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DET Board of Trustees

Role of the Trustees

The trustees should focus on 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
  • overseeing and ensuring effective financial performance.


Helen Witty - Chair of the Board of Trustees

Helen has forty-two years teaching experience in secondary schools in London and Essex. 

Throughout her career she has been determined to help all children aim high and maximise their achievements.

She has spent thirty years in senior leadership roles in schools, including responsibility for Curriculum and Timetable, Human Resources and Sixth Form.

She first became a school governor in 1988. She is Chair of Governors of two local authority schools in London, one primary and one secondary.  In addition, she has been a School Governor at Larchwood Primary School since 2001, first as a parent, latterly co-opted.

Her extensive experience of governance has involved responsibility for SEND and Safeguarding, and chairing Finance & Resources, Curriculum & Development, and School Improvement Committees.

More recently she has been a member of panels to examine parental complaints and appointed to undertake an independent investigation of Governing Board conduct.

Helen was appointed as Chair of the Board of Trustees on 1 September 2021.

To contact the Chair of the Board of Trustees, please email

David Cowen - Trustee

David is now semi-retired, having spent most of his career in the pharmaceutical and consulting industries.

He has held a number of senior positions including Director of Business Transformation for a medical multinational, Managing Director of a technology and consulting services Plc and latterly the UK Head of Business and Technology Consulting for a global professional services organisation.
David is married with two sons and a dog and is a keen motorcyclist.
He is motivated by the notion of improvement in general, particularly equal opportunity to a good education as a key enabler.

Ryan Duff - Trustee

Having worked in the financial markets and then the aviation industry before training as a teacher, Ryan brought his previous knowledge and skills, as well as experiences, into the education sector.

Ryan has worked across a number of schools, spanning four different Local Authorities and, in his first headship, took a school rated inadequate by Ofsted to outstanding status within three years. He spent a total of eight years as the Headteacher, which ensured sustainability and longevity for the school, and was then promoted to a new role within the Trust.

He has carried out work on behalf of Local Authorities, including a secondment to a school as the Executive Headteacher, a mentor for new Headteachers and a training facilitator for leaders and teachers.

Ryan holds the National Qualification for Headteachers (NPQH), has been involved in initial teacher training (ITT) and has established international educational links with schools in China and Hong Kong.

Now the Executive Headteacher of the Discovery Educational Trust, his successful track record in school improvement and effective leadership ensures robust accountability across all the schools within the Multi-Academy Trust (MAT).


Chris Hearn - Trustee

A qualified accountant since 1992 - Chartered Institute of Management Accountants - ACMA CGMA , Chris has worked in senior financial positions throughout his career, specifically as a Regional Finance Director (not a Companies house director) from 2001 to 2009, Academy FD for ten months 2009-2010, and Chief Accountant/Finance Director from 2012 to date. Responsible for Monthly and Annual Accounts, Budgets, dealing with Auditors, etc. 

A part of the Board of Directors developing strategy, monitoring performance and ensure controls in place.Chris worked as Finance Manager at the Girls' Day School Trust, the biggest educational charity in the UK, including two academies, for eighteen months. Responsible for all finance aspects, including monthly and annual accounts.

Chris held the position of Trustee Treasurer of Centre 404 for 4 years to 2013. Centre 404 is a charity for children and adults with learning difficulties. Part of Board that developed long term strategy and ensured financial controls and best use of resources.

Married to Alison since 1991, they have two children who both attended St Martin's School and have subsequently gone on to University to study Business Management and Fashion & Textiles.


Chris Holme - Trustee

Chris is a solicitor, and is a partner at the City law firm Clyde & Co LLP.  He specialises in assisting businesses with all employment and people issues.  He graduated from the University of Leeds with a first class law degree in 1999, and has worked in the law in London since 2000.

Chris has lived in Brentwood for 6 years, and has two young children who take up much of his time, as well as his loves for sport, gardening, and DIY.

He is a passionate supporter of equal treatment for all, and ensuring individual opportunity.  This forms a large part of his working life, and also feeds his support for, and passion for, education.


Bill Myhill - Trustee

Details to follow.





Lindsey Stafford-Scott - Trustee

Lindsey is an experienced professional HR, Leadership and Organisational Development expert with significant senior leadership experience, including at Executive level, across the Public Sector.  She has held a variety of senior leadership roles across the public sector, from the Emergency Services, Education, Housing, Criminal Justice to the NHS and is currently a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Lindsey has a BSc in Human Resource Management and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development with over 20 years membership.

Lindsey is passionate about equality and inclusion and is a volunteer with the Young Women’s Trust and Home Start Essex.


Karen Tucker - Trustee

After the completion of her B Ed (Honours) degree in Scotland, Karen relocated to Essex where she has now been teaching for over 25 years.  She has held teaching positions both in Southend and Canvey Island.  In 2001 Karen joined Canvey Junior School and was appointed deputy Headteacher.  On appointment, the school was in special measures but by 2010 was judged to be outstanding.  Her appointment as Headteacher commenced in 2013 and again, in 2017, Ofsted judged the school to be outstanding.  She continues to enjoy leading the continuing changes in education in partnership with her strong staff team.   Within the school, Karen leads an enhanced provision for SEMH, funded by the local authority.  This service provides a placement for pupils who can access a variety of individualised support, academic and therapeutic, to enable their return to their own school or an alternative school placement.  

Aside from school, she is married and has 3 children.  This personal experience of the educational system as a parent has contributed to her developing role as a Headteacher.

Although challenging, Karen continues to enjoy school improvement and giving the opportunity for every pupil to achieve their full potential.


Kanta Wild-Smith - Trustee

Kanta spent 10 years working in the field of  adult and children’s mental health before becoming a qualified primary teacher in 1991.  After working 3 years as a classroom teacher she worked in an advisory capacity with schools cross phase throughout Essex. Kanta was President of the National Association of Teachers of Travellers for 3 years. Since 2007 Kanta has worked in the local authority children's services as a multi- agency team manager with a group of schools and agencies in East Basildon and as a Commissioner of parenting and family support.  As a local government officer Kanta has extensive experience of the performance management of staff and managing a substantial budget at a senior level.

Kanta has been a school governor for twelve years, seven of these as Chair and recently completed the Chair of Governors Leadership Development Course. Using skills developed in her professional life Kanta has been involved in the use of pupil, group and whole school data to monitor school and individual performance.

Kanta was Chair of the Board of Trustees for the 2020/21 academic year.