parents, carers, children and outside agencies to ensure that we are all work constructively together, in order to achieve the very best outcomes for our children. I believe passionately that my role throughout the Academy, is to allow children to be better than they thought they could be.
I continue to research the latest developments within education and leadership in order to support my own professional development and was in 2016, awarded the National Professional Qualification in Seniour Leadership and am a guest lecturer at SCIT and Bath Spa University.

I am married to Clair who is a Teaching Assistant in North Somerset and we have two children, Emily 16 and Joseph 13. I enjoy photography, writing, and have recently taken up cycling after joseph volunteered me for the 4-day Bristol to Paris cycle challenge in order to raise money for a 3D heart scanner for Bristol Children’s Hospital.


Annabelle Lillycrop

I live locally with my partner Clive and his two teenage sons, having completed my secondary education in Bridgwater.

I work for the Environment Agency as a Community and Stakeholder Engagement Adviser covering England and based in the EA’s Bridgwater office.

In my spare time I love to run on the Quantock hills and I've enjoyed working as a bereavement support worker for the charity Cruse for the last 8 years.



Leigh Redman

Leigh Redman is a life-long Bridgwater resident, now living in Hamp with his wife Tracey. After attending Sydenham School, Leigh worked as a Retained Fire-fighter for over twenty years as well as holding down a fulltime career as a Contracts manager. Following a serious accident he was forced to retire from the fire service and became a local councillor helping and supporting the Bridgwater community.
Leigh has served as a County Councillor for 4 years & chairs the Children and families scrutiny committee, he sits on the corporate parents board and is a volunteer for the in care council, he is a passionate advocate for young people.
He says ‘volunteering as a governor for such a wonderful school is a great opportunity and one I am loving, Willowdown is full of such wonderful children and staff’.



Mary Hellier

I have always lived in Bridgwater and I am currently living on the local estate next to Willowdown Primary Academy. I have two boys, one attends Willowdown and my other son has just started his first year at Bridgwater College. I became a governor when Willowdown first opened in 2014 and has been very pleased to see the development of the school over the years. I have been working for the County Council in Taunton for the past 3 years and in my spare time I enjoy baking and making different crafts.



Ross Edwards

Ross is a family man, having two young children both born and bred in Somerset. An environmental scientist by trade, the early years of his career were spent in London working for Thames Water. Ross escaped to the country and has worked on the Hinkley Point C Project since the beginning. Outside of work, when not exploring the wonders of the Quantocks with his family, he’ll be on his bike or if the wind is blowing might be spotted on the coast kite-surfing.











Simon Peck

I relocated to the South West 14 years ago with my wife and daughter, my son was born about a year later in Somerset. Both attended their local village primary school which is where I first volunteered as a governor and became hooked. I’ve been a school governor for 13 years and have been accredited by the National College. I have recently supported other school governing bodies and carried out reviews on effectiveness.  Following a long commercial career I changed direction about 7 years ago after completing a long training to qualify as a counsellor; I currently work for a not for profit counselling charity in Taunton. I enjoy the theatre and arts in general, music is important too, having a large and varied collection. Two items from my bucket list include, a wish to visit India again and to paraglide (accompanied) off of the top of the Alps…maybe one day!


John Fowler

Husband and father of 4 (three girls and one stepson). Owner of B2C Training, 

Core Partner of Smart Coaching and Training and a business consultant, trainer and apprenticeship assessor in areas such as management, team leading, sales, customer Service, business administration, warehouse operations and manufacturing.   I also deliver governor training to Somerset governors on subjects that include ‘Being a New Governor’ and Ofsted.  I have now been a governor for 14 years. My work history has seen me as a publican and hotelier; director of an electronics company and a manager of garages and retail outlets. Hobbies and Interests include diving; my wife and I are both Master Scuba Divers (best dive was diving with two rough tailed rays approximately 2.5 meters wide in Tenerife a couple of years ago;) skiing, most sports (I still manage to play 5-aside football,) reading and walking.



Eltjo de Vries

House husband and father of three: we relocated to Bridgwater’s

Kings Down estate from the Isle of Wight in the Summer of 2015, and have settled very quickly. I joined the Governing Body of Willowdown Primary Academy in October 2016 having our youngest daughter start Reception, and our son in the school’s first Year 6 class.I have and continue to work primarily in the theatre industry as a professional actor, director and workshop tutor for over 25 years, and have experience of working with children and adults with SEND and from other cultural backgrounds. 

My other interests include: exploring our natural surrounds; different cultures and societies; politics, philosophies and current affairs; art; music (an ever eclectic, expanding collection emulating the great John Peel); watching sport; cooking and attending music festivals with the Tribe (my family). 


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The Chair or Clerk may be contacted via the academy, or via The Collaborative Academies Trust,

Mill House, Kings Acre, Coggeshall, Essex CO6 1NY


Please click here for further information about our local governing body structure


Please click here for information on The Collaborative Academies Trust Board of Directors



Governor Name Type of Governor Appointment made by Appointment Date Date stepped down Business and pecuniary interests 2015/2016 % attendance whilst in office 2016/2017 % attendance whilst in office
Andrew Venn Staff Staff Election 01-Sep-14   Employee of Willowdown Primary 88%  
Annabelle Lillycrop Coopted Governing Body 06-Sep-14   None 100%  
John Fowler Coopted Governing Body 10-Sep-14   None 100%  
Leigh Redman Coopted Governing Body 02-Sep-14   None 75%  
Lindsay Gabriel Associate Trust 17-May-16   Executive Principal of Wellesley Park Primary, Willowdown Academy and Woolavington Primary 33%  
Mary Hellier Parent Parent Election 03-Sep-14   None 75%  
Olly Priestley Associate Governing Body 17-May-16   Employee of Willowdown Primary 100%  
Pam Rodger Staff Staff Election 08-Sep-14   Employee of Willowdown Primary 100%  
Ross Edwards Coopted Governing Body 07-Sep-14   None 88%  
Simon Peck Trust Trust 09-Sep-14   Simon Peck Governance Consultancy
Chairman of Collaborative Academies Trust
Vice Chair of Governors at Countess Gytha Primary School
Anita Curtis Associate Trust 01-Sep-16   Employee of Willowdown Prinary 100%  
Eltjo Devries Co-opted Governing Body 18-Oct-16   None N/A  
Nick Riddiough Principal Trust 05-Sep-14 04-Feb-16 Acting Executive Principal of Woolavington Primary
Principal of Willowdown Primary
Director of Collaborative Academies Trust
75% N/A