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Our Trust Board

The governance elements of the Acer Trust comprise of volunteers and ex-officio members, whose primary role is oversight, including strategy formation and acting as keepers of strategy and vision. These members offer valuable perspectives and insights from a variety of backgrounds.

Acer Trust Members


Date of Appointment

Date of Resignation

Mr Ziad Melhem



Dr Ruth Taylor



Ms Julie Poulson



Mr Michael Waine 01.01.2024 N/A
Mr Charles Dallimore 01.01.2024 N/A

Acer Trustees



Appointed by

Date of Appointment

Term of office ends

Ms Jill Cottee

Chair of Trustees




Ms Judith Bennett

Vice Chair of Trustees




Mr David Marcou





Mr Stan Terry





Mr Paul Gravett





Ms Sally Atkinson





Ms Sandra Ward





Mrs Carole Thomson Trustee Members 01.01.2024 31.12.2027
Mr Brian Brown Trustee Members 01.01.2024 31.12.2027
Mrs Janet James Trustee Members 01.01.2024 31.12.2027
Mr Stuart Redding Trustee Members 01.01.2024 31.12.2027
Mr Rafael Garcia-Krailing Trustee Members 01.01.2024 31.12.2027

Finance, Risk and Audit Committee

Chair - Paul Gravett

Members - Jill Cottee, Sandra Ward, Carole Thomson and Janet James


Meet the Trustees

Jill Cottee - Chair of Trustees

Jill cotteeJill is an experienced business consultant operating at a senior level in marketing and strategy development. She is also a qualified Executive Coach working with a range of senior managers in both the public and private sector.

We moved to this area in 1997 and our two children attended Matthew Arnold School for their secondary education. I believe strongly in the role of education for the success of individuals, the development of the community and the growth of the economy.

As a Trustee I strive to ensure appropriate oversight and governance of the Academy so that it is supporting all its schools to be the best they can be to ensure schools support development at all levels and ranges of ability.

Although originally a graduate engineer, my professional life moved rapidly into business management. As well as developing my own consultancy business working with a wide range of organisations across the financial, construction, retail and public sectors, I have taken senior roles such as Strategic Planning Director of a large regional communications agency and taught at both Cranfield School of Management and Warwick University.

Judith Bennett OBE - Vice Chair of Trustees

Photo Judith BennettJudith has a wealth of experience as a strategic leader and governor; she is a founder member and Secretary of the Oxfordshire Governors’ Association and co-founded and chaired the National Governors’ Association. Over the last twenty years she has been a trustee of three very different local charitable trusts and two national bodies concerned with education.

Becoming a school governor coincided with leaving my teaching career, and gave me the opportunity to remain involved in education, which had been my professional life for 25 years. It presented me with the means to continue to make a contribution, and indeed opened up an unexpected new career. It led to working for governors locally and nationally in training and representational roles through the NGA and as a governor trainer. Since 2016, as a Local Leader for Governance, I have supported governing bodies, particularly in schools causing concern. In parallel with my governance work, I have served as a trustee, and Board Chair, in several charities, including two national education-related organisations. In 2015 I was appointed OBE for Services to Education. My professional activities have provided experience and some expertise in various directions, including education and governance. I have also developed an ability in negotiating with others; people and interpersonal skills; and organisational and management skills.

Being a Trustee is one of the most challenging but also most worthwhile roles any volunteer can perform. It is an immense privilege to be a part of the Acer Trust and to support, defend and advocate good governance and a strong education system, and to play a part in the education of future generations.

David Marcou - Trustee

DavidIn addition to his work as performer and teacher, David specialised in strategic planning, establishing strong links with central and local government, arts funding bodies and higher education institutions. 

A governor at Icknield Community College since October 2011, I am a passionate believer in children and young people going to school in the community in which they live. I was born and educated in London and studied the violin at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama before joining the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1970. I was chairman of the orchestra’s governing body for eleven years during which time I created and developed The London Philharmonic’s education department and outreach programme.

From 1996-2007 I was Principal (CEO) of the Berkshire Young Musicians Trust (Berkshire Maestros), one of the leading independent music services in the UK. With an annual budget of c. £5.5m, I managed a team of two hundred plus teachers providing weekly instrumental lessons and ensemble opportunities for over 8,500 pupils.

David holds a number of external appointments, including Chair of OYAP Trust (Oxfordshire Youth Arts Partnership), trustee of the Watlington Education Fund and governor at Watlington Primary School.

Stan Terry - Trustee

StanStan has been involved with education in the UK since 1970, as a teacher in secondary schools, inner city and rural/ suburban, in a range of roles including Head of Department, Head of Sixth Form. Pastoral Head, Deputy Headteacher  and Acting Head Teacher. 

Stan worked for the last 14 years of his educational career in leadership development as a lead facilitator for the National College of School Leadership for a range of their leadership development programmes.

Stan has been School Governor since 1985, a parent Governor Representative on OCC Education Committee. He has been a member of the Oxfordshire Governors Association executive for 14 years.

Stan has researched and written on environmental sustainability in education for the National College and was a trustee and Treasurer of the Environmental charity (SE-ED). He also authored the book “The Green School” and contributed extensively to the DFE on sustainability.

Stan believes passionately in maintaining an effective and well-funded education system He recognises that significant developments in education over recent years require new approaches to be adopted by schools. He brings skills linked to educational theory, curriculum analysis, financial management and educational research. He believes that those skills and competencies are central to the role of Trustee in an Academy and that  are needed in an increasingly strengthened but independent  Governance framework.

Stan sees the opportunities presented by the Acer Trust for the students of the schools involved as crucial to their success and looks forward to helping achieve continued success for the schools and students.

Paul Gravett - Trustee

Paul Gravett (2)Paul is a Partner at Deloitte who leads a team of 60 people who advise companies how to best mobilise their employees around the world. He is a chartered tax adviser. 

I first became involved in education as a parent governor at Stadhampton Primary School where I served in this role from 2011 until 2021.  I have been a trustee of the Acer Trust since November 2018 and am Chair of the Finance, Risk and Audit Committee.

Being a Trustee has allowed me to utilise my skills in strategic planning, development and financial controls in a different context, which I find very fulfilling.

Sally Atkinson - Trustee

Sally A PhotoSally has educational teaching experience as a faculty member of Cranfield School of Management for 14 years, where she specialised in executive development, particularly of high potential managers. After a period in executive development consultancy and executive coaching, she now leads the global learning organisation within Tetra Pak, one of  the world’s largest family owned businesses.

Sally’s early career was in retail banking and corporate finance, where she qualified as a Chartered Member of the Institute of Bankers. After completing an MBA at Cranfield School of Management and receiving a Director’s prize for academic achievement, she was invited to join the faculty, teaching Strategic Management, Organisational Behaviour and latterly, Executive Development. On leaving Cranfield, Sally ran a successful executive development consultancy business, with clients including major banks, hospitality, media, construction and the UK government. Sally took up a corporate role in 2013 since which she has overseen the transformation of learning as a strategic partner to the business including implementation of a digital learning ecosystem and evolution of the organisation’s learning culture.

Sandra Ward - Trustee

Sandra wardSandra Ward is Head of Financial Planning and Analysis at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. She leads a team of people who are responsible for preparing and delivering forecasts and plans to the University covering all aspects of Business School activity. Prior to her current role she was employed by PerkinElmer, a global US commercial organisation that designs and supplies complex scientific equipment, where she held various roles in finance, particularly in forecasting and strategic planning. She was Finance Business Partner to the EMEAI Sales and Service organisation for several years, and also a trustee of the company pension scheme.

I understand the ‘eyes on hands off’ nature of academy governance and the need to ensure that strategic priorities are appropriate, well-defined, and regularly evaluated. As a finance professional, monitoring performance and providing feedback on the financial position and outlook is a regular part of my role. I find governance fulfilling and am a passionate advocate of education as a route to aspirational personal and community development.

Carole Thomson - Trustee

Carole Thomson

Carole is a long-standing and committed Governor and Trustee and has  represented Governors on many different working groups and committees including the County Council’s Education Committee, Schools Forum and F40.

My interest and involvement in education, and particularly in education funding, developed from my role as a parent governor in the 1980’s. When my village primary school was included in the pilot year for devolved budgets (introduced by the 1988 Education Reform Act) I was asked to help. Initially I worked on the school budget as a volunteer, which led to my part-time employment working on the budget for more than twenty years. The role expanded as additional responsibilities for premises etc. were also delegated.

During the 1990’s school funding was in a parlous state and I became involved with lobbying the County Council about their proposals to cut funding for small schools (no ring-fenced money for schools in those days!) and in 1995 I was one of the founding members of the Oxfordshire Governors’ Association largely through my concern for my schools’ budgets - by then I was a secondary school parent governor. I remained a governor of The Cooper School long after my sons left, becoming a Governor of the federation formed by amalgamating the Governing bodies of The Cooper School and Glory Farm Primary School. In 2014 the two schools were reconstituted as an Academy Trust and I became a Trustee, also continuing for some time as a Governor. Meanwhile after some years as an Associate member in 2014 I once again became a governor of my village school.

Through my involvement with OGA I have represented Governors on many different working groups and committees including the County Council’s Education Committee and I represented the local association at national Governor events.

When Schools Forums were introduced in 2003 it was almost inevitable that I would stand for election and I have remained on Schools Forum since then. I was Chair of Oxfordshire Schools Forum from October 2013 to January 2024.

In March 2018 I joined the Executive Committee of the F40 which has campaigned for Fairer Funding for Education for more than twenty years, an issue I have been challenging locally for even longer!

Rafael Garcia-Krailing - Trustee

Rafael Garcia Krailing

Raf specialises in change management and business development and has experience working on large capital projects worth over £300 million.

Raf has been fortunate enough to be involved in public, private, and charity sector initiatives, giving him a unique perspective on governance and strategic planning. Within these experiences, he has successfully managed turnarounds and won national awards.

In recent years, Raf has been working on organisational transformation projects within the healthcare, education, and tech industries with a particular focus on the impacts of a merger on organisational culture and revenue generation.

Raf acquired and rapidly scaled the UK Education Guide, which became the UK's most recognisable platform among international students and families looking to study in the UK. This led to his nomination for UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2022. Due to this exponential growth, Raf's company, UK Education Guide, was acquired by MTM Consulting in early 2023.

Raf's initial plan was to take a few years off and spend time with his family in the Canary Islands. However, an investment he had recently made in a small tech startup exponentially scaled, and an opportunity arose whereby he could join the team as employee number 15 and help them scale at a rapid pace. As such, Raf is now running the global operations at AutogenAI, the UK's fastest-growing AI company with over 100 employees worldwide.

Besides having practical experience, Raf is also a qualified Prince2 Project Management Practitioner and holds an MSc in International Business from Warwick Business School and a BA in Sports Marketing & Management.

Raf brings a wide range of practitioner and academic techniques to the table, along with immense enthusiasm to drive successful change. 

Brian Brown - Trustee

Brian Brown

Brian has been involved with school governance since the mid-1990s, when for six years he was an LEA governor of a primary school in Toxteth in Liverpool, serving the last four years as Chair of Governors.  While living in Liverpool he was a City Councillor on Liverpool City Council from 1994 to 1998.

Brian moved to Bicester in 1998 for family reasons and was actively involved with the PTA at Langford Village Primary School while his children attended there. He was elected as a parent governor at The Cooper School when the first of his three children started secondary education. Since then he has served as a governor of both the Cooper School and Glory Farm Primary School, and became a Trustee at Bernwode Schools Trust following its creation.  For the past two years he has been Chair of the Bernwode Schools Trust, and led the trust through its merger with Acer Trust.

Brian has worked for the past 35 years in the financial services industry. He is employed locally as a financial analyst for a leading UK financial information business, specialising in working with insurers and banks to design and market retail financial products such as home and motor insurance, current accounts, loans and mortgages.

He took a BSc in Physics at the University of Sheffield, holds a Diploma in Insurance from the Chartered Insurance Institute, and a Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business from the ICAEW.

Janet James - Trustee

Janet JamesJanet is a retired professional Facilities Manager. She began her career in financial services at Barclays Bank before moving into facilities management at International Computers Ltd. She later became Facilities Manager at The Cooper School before taking up the position of General Manager of student accommodation at Oxford Brookes University.

I was a member of NEBOSH, having obtained my Health and Safety Diploma in the 1990s, and had become an early member of the British Institute of Facilities Management, ultimately completed all the BIFM professional qualifications.

After a brief period of temporary work, I applied for and was appointed as, Facilities Manager at The Cooper School in the late 1990s. Working with the Caretaking team, I undertook maintenance and development work improving the overall condition of the buildings and equipment (mentioned in an Ofsted Report) and began to introduce compliance measures for water, gas, asbestos, electrical and fire safety alongside the general decorative and specialist maintenance activities.

I was approached in 2005 to work for UPP (University Partnerships Programme) as a General Manager, running student accommodation for Oxford Brookes University. I was also appointed as GM at the University of Kent in a brand new UPP partnership, running the post graduate accommodation for three years. I returned to Oxford Brookes as GM until I retired from full time employment in 2016.

I was asked to return to UPP part time, to assist in a new build for the University of London in 2017. The part time arrangement continues and I ended, finally, working with a Project team to introduce a consistent level of maintenance and compliance across the estate, using digital and cloud technology. My contract eventually ceased on 31st.August 2021 .

I was Trustee at Bernwode Schools Trust from 2021 until the merger on 01 January 2024 and I am a Governor at Fringford Church of England Primary School. My primary focus is on premises, health and safety and compliance.