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:
Clerk to Governors: Mrs Helen Roper
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.
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.
I lived in Bridgwater from the age of 11, went to school there and worked at the Environment Agency's Wylds Road office for many years. I now live a stones-throw from the Quantocks where you'll find me running with my partner Clive (on his bike) most weekends! Alongside the outdoors, my other passion is psychotherapy, having worked as a voluntary bereavement counsellor for the charity Cruse for nearly 10 years. My job is based near Oxford where I’m the Community Engagement Manager with Radioactive Waste Management.
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
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.
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).
Denise Rogers – Staff Governor
I have recently joined Wiilowdown Primary Academy as the Finance & HR Administrator having previously, worked for Birchfield Primary School in Yeovil as the Finance Manager. I started my career at Barclays Bank, Bridgwater in 1987 and moved around Somerset as a Branch Manager, until moving to Bristol in 2005 as a Relationship Support Manager in Corporate Banking. In 2011 I took voluntary redundancy and then made the decision to study School Business Management at the National College gaining my Diploma in Business Management in 2013. I live in a small village on the outskirts of Bridgwater and play an active part in the local community organising village events, fitness classes and fund raising. In my spare time, I enjoy running and participate in the Burnham on Sea Parkrun most weeks. I have previously been a Community Governor at Blackbrook Primary School in Taunton and very much enjoyed being involved with school life. I am looking forward to this new role, as Staff Governor and working with the rest of the Governing Board.
My name is Gill Fry, I’m an Internal Trainer & Nuclear Culture Lead/ Trainer. I have been residing in Somerset for nearly 12 months. Home is in South Wales and I try to get back home once a month. My hobbies include, exercising, travelling, learning to bake and singing. I support an orphanage in Gambia and also sponsor the education of a young adult there. I go to Gambia once or twice a year to see their progression and partake in some voluntary work.
I would like to be a Community Governor, as I would like to make a difference locally whilst working in the area. If I can support the next generation with their educational requirements and help a local school succeed then that would be a hugely satisfying and worthwhile opportunity. I have a vested interest in learning and development and I have worked in this sector for twenty years. I have been in construction for 4 years. 3 years in Rail Infrastructure and 1 year on a Nuclear New Build Project.
Education in all its aspects has been central to my working life. I originally trained as a Chemistry teacher and in too many years than I care to mention, I have taught in various parts of the UK as well as abroad. I have also worked as an in-service teacher trainer, an education project manager, an adviser and the executive officer for the Somerset Governors’ Group. Becoming clerk to the governors seemed a natural progression and I have to confess provides me with an interesting view from “the other side” as I also a governor in a junior school in another part of the county.
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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 information on The Collaborative Academies Trust Board of Directors