Executive Team


Governors


Chair of the Governing Council: Mrs Elizabeth Harrison

If you would like to contact the Chair or any member of the Board of Governors, please send correspondence c/o The Abbey, Kendrick Road, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 5DZ marking your envelope ‘Strictly Private and Confidential’.

If you wish to telephone the Chair you may do so via the School Office, on 0118 987 2256.

The Governors play an important role in the life of the School and represent many areas of expertise. The document below has a short profile of each Governor and will enable you to appreciate the structure of the Council and their many skills and outlooks.

In May 2017 Mrs Elizabeth Harrison was appointed as Chair of the Governing Council.

The Abbey School intends to retain and enhance the current ethos and mission statement of the School. Our mission is a simple one: we aim to empower girls to become confident, successful students and to develop a sense of moral responsibility to their community and to society. In other words, we do our utmost to equip them to lead fulfilled and productive adult lives in a rapidly changing world.

We are and will remain, academically selective, committed to single-sex education, pastoral support and to educating the whole person. Abbey students will be encouraged to aim high both academically and personally, to develop a sense of moral and spiritual responsibility for themselves and others and to explore extra-curricular interests.

Mrs Elizabeth Harrison

Chair of Governors

Mrs Harrison attended the Abbey School from 1960 to 1967, and her daughter followed her in 1987. She read Classics at Southampton University, and then took a post-graduate Diploma in Personnel Management in what was then Manchester Polytechnic. Liz’s working life was mostly in the public sector, as a researcher, lecturer and consultant at the Civil Service College, as head of Personnel in the Cabinet Office, and as a policy adviser in the field of gender equality. In this role she was the UK lead on gender equality for the EU and at the United Nations. She studied for an MBA at London Business School. Liz was a magistrate for thirty years and is a past Chair of the Berkshire Bench. She is an enthusiastic participant in two local choirs, and an equally enthusiastic audience member at a wide variety of arts events, and at most of Reading FC home matches.

Mr Simon Dimmick

Chair of Governance Committee

Mr Dimmick is a Consultant with Blandy & Blandy LLP solicitors and specialises in Planning law. He advises in relation to strategic planning, environmental, highways law, and has been practising in Reading for over twenty years. He became a governor of the Abbey School recently and previously has been a governor of his sons’ primary school, and a parent governor of his sons’ secondary school, Reading Blue Coat School, where his wife is Head of Biology. His first contact with the Abbey School was when his then future wife Sue (a young Dr Fifield) was in her first teaching post.

Mrs Julie Butler

Chair of F&GP Committee

Mrs Butler was a Partner in Kingston Smith LLP, a top 20 firm of Chartered Accountants, for 30 years and was Managing Partner for 3 years. During her career, she was a general practice partner working mainly with growing Entrepreneurial and owner-managed businesses but had a particular specialism in advising Professional firms. Throughout her career, she was very involved in HR, recruitment and training and was responsible for many years for the graduate recruitment programme at the firm. Since retiring she has continued to act as a consultant to the firm and has relaunched and heads up the Alumni programme for the firm. She has also set up a start-up company with her nephew Importing backpacks from the USA selling these through retail, wholesale and e-commerce channels.

Mr Michael Emmanuel

Chair of Estates Committee

Mr Emmanuel’s daughter and sister are former pupils of the school; and his mother a former Governor. Educated locally at Crosfields and Shiplake College, he served his apprenticeship in the kitchens of Richard Shepherd’s Langan’s Brasserie, Paul Bocuse’s three Michelin starred restaurant in Lyon, and Roger Verge’s three Michelin starred Moulin de Mougins. His main role is as managing director of the French Horn, Sonning. He enjoys most sports having represented school and county and has ridden as an amateur jockey. Michael has been a Governor at The Abbey since 2008.

Mrs Julie Cornell

Chair of The Abbey Community Committee

Mrs Cornell has a professional background in advertising, promotion, marketing and PR, specifically in the retail and shopping centre industry across the US. Now a dual citizen of the UK and the USA, she has worked closely with her American University’s alumnae relations and development (fundraising) departments. She has been a governor since 2006. Both her daughters were pupils at The Abbey, one completing A-Levels, the other the International Baccalaureate.

Mrs Susan Colebrook

Chair of Leadership in Girls’ Education Committee and Lead Governor for Child Protection

Mrs Colebrook has had a career in secondary school education, teaching Chemistry in the independent sector and holding a variety of positions. She was instrumental in developing the new build of 2 science departments including those at The Abbey School. In 1995 she moved to The Abbey as Director of Science and Head of Chemistry and in 2004 she was promoted to Assistant Head of the Senior School. Since retiring she has become treasurer of a local charity, does voluntary work for another and plays golf where she is also treasurer of the Ladies Section.

Her husband is a chartered engineer, as is her younger daughter, and her elder daughter is a biochemist

Mr Jeremy Sheehan

Lead Governor for Risk, Audit and Compliance

Mr Sheehan is a senior executive operating in the telecom and IT sector. He has over 30 years of commercial management and negotiation experience contracting large and complex ‘Design, Build and Operate’ fixed and mobile telecom networks. Having worked in both the public and private sectors he has led numerous culturally diverse and international teams.
He has travelled extensively and worked with a variety of companies across Asia, North America and Europe. He is presently leading the international expansion of a multinational French construction company. Throughout his career, Jeremy has expressed a keen interest in the development of young people, maintaining a strong belief in the role of extra-curricular activities. He is a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award holder, joined an expedition to Kenya and has mentored and sponsored young adults through a variety of internships and activities. One of his daughters was Head Girl at The Abbey in 2013.

Mrs Elisabeth West

Lead Governor for Early Years

Mrs West is a lawyer by qualification, training and practising initially at an international law firm in London, then lecturing and editing in law part-time while raising her children. She is a volunteer adviser and supervisor at Citizens Advice and has advised in a male prison and at court. Her husband is a lawyer, her first son works in Switzerland, and her second son is in America studying. Her daughter Annabel was at the Abbey from the age of four and was Head Girl.

Annabel read engineering and boxed at Oxford, and works in New York. Elisabeth’s interests are classical music, sport and gardening.

Mr Nigel Williams

Second Lead Governor for Child Protection

Mr Williams recently retired after 35 years in the teaching profession. Having begun his career at St Albans School in Hertfordshire, for the last five and half years he was Head of Leighton Park School in Reading, where he had also been Deputy Head, Designated Safeguarding Lead, Director of Studies, Housemaster and Head of History, Politics and Ancient History during a 24-year career at the school. A big supporter of the International Baccalaureate, he played a central part in the introduction of the IBDP to Leighton Park, he was trained as the Programme Administrator and to teach Higher Level History, which he thoroughly enjoyed. His wife, Jane, is a Trustee of an Academy Trust for Primary schools and Nigel has served two stints as a Governor at Crosfields School. He is currently mentoring a new Headmaster and keen to retain his involvement in education. He is also a member of the Worshipful Company of Educators.

Miss Sanya Burgess

Digital News Producer at Sky News

Previously, Sanya was the Digital News Editor at The Sunday Times. She was the youngest person to hold an editor role at the paper and her role saw her preside over the news sections on the website, smartphone and tablet. She has previously worked at Mail Online and The Royal Television Society. She holds a Newspaper Journalism Masters from City University and she read English Literature as an undergraduate at The University of Exeter.

Mr Colin Singer

Mr Singer is a consulting actuary at one of the UK’s leading firms of actuaries and advises some of the largest pensions schemes in the country. He is also his firm’s Senior Actuary. His three daughters attended The Abbey School all of whom have a keen interest in music and teaching. Two of his daughters became school teachers after graduating from university. He is also a previous Chair of the Woodley Festival of Music and Arts and sees the value of developing children’s artistic, and other, experiences beyond the classroom. Colin has diverse interests which include music, travel and fitness, being a regular jogger and, some while ago, enduring a couple of London marathons.

Ms Robyn Field

Ms Field attended The Abbey School from 1996-2003 and is a former Head Girl. She read Politics and French at the University of Bath. Following graduation, Robyn joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office where she has worked in a number of policy roles with a particular focus on East Africa and China. Robyn and her family recently returned from five years living and working at the British Embassy in Beijing and the British Consulate-General in Hong Kong. Her interests include learning Mandarin, travelling and astronomy.

Mr Conor O’Shea

Mr O’Shea is Director of Performance Rugby for the RFU where he is responsible for the leadership, management and strategic direction of professional rugby in England. With the aim to support long-term pathways across men’s and women’s 15s and Sevens programmes. The role also oversees performance rugby operations. Prior to joining the RFU in January 2020, Conor was head coach of the Italian men’s national rugby team since 2016 coaching them at the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019. Conor played fullback for Ireland between 1993-2000 and has 35 caps to his name. He was previously director of rugby at Harlequins. Conor was educated at Terenure College in Dublin and has a Bachelor in Commerce in Banking and Finance from University College Dublin, a Diploma in Legal Studies from Dublin Institute of Technology and a Masters in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy in Alabama and Brunel University in London.

Mr Andrew Peach

Mr Andrew Peach got his first taste for radio at the age of sixteen when he won a competition in 1989. His prize was to travel to Germany and compile reports about life in Bonn and Cologne and take part in a live broadcast from BFBS. From then on, the course of his career was set. He was given his first BBC show on Radio Oxford while studying Modern History at St Edmund Hall and celebrated twenty-five years on BBC Radio on 10 October 2017 with a message of congratulations from Prime Minister Theresa May. Andrew now presents a news and phone-in show on BBC Radio Berkshire on weekday mornings and network programmes such as PM and the Six O‘Clock News on Radio 4 and Newshour and The Newsroom on BBC World Service. He has been nominated for 15 Radio Academy Awards and the judges described him as “an assured host, balancing great seriousness and warmth and displaying a strong bond with his audience” and said, “he is empathetic and probing and formulates questions that are short, to the point and perfectly timed.”  He is the patron of two charities: Thames Hospice in Windsor and Sportsable, a disabled sports charity in Maidenhead. He loves playing the piano, walking in the countryside and politics in Westminster and Washington.

Dr Harriet Hemp

Dr Harriet Hemp attended the Abbey School from 1988-2001 and is a former Head Girl. After completing her medical degree at Oxford University, she trained to become an Anaesthetist in London. Following a PhD in Pain Medicine, she is now a medical academic, working as a Clinical Lecturer funded by the National Institute for Health Research at Imperial College London. She splits her time between clinically treating patients with pain and conducting human observational studies in chronic neuropathic pain. She is also involved in running and teaching the intercalated BSc at Imperial for Anaesthesia and Critical Care. Her mother was a history teacher, and her father a former Governor, at the Abbey. She has two young children and her main interests include yoga and spending time in the Swiss Alps whenever possible.

Updated Articles of Association

Articles of Association – PDF