Pen Portraits


Karl Fairley

Sponsor Director

Mr Karl Fairley has served as Sponsor Director of New College Durham Academies Trust since 2010 and has served as Chair since 6 July 2020. Karl is a National Leader in Governance.  Karl’s professional background is within Human  Resources/Organisational Development and he is an experienced Senior Manager with over 25 year’s experience in Board Level roles and has a proven track record of leading and developing individuals, providing leadership and vision to enable delivery of the organisational strategic plan. Karl is currently Chair of Corporate Services Group and Remuneration Committee.


Christine Warren

Sponsor Director

Mrs Christine Warren has served as Sponsor Director since 2016 and has served as Vice Chair of the Academies Trust Board since 2020.  Christine has over  30 years' experience working in secondary schools in the North East in  leadership roles, as an education consultant for school improvement, and as a Local Leader in Education. She has Board level experience in a Foundation Trust and retains a keen interest in education and a belief in lifelong learning.  

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Linda Rodham

CEO, ex-officio

Mrs Linda Rodham joined the Trust in September 2021 with a background of substantial school improvement and ten years’ experience of being a Headteacher.

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Beverly Frean 

Co-opted Director

Mrs Beverly Frean has served as Co-opted Director of New College Durham Academies Trust since 2020.  Beverley is an experienced HR professional with a proven track record of effectively operating in complex (global) diverse environments. 


She has extensive experience of employee relations and learning.


Joan Low

Co-opted Director

Mrs Joan Low has served as a Co-Sponsor Director of New College Durham Academies Trust since 2020. Joan is the Chair of Quality Assurance, Improvement and Performance Board. Joan has considerable experience and a proven track record for raising standards, school self-evaluation and improvement, quality staff development, building effective teams and finding creative solutions. Joan is currently an Improvement Partner for several Academy Trusts across the UK having worked in secondary education across the UK. She brings considerable expertise to the ATB having been a senior leader in secondary education for many years as well as working in school improvement in a large local authority. Her vast and varying experience of school improvement and leadership has secured good and outstanding provision in many schools.

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Helen Owen

Sponsor Director

Mrs Helen Owen has serviced as Sponsor Director of New College Durham Academies Trust since 2019. Helen is Head of Product and Content Development of a national awarding organisation which specialises in development of and implementation of educational digital provision. Helen has sixteen years’ experience of working in education, with ten years at a senior level leading an outstanding provision. Helen has a vast experience of curriculum development, design, delivery and assessment.

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Alyson Shields

Sponsor Director

Mrs Alyson Shields has served as Sponsor Director of New College Durham Academies Trust since 2015. Alyson has over twenty years’ experience within the education sector eleven of which she had managed curriculum provision in an outstanding educational provider. Alyson has extensive specialist knowledge in SEN and Inclusion.


Vaila Somerville

Academy Director

Mrs Vaila Somerville has served as Academy Director since 2020. Vaila has worked for several national companies as an accountant and is currently Practice Manager of a local legal company. She has a proven track record in finance, scrutiny and transparent decision-making alongside a developing interest in career outcomes for students. Vaila is the Chair of Consett Academy Local Governing Body.