Pen Portraits

Marjorie Rastall

Chair of Governors

I have been a governor at the school since the early 1980's when the first of my four children began their schooling at Slaley. My own career in education began in 1973 teaching in Cumbria followed by posts at Prudhoe, Consett and QEHS.  From 2000 to 2013, when I retired, I was involved in teaching and then senior management within the youth justice system.  I have been involved with Slaley show since 1988, first as general secretary and then pony secretary.  I have recently taken over as chairman of the show.  I am a parish councillor for Hexhamshire having lived in the Shire for the last 20 years after previously living at Red Hemmels dairy farm at Healey.


John Melvin

Vice-Chair of Governors

Basic information: age 76; long time resident in the Slaley community; retired with no connection to, or financial interest in, any business.

My school days were spent at a village school, not unlike Slaley, close to the West Cumbrian coast, and from there to Whitehaven GS and Newcastle University to study for a degree in geology, and some years later higher degrees in coal petrology.

During my time at Whitehaven - money in the 50's being hard to come by - I had a regular holiday job at a local iron ore mine just a few miles from the Winscales  nuclear plant.  In fact this was the last working iron mine in England; so, end of an era.  One thing about a mine  is that it's a very self-reliant enterprise so working there you get to experience many different disciplines, from laying railway lines and mixing concrete, to handling explosives.  What!  a schoolboy handling explosives.  Yes, assembling about half a ton every afternoon to go down the pit.  Another activity which I particularly enjoyed was labouring on a deep hole drilling rig which was seeking (unsuccessfully as it turned out)  additional ore deposits.  So perhaps not surprising then that geology and drilling have turned out to be the core of my working life;  the former as an exploration geologist with Shell in Sumatra and Swaziland, the latter as a self employed contractor and consultant.

If you were to ask what characteristic most favours your chance in life you might think intelligence (it certainly helps); reliability;  a good work ethic;  no,  the thing you cannot do without is confidence.  How do you instil confidence in a student?  You allow them to take risks  so that they may learn and profit from overcoming them - not a procedure particularly in favour at the moment - but one which I firmly believe in.


Mrs. Debbie Brett


I joined Slaley First School in January 2016 from Shotley Bridge Primary School where I was the Deputy Headteacher. Previously, I taught in a Middle School in Bedfordshire and a Junior School in London.

For the past 25 years, teaching has been my vocation. In that time, I have completed four terms of office as a teacher Governor which has enabled me to work closely with all members of the school community and gain a deeper understanding of how schools operate within the wider context of education.

My aim has always been to facilitate learning and guide children to become the very best that they can be. As Head teacher of Slaley First School, I feel I am in a privileged position to pursue this aim, but also appreciate that it brings great responsibility.


Rachel O’Neill

Teacher Governor

I joined Slaley First School in April 2002 as Key Stage One Teacher. During this time I have worked closely with the headteachers, staff and governors to develop the provision offered at Slaley First School. In May 2013, I became a teacher Governor. In this role I share ideas with Governors, providing a valuable link between the Governing body and staff. I am passionate about everyone in our school community working together to achieve the very best for the children in our care.


Sarah Hutchinson  

Co-opted governor

As a newly appointed Governor, I am very much looking forward to my role.  My family lives just outside the village and I have two children who attend Slaley School.  I teach part time and I am in my second decade of teaching in a secondary school in Newcastle.  I still feel enthusiastic and passionate about biology teaching and I also enjoy my responsibility as part of the pastoral team in the sixth form.  My dog, horse and hens fit around family life!


Catherine Lincoln

Safeguarding Governor

I'm Catherine Lincoln, a co-opted governor.  I live in the village and work locally at Dilston College.  My involvement with the school goes back to when I worked at the school as secretary a few years back, and both my children went to Slaley. I have a PGCE in Early Years education and experience in special needs and safeguarding, as well as a financial background. I believe that small schools are the best place for children to start their education, and as a governor, my role is that of a critical friend - to support but also to challenge.  


Gavin Tinker


I moved to Slaley from Consett in 2014, the reason being my family and I fell in love with Slaley First School.

The school is unique in that it has strong family values, a caring atmosphere and not only is there emphasis on education but on nurturing.

My 2 children are both now at Slaley First School and are incredibly happy.

As a newly appointed Governor I want to support the teachers, pupils and parents.

I have skills that can be used by the school as my background is in engineering, I am happy to lend a hand with any work within school.

I am currently a serving Police Officer based in Hexham, I have good knowledge of the area and a priority for me is safeguarding and safety planning within the school, a safe and happy environment for the children of Slaley to flourish.

I also support the organisation of finances and assist in setting budgets.


Mark Foster 

Parent Governor

My wife Andrea and I moved to the area in 2015. Andrea grew up in Corbridge and we knew Slaley first school in Northumberland would be the perfect place to bring up our children. It has not disappointed, it is such a wonderful thriving school.  We are lucky that currently we have 2 children at the school and hopefully another little boy to join in a couple of years’ time. 

I am a qualified actuary (my wife still doesn’t know what that is!) working in investments/pensions. Officially Actuaries “use their financial skills to help measure the probability and risk of future events”. I am happy to help the school in any way I can, to ensure the future is secure and the school children continue to have a great first class experience.  

In my younger days I was also a keen sportsman so extremely happy to see all the extra-curricular activities available at the school.


Lucy Irish

Parent Governor

My husband and I moved to Slaley in 2010, having relocated from the south coast with work. We count ourselves very lucky that we picked Slaley as our home as it is a great place to live with a strong community and a real gem of a school.  We have one child at the school who loves it and one more who can't wait to start.  I have already been involved with the school, acting as treasurer for the PTA for three years before accepting a role as Governor.  My background and degree is in engineering, however I have worked in a number of roles across the supply chain over the past 20 years with Procter and Gamble (which recently became Coty at my site in Seaton Delaval), including R&D, project and program management, operations leadership, logistics and financial management.  In my role as a newly appointed governor I will be supporting financial management at the school but also looking to see where else I can help the team at the school.