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Senior Staff and Governors

Headteacher Mr Deighan with school badge winners

Who's who at Varndean School?

Senior Leadership Team 

The Senior Leadership Team comprises the following staff:
William Deighan Headteacher
Gareth Hughes Deputy Headteacher
Vicky Anstiss Deputy Headteacher
Shelley Baker Deputy Headteacher
Laura Fairbank Assistant Headteacher
Judith Ford Assistant Headteacher
Andy Roberts Assistant Headteacher
Sandra Knights  Associate Assistant Headteacher
Lynn Hill Director of Finance and Operations








For a full list of staff and their contact details please see the complete staff list.


Governing Body 

Since becoming involved with Varndean, I've found it to be a truly unique school within Brighton - offering our students hugely diverse and exciting learning and extra curricular opportunities, whilst maintaining a sense of community and belonging typically associated with much smaller schools. Our governors are passionate about working in partnership with the headteacher and his team to ensure all our students enjoy their education at Varndean and realise their full potential in their future lives.

Alex Marsh, Chair of Governors

Julian Benkel


Vice Chair of Governors

First Appointed as Community Governor on 5th April 2004, currently a Co-opted Governor

Responsible Area - Finance, Buildings

Appointed by the Governing Body
Simon Bowes

Parent Governor appointed on 8th March 2018

Responsible Area - Careers Guidance

Elected by Parent Body
 Jon Dee




First Appointed as Community Governor on 2nd October 2005 currently a Co-opted Governor

Responsible Areas - Governor Recruitment, Evaluation and Development. Finance, Buildings.

Appointed by the Governing Body
William Deighan


Nominations Committee Member

Ex Officio Governor since 1st January 2009

Responsible Area - School Operation and Improvement Strategy

Ex Officio
Judith Ford


Elected as Staff Governor on 10th March 2015 and re elected on 10th March 2019

Responsible Area - Stakeholder Engagement 

Appointed by staff
Giovanni Franceschi





Appointed as Local Authority Governor on 15th September 2014, reappointed on 15th September 2018.

Nominated by the Local Authority and appointed by the Governing Body


Alex Marsh





Chair of Governors

Appointed as Co-opted Governor on 25th April 2016

Responsible Area - School Improvement Strategy. Finance

Appointed by the Governing Body

Hope McAdam

Appointed as Co-opted Governor on 7th June 2018

Responsible Area - Pupil Premium , Special Educational Needs, Vulnerable /Looked After Chilldren


Emma McCrea

Appointed as Co-opted Governor on 2nd October 2019

Responsible Area - Student Progress Data

Appointed by the Governing Body
Ian Rodgers


Appointed as Co-opted Governor on 1st December 2016

Responsible Area - Health & Safety, Premises Management, Buildings

Appointed by the Governing Body
Emma Warde-Robinson

Appointed as Parent Governor on 24th March 2017

Responsible Area - Equalities, Safeguarding and Behaviour 

Elected by the Parent Body


Appointed as Clerk to Governors 1st September 2008

Responsible Area - Governance procedure and compliance

To contact Governors please email:



Governors' Personal Statements

Julian Benkel

I have been connected to the school since 1995, having seen three of my children pass through Varndean, and I am currently serving my fifth term as a Governor. 

By profession I am a chartered accountant with specific specialisation in compliance and corporate governance and I am a partner in a consultancy providing services to Higher Education sector, and in particular those involved in residential student accommodation in the UK. I therefore bring experiences as a parent and as businessman to the governing body.

As well as being a keen follower of Brighton and Hove Albion, I have a young family and old family including many grandchildren.


Jon Dee

I have been a governor at the school for almost 10 years now.  Having previously been the vice chair for several years and chair of the resources committee for 6 years, I was thrilled to be elected as the Chair of Governors in 2013. I am a Director within BDO a leading accountancy firm and a qualified Chartered Accountant with over 25 years’ experience in providing assurance and consultancy services across both the public and private sectors. I also have considerable experience in the voluntary sector. I am also a trustee and the Treasurer of a national charity, chairing its Finance and Investment Committees.

Giovanni Franceschi

I have worked for Brighton & Hove Schools since 1998. I have been a deputy head and head of three junior schools during that period. I have been a Local Leader in Education working alongside colleagues in other schools in need of additional support. As a deputy and a head teacher, I have been a governor for the last 16 years and I fully aware of the importance that governors can have on the strategic direction of a school and the ultimate positive impact on pupils’ educational experience.

I continue to enjoy the role and am looking forward to being more involved in the secondary sector as this will give me further insight as to how pupils progress after leaving primary.


Alex Marsh

My wife and I both grew up in Brighton and after spending over 10 years in London, have recently returned to Brighton with our two young children to be closer to our families. As part of this move I was keen to get actively involved in our local community and in particular education, which has been a long-standing passion of mine influenced by my own state school experience. I feel very fortunate to have been appointed a co-opted governor of Varndean School in April 2016 - with the aim to work collaboratively with the other members of the Governing Body and the School Senior Leadership Team, towards raising the standards of education for all children, including the most and least able. By profession, I am the Managing Director of a Retail Finance business within Close Brothers Group having trained as a Chartered Accountant, with extensive experience of delivering business transformation, financial performance oversight and improving employee engagement. I also volunteer for a number of initiatives that encourage business links with schools to provide young people with inspiration, motivation, knowledge, skills and opportunities to help achieve their potential.

Ian Rodgers

Having recently retired from a lifetime of commuting, I applied to become a governor as a way of getting more closely involved in my community, and to give something back to that community now that I have time on my hands.  I live close to Varndean, and have done for over 35 years.

For the last ten years of my career I ran a national membership-based organisation.  Amongst other things, this gave me extensive expertise in stakeholder engagement, governance and government & media relations, as well as general management.  I was also a non-executive director of a number of not-for-profit companies, a role very similar to that of a school governor.

While I have no direct experience of the education sector (other than as a father), I am a passionate believer in a well-rounded state education as a means of improving the quality of life for all, and my hope is that, using my past skills, I will be able to assist with the continuing improvement in Varndean’s attainment levels and the quality of the students’ experience.  

Emma Warde-Robinson

I believe in supporting to my local community through active contribution of skills and experience. And so I applied to become a parent governor in 2017.

I am passionate about supporting children in Brighton & Hove, by making sure they achieve their potential through the support of their teachers. I feel strongly that school should be a happy and safe place to learn. To achieve this, the school and its staff need to be supported in turn by its governors, acting in their role as both sounding board and critical friend.

I am a Public Health Doctor and have significant management experience at senior level in the NHS and more recently local government. I have a deep understanding of how good governance can enable an organisation to achieve better outcomes. Likewise, in education, I have first-hand experience of the considerable benefits of a school having a strong and diverse board of governors. I am currently the Varndean School governor lead for Equality.

Past Governors,

The following have served as Governors at Varndean School in the past 12 months.

Rob Reed - Co-opted Governor appointed by the Governing Body on 17th March 2016 , stepped down on 2nd October 2019.

Varndean School Governing Body Declarations of Interest 2019/20

Name of Governor


Name of Business/Organisation

Nature of Business

Nature of Interest

Julian Benkel


Nil Return


Simon Bowes


Varndean School


Parent of Student

Jon Dee



Limited Liability Partnership - Accountancy

Employee - Director

Jon Dee


Hospitality Action


Trustee & Director

Jon Dee


Varndean School


Husband of Employee

William Deighan


Pavilion and Downs Teaching School Alliance

Teaching Alliance

T rustee

Judith Ford


Varndean School


Parent of Child a year 7 and 9 child

Giovanni Franceschi


Nil Return


Alex Marsh


Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland

Professional Body


Hope McAdam


Sussex University



Emma McCrea


University of Brighton


Employee - Sussex & Surrey Plus Maths Hub

Emma McCrea


Numeracy Ready

Training Platform for the Numeracy Skills Test


Emma McCrea


Author of Making Every Maths Lesson Count


Emma McCrea


Author of The Montessori Place


Emma McCrea


Freelance Consultant: National Centre for Excellance in the Teaching of Mathematics & DfE Centres for Excellance

Emma McCrea


Association of Teachers of Mathematics Association Volunteer

Emma McCrea


ParentGym Association Volunteer

Ian Rodgers


Consultancy projects for Manufacturing Organisations on trade law in the context of Brexit

Emma Warde-Robinson


University of Brighton University Student



Governance Structure

Full Governing Body
  • Nominations Committee
  • Pay Panel
  • Finance Group
  • Buildings Group
  • Headteacher Review Panel
  • Individual Lead Governors


Attendance Register of the Governing Body

1st September 2019 to 31st August 2020

During the academic year there were four scheduled Full Governing Body Meetings and three additional Full Governing Body Meetings , one that was held without the required seven days' notice.

Number of Meetings Attended by each Governor

Julian Benkel  - 3

Simon Bowes - 5

Jon Dee - 7

William Deighan -  2

Judith Ford  - 4

Giovanni Franceschi  - 4

Gareth Hughes - 5

Alex Marsh  - 7

Hope McAdam  - 4

Emma McCrea  - 3

Ian Rodgers  - 7

Emma Warde-Robinson - 4

Attendance at Full Governing Body meetings during 2019/20 was at 82% 

Governing Body Core Meetings 

Meeting Dates 2019/20

School Improvement Focus for Meeting

2nd October 2019

Quality of Education - Results

19th December 2019

Quality of Education - Curriculum  & Teaching

12th March 2020

Behaviour, Attitudes & Personal Development

25th June 2020

Leadership & Management

Thinking of Becoming a Governor?

Categories of Governors

Parent Governors

Parents including carers of pupils are eligible to stand for election as governors. Other parents at the school elect parent governors. If insufficient parents stand for election the governing body may appoint parent governors. There are two positions for elected parent governors at Varndean School.

Staff Governors

William Deighan the Headteacher is a staff governor by virtue of his office. Other staff both teaching and support may become a staff governor as long as they are paid (volunteers do not qualify). The school staff elects one staff governor to the Governing Body.

Local Authority Governors

The Local Authority appoint highly skilled and experienced governors to schools to provide support to schools irrespective of any political affiliation or preference. The Local Authority recommend appointment of one Local Authority to the Governing Body.

Co-opted Governors

The Full Governing Body appoint a number of governors based on the skills and experience that they can bring to support Varndean School.

If you are interested in becoming a Governor at Varndean please contact the Clerk to the Governors at

Why become a governor?

  • You care about the education children receive
  • You want to make an important contribution to your local community
  • You enjoy a challenging and rewarding role
  • You are keen to help all children do better at school
  • You want to help strengthen the link between schools and the communities.

Expression of interest in being a Co-opted Governor

What do governors do? 

Governing Body Core Functions

Extract from Governors Handbook January 2015

“The Department of Education has high expectations of governing bodies. They are the strategic leaders of our schools and have a vital role to play in making sure every child gets the best possible education. For maintained schools this is reflected in law, which states that the purpose of maintained school governing bodies is to conduct the school with a view to promoting high standards of educational achievement for all.

In all types of schools, governing bodies should have a strong focus on three core strategic functions:

  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction.
  • Holding the Headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and the performance management of all staff.
  • Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent."

Governors play an important part in overseeing the running of the school in the interests of the community it serves. Individual governors have no power or responsibility. It is only the Full Governing Body, which has legal duties and powers. All governors share in that corporate responsibility.

The day-to-day management of the school is the responsibility of the Headteacher and staff.

Governors govern rather than manage.

They are there to give direction and focus by performing a vital strategic role. Governors work with the Headteacher making decisions about:

  • Standards – ensuring a strategic and systematic approach to promoting high standards of educational achievement.
  • Curriculum – ensuring that the curriculum is balanced and broadly based, and that the National Curriculum is taught.
  • Policies – deciding how, in broad strategic terms the school should be run.
  • Finance – determining how to spend the budget allocated to the school.
  • Staffing – deciding the number of staff, the pay policy and making decisions on staff pay.
  • Appointments – appointing the Headteacher and assisting with the appointment of Deputy Headteachers and other senior staff.
  • Discipline – agreeing procedures for staff and student conduct and discipline. 

Term of office

The usual term of office is four years. However, governors are volunteers who can leave at any time and can similarly be re-appointed or re-elected.

If you are interested in becoming a Governor at Varndean please contact the Clerk to Governors: 

Minutes of Governors Meetings and Other Useful Information