Governing Body

From 2020 – 2021 the Governing body information can be found here.

The R.E.A.L Independent Schools governing body has taken the responsibility for the four independent schools currently part of the R.E.A.L. organisation. This is a new and challenging approach. A single Head of Schools is responsible as Head Teacher for the effective and efficient running of all four schools. Four further senior leaders share responsibility with the head for specific areas of the schools organisation.

The Purpose of Governance

(Reference: The DfE Governance Handbook 2019)

“The purpose of governance is to provide confident, strategic leadership and to create robust accountability, oversight and assurance for educational and financial performance.

All boards, no matter what type of schools or how many schools they govern, have three core functions:

  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
  • Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the performance management of staff; and
  • Overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure its money is well spent.”

The governing body meets as a full governing body termly. There are two committees – Climate and Culture and Standards and quality of education.

Our Governors

Sarah Barratt

After completing a Physics degree at London University and a Post Graduate Certificate of Education at Loughborough University, Sarah started teaching in the south of Nottinghamshire in 1985. A passion for working with young people with Special Educational Needs prompted a career move to Mansfield where Sarah worked as a senior leader in both a mainstream and a special school, as well as leading partnership work across the district and serving on many county forums and committees. Sarah also completed a Masters degree in Special and Inclusive Education, the National Professional Qualification for Headship and Professional Training in Inspection Skills as part of Ofsted inspector training. Having retired from full-time employment in 2019, Sarah joined R.E.A.L Education as an Education Improvement Consultant. Sarah is the identified Safeguarding Governor having been the safeguarding lead in her last two schools, and a DSL since 2004. Outside of work Sarah enjoys sport, mostly spectating these days. In the summer she is found enjoying the sunshine, and sometimes the cricket, at Trent Bridge, and during the winter months she moans about the misfortunes of Watford FC.

Appointed September 2020

Craig Wilkie

I am proud to be part of the Governing body. I have had a long relationship with R.E.A.L. and have worked to support the use of technology across the school sites to the benefit of staff and learners. I previously worked as a Senior School Improvement Advisor for Nottinghamshire County Council. This experience has given me skills and appreciation for helping schools to develop and achieve their potential.

As a qualified teacher, I am passionate about making a difference and making education relevant, interesting and engaging for all young people.

I am also part of the culture and climate sub-committee.


Appointed September 2020

Shan Tate

After completing a History degree and PGCE at Loughborough University, Shan started teaching in Leicestershire in 1984. She followed the departmental route and after several moves became a Curriculum Deputy Headteacher. She led a secondary school on subject development, assessment, quality assurance and completed the timetable. She completed the National Professional Qualification for Headship and played a part in numerous training events in Nottinghamshire. Shan had always had an interest in pastoral care and so for the last eight years of her career took up the post of Senior Deputy Head in charge of behaviour, safety and welfare. She line managed a large SEN department and was the DSL, she re-modelled the school’s behaviour and support systems and was the Stonewall champion and careers lead. After retiring from full time education in 2019 Shan worked as a consultant supporting two secondary schools. She enjoys reading detective novels and listening and dancing to music. Shan is a keen gardener.


Appointed September 2020

Jane Starbuck

Jane Starbuck was a SENCO and primary school Head Teacher. Until recently she was the Strategic Leader for Inclusion of a large partnership of schools, In April 2020 she joined Nottinghamshire County Council as the Education Improvement Adviser (SEND) and is the Deputy Regional Leader for East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Humber for Whole School SEND.

Jane has a particular interest in developing a strategy based approach to SEND provision in schools. She has established effective collaborations between schools in order to develop specialist provision, alternative provision, training and sharing resources. Jane is also a lecturer on the National SENCO Award for Nottingham Trent University.


Appointed September 2020

Brian Smith

Brian has had 23 years working in different fields of SEN in Nottinghamshire including Behaviour Support Service, Head of Special Individual Programmes team and Advisor to Primary Schools in the Notts Autism Team. He was Co-Founder and Managing Director of R.E.A.L. Education, a provider of independent alternative education and independent special schools until retiring in 2020.

Brian received an MBE for services to children and young people with disabilities and special educational needs in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List.

In his “”spare”” time he enjoys working with a number of charities, country walks, gardening and photography.

He is really looking forward to supporting and working with fellow governors and staff at R.E.A.L. Independent schools and helping to make a difference for the children and young people, their parents, and staff.


Appointed September 2020

Rich Smith

Co-Founder and Joint Managing Director of R.E.A.L. Education. Richard has over 15 years experience in the Alternative Provision sector. Acting Governor since 2015. Sits on the standards and quality of education committee.


Appointed September 2020

Steve Quinn

Steve is one of two Joint Managing Directors at R.E.A.L. Education, having started working at the company in 2010.
Having begun his career in education teaching for an alternative provider operating across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, Steve was promoted to Operations Manager and then Area Manager for the company until he left to join the board of directors at R.E.A.L..
Steve holds a Level 3 NEBOSH qualification in Occupational Health and Safety which he will use to provide Health and Safety support in his role as school governor; as well as offering financial oversight for the governing body.


Appointed September 2020

Phil Gawthorpe

Philip is a former head teacher of two special schools. His first a primary special school in Castleford the latter being an all aged, mixed special school in Rotherham

Philip was a Local Education Officer supporting schools with admissions, complaints, appeals and progress. Philip has acted at strategic county level to ensure excluded students were effectively and efficiently placed. He was a Senior Education Officer – responsible for strategy across the LEA for hard to place students, and the development of School Behaviour and Attendance Partnerships.
Philip is currently an education consultant.


Appointed September 2020

Nikki Purcell

Nikki has been the Head Teacher of R.E.A.L Independent School since 2013. She was appointed to Head of Schools for all four Independent Schools in September 2020. She has a wealth of experience of teaching across all four key stages, both within mainstream and Special school education, and has successfully completed the Leadership Pathways Programme with the National College for Teaching and Leadership.

Nikki’s previous experience includes working in mainstream schools, a residential special school for learners with speech and communication difficulties and a Pupil Referral Unit, where she was Acting Headteacher for several years before moving to R.E.A.L. Education in 2010. Nikki has completed her level 2 course for Autism as well as multiple other SEND courses including PACE training, ADHD and has her BSL level 1 qualification. Nikki is also the school SENCO, Designated Teacher and Designated Safeguarding Lead. (DSL)


Appointed September 2020

Linda Lyn Cook

Linda Lyn-Cook – M. Ed in S.E.N. and Inclusive Education. Cert Ed. ACE: Autism. ACE: PMLD. PQSI.Linda has had long standing experience as a teacher and senior manager in both mainstream and special schools. Her specialist expertise is in autism, Special Educational Needs, inclusion and in teacher professional development. She was employed for twelve years as a Local Authority Consultant Teacher in autism where she led a team of specialist teachers and teaching assistants. This team were very successful in improving outcomes for children and young people with autism and gained national recognition for their work. Linda is also a visiting lecturer at Nottingham Trent University and lectures on the National Award for SENCOs as well as other accredited post-graduate courses for qualified teachers in SEN and in autism.

She has worked extensively with the Autism Education Trust as a trainer and as a member of the project and materials development team. Linda has completed the Professional Qualification for School Inspection and is an experienced school Inspector. She currently works as a school improvement advisor supporting a number of schools to develop provision ensuring improved outcomes and to raise standards. She has conducted SEN audits in schools and across MATS and quality assures provision against national benchmarks. She has also worked with Local Authorities at a strategic level to develop and increase access to provision as well as establishing new provision. She also has expertise in developing the role of support staff.

Publications include:
1. The Autism Education Trust Progression Framework. Feb 2016. Farrel, S, Fidler, R. Christie, P and Lyn-Cook. L.
2. The Development of a Progression Framework for children and young people with autism.. Feb 2016. . Farrel, S, Fidler, R. Christie, P and Lyn-Cook. L.
3. Teachers Working with Teaching Assistants. Chapter 11 in Richards, G and Armstrong, F (2015) Teaching and learning in Diverse and Inclusive Classrooms. Linda Lyn-Cook and Vikki Anderson. Edited by Richards, G and Armstrong, F. Pub Routledge 2015
4. Teaching Assistants Working with Teachers. (2016) Chapter 7 in Key Issues for Teaching Assistants: Working in Diverse and Inclusive classrooms. Linda Lyn-Cook and Vikki Anderson. Edited by Richards, G and Armstrong. F. Pub Routledge.
5. Autism Education Trust: National Autism Standards 2012 (Jones, G. Baker, L. English. A. Lyn-Cook. L.)
6. Autism Education Trust: Professional Competencies 2013. (Whittemeyer, K. Jones, J. English, A. Lyn-Cook, L. Milton, D)
7. Increasing Participation: Decreasing Bureaucracy.2010 Richards, G. Patterson, A. Lyn-Cook. L In: Hallett, F. and Hallett, G. Transforming the role of the SENCO. Open University Press.


Appointed September 2020

Philip Gawthorpe – Indirect Interest (carries out work for R.E.A.L. as an independent)

Sarah Barrett – Direct Pecuniary Interest (employed by R.E.A.L. two days per week)

Rich Smith – Direct Pecuniary Interest (Director of R.E.A.L.)

Steve Quinn – Direct Pecuniary Interest (Director of R.E.A.L.)

Bryan Smith – Indirect Interest (carries out work for R.E.A.L. as an independent)

Nikki Purcell – Direct Pecuniary Interest (Head Teacher)

Linda Lyn-Cook –  Direct Pecuniary Interest (employed by R.E.A.L. two days per week)

Craig Wilkie – Indirect Interest (supplier of I.T. services to R.E.A.L.)


All other Governors have no business, pecuniary interests or governance roles in other education establishments to declare.

Governing Body Meeting Attendance

Autumn Term meetings

Thursday 15th October 2020 – Full governing body (inaugural meeting)
Thursday 19th November 2020 – Full governing body

Spring Term meetings

Thursday 4th February 2021 – Standards and Quality of Education committee.
Monday 1st March 2021 – Climate and Culture committee.
Thursday 25th March 2021 – Full governing body

Summer Term meetings

Thursday 20th May 2021 – Standards and Quality of Education committee.
Tuesday 8th June 2021 – Climate and Culture committee.
Thursday 15th July 2021 – Full governing body

Philip GawthorpeAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttended
Sarah BarrettAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttended
Rich SmithAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttended
Steve QuinnAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttended
Bryan SmithAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttended
Nikki PurcellAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttendedAttended
Linda Lyn-CookAttendedAttendedAttendedAttended
Craig WilkieAttendedAttendedAttendedAttended
Jane StarbuckAttendedAttendedAttended
Shan TaitAttendedAttendedAttendedAttended

The information here relates to Governing body information from 2019 – 2020 which we are obliged to retain on our website by law for one academic year.

R.E.A.L. Independent School