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Board of Trustees

Bill Harwood – Chair of The Board

Bill is one of the founding members of the Primary First Trust and is the Chairman of our Board of Trustees.  He has a background in effective governance and as a governor worked with the local authority and other stakeholders to establish a successful school partnership model to enable schools that were struggling to succeed.  Bill has professional qualifications in portfolio, programme and project management and a breadth of experience in managing large budgets, building high performing teams and developing strategic vision.  He has expertise in leading business change at scale and is an Academy Ambassador.  Bill is probably best known, however, for his passion to improve outcomes and life experiences for children.



Justin Smith - Chief Executive Officer

Before joining The Primary First Trust, Mr Smith was the Executive Head Teacher of a Federation of Schools in South London. One of the schools has gone from Special Measures to Outstanding and another reversed a three year falling trend to become the highest performing school in its borough and was also graded Outstanding by Ofsted. Mr Smith has a history of managing change in difficult circumstances both in new schools and schools in challenging circumstances. In 2010 he led the Most Improved School in the Country, a school in an area of high social deprivation. He is a published author in the field of Behaviour Management and currently works very closely with the Regional Schools Commissioner and the Department for Education on MAT development.  He is a mentor for MAT CEO's and is part of the pilot project on evaluating the effectiveness of Multi Academy Trusts.  He is currently undertaking a doctoral study in educational leadership.



Andrew Spearman

Andrew is a qualified solicitor and is a Partner and founder of a niche City law practice.  He leads their Family & Private Client teams, but has been distinguished in the sector for his specialism in international surrogacy law and modern family structures.  He is frequently in the High Court and Court of Appeal on cases and representing clients for their children.

Andrew has experience as a governor for two primary academies and was appointed by the Secretary of State of Education to be the Chair of an IEB for a school in difficult circumstances, overseeing public consultations, OFSTED inspections and rapid improvement drives to raise standards in primary children’s education and their accelerated progress.  



Steve Rumbles

Steve has spent almost 30 years of his career working in the financial services industry both for BlackRock and T. Rowe Price (2 large US investment management firms).  He has also owned his own business for 3 years offering his pensions knowledge on a consultancy basis.  Steve has held various directorships including BlackRock’s Life Company (over 10 years) which is responsible for managing £70+bn of client assets.



Sandra Connington

Sandra is an experienced human resources professional working at senior and board level positions within the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. She held an HR Director role within a large exam board and also brings a wider business perspective through working with many differing sizes and types of organisations dealing both with UK and International teams. As a human resources consultant Sandra supports and advises small to medium sized businesses, schools and academy trusts in the south east of England. She has experience as a chair of governors and governor for two local authority primary schools in Thurrock. She was an IEB Board Member for a local school that was judged to be in urgent need of improvement and oversaw plans to raise standards and progress, Ofsted inspections and parent engagement resulting in the school now being graded as ‘good’.



Dr Branwen Bingle

Having always been a committed mentor of students in the classroom, Branwen moved from KS2/3 teaching into initial teacher education in 2008, working at the University of Worcester as a Senior Lecturer in Primary ITE. Her career path to date has been anything but straightforward: she has been a supply teacher and support assistant for Service Children’s Education; a basic skills tutor working with adults in the military; a private day nursery teacher working with 3 & 4 year olds; a Secondary English teacher working across KS3 and 4, including the teaching of GCSE English; and a subject leader for English in two Worcestershire Middle schools. Throughout her experience she has been driven by a passion for learning alongside a commitment to teaching that made ITE an obvious step. As part of her role Branwen completed doctoral research into children’s literature and its potential influence on professional identity construction/aspiration with the UW Graduate Research School; between March 2016 to August 2017 she was the course leader for the BA Hons Special Educational Needs, Disabilities and Inclusion degree at the University of Worcester; and since September 2017 she has been employed as the Operational Lead for Initial Teacher Education Partnerships and School Direct at the University of Greenwich. In her current role, Branwen is responsible for the cross-phase management, organisation and quality assurance of all aspects of teacher education partnerships.



Paul Stingmore

Paul is a Management Consultant who works with the public and private sector to lead and embed change in large organisations. Paul started his career in Programme Management before moving into the people side of change. He has led significant organisational transformations and adopts a hands on approach to helping organisations and their leadership teams make change stick. Paul has spent many years working with looked after young people as a respite foster carer.



Working in partnership with


  • The Primary First Trust
  • The White House, Clifton Marine Parade,
  • Gravesend, Kent, DA11 0DY
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