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Coombe House School

Supporting our vision and championing your successes

Our Board of Directors are appointed by Dorset Council and hold responsibility for the whole of the Dorset Centre of Excellence.

We’re proud to have the support of a dedicated team of directors who respect the values of Coombe House School and share our goals for every student.

We want our directors to be actively involved in many aspects of school life and meet regularly to support our vision and champion our successes.

Dorset Centre of Excellence Limited is a Dorset Council company registered in England and Wales, company number: 13451565. Registered office: Dorset Centre of Excellence, Donhead St Mary, Shaftesbury, SP7 9LP
Telephone: 01747 449844
email: office@dorsetcentreofexcellence.org.uk

All our directors are contactable though the company office.

Ian Comfort

Chair of the Board

Ian has a long and distinguished career in both educational leadership and management and work in the legal sphere. He is an experienced chair of a range of organisations including a further education college, a local authority trading company and Notting Hill Carnival. His experience in education is extensive, including being a teacher in a special school,  a local authority director of education and group CEO of a large academy trust; he brings a wealth of knowledge and detail to his role as chair of the Dorset Centre of Excellence. Ian is a barrister and holds a range of legal and professional regulatory roles including being a Commissioner for the Criminal Cases Review Commission, an employment judge and judge of the first tier tribunal.

In his spare time he is chair of the Ebony Steel Band, an acclaimed and award winning steel band providing performances, workshops and classes, locally, nationally and internationally, awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service for its work with young people.

Diane Grannell

Retired Principal and Chief Executive

Diane recently retired following six years as Principal & Chief Executive of Bournemouth & Poole College, after a long career in further and higher education.  She led her college to develop a curriculum that better met local skills needs and to improve the quality of student outcomes resulting in an Ofsted judgement of Good in all categories in January 2022.

A qualified Chartered Management Accountant, Diane has worked as the executive finance lead at a number of different institutions.  In addition to financial expertise, she has extensive senior level leadership experience of education policy and regulation, institutional strategy, culture, organisational development and quality assurance.  At one time or another, she has led most of the different professional services functions relevant to education institutions.

Diane holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Manchester University.  She is married with one adult son and lives on the Dorset / Hampshire border.  Having been involved in education for most of her working life, she is passionate about providing all young people with opportunities to fulfil their potential whatever their starting point and is a strong advocate for high quality education as a route to future individual success and wider economic prosperity.

Diane has served as a Director of Dorset LEP and as Chair of their Finance, Audit & Risk Committee.  She has recently been appointed as a Board Member at Falmouth University.

Stuart Jones

Property and Development Consultant

Stuart is a Chartered Surveyor, who has specialised in all aspects of property development for over 30 years, with experience in both the residential and commercial property sectors. Stuart is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He has also established a track record in dealing with property in the Education Sector, with a client base including schools, academy trusts and the HE/FE sector. In addition to his main job, Stuart has been a Governor of Bournemouth University since 2016.

Dame Susan Jowett DBE

International education adviser, holistic leadership and lifestyle coach

Susan is a Trustee and lead practitioner for Trust Peer Reviews for Challenge Partners, a successful national network of schools and trust. Susan retired in 2017 as the CEO for Spencer Academies Trust, where she was a founding member.
Susan retains her passion for education and leadership and has provided leadership support for Schole’s groups of schools in Uganda and Kenya. She has presented at national and international conferences. Susan’s leadership and services to education were recognised in the Queens honour list, 2016. As a leader of Education, she has impacted widely on system leadership and school improvement. Her previous work as an Ofsted inspector has enhanced school to school support. Her public work was recognised by the Derbyshire – Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce in 2010 when she was a regional finalist for the Enterprising Woman of the Year award in 2011 for the Enterprising Team of the Year Award. She is also an active support of WomenEd and Woman in Leadership.

Katie Kennedy

Educational leader in transformation and improvement

Katie has been working for over twenty years at the forefront of educational leadership. Initially at The Institute of Education, responsible for the engagement strategy of The London Leadership Strategy, part of the The London Challenge. Katie has taught in mainstream and the SEN sector, having been a leader in both primary and secondary schools, notably at Dame Alice Owen’s School, named The Sunday Times Secondary School of the Decade, where she acquired more knowledge of teacher development through her postgraduate research in Teacher Development at The University of Cambridge. Following this and having been part of three Outstanding Ofsted inspections, Katie worked at County level as a School Improvement Lead. With a passion for helping more schools, Katie authored ‘The Way to Outstanding’ school improvement programme. Katie is focused on ensuring success for all students regardless of background or previous levels of performance. As a Company Director of Tutor Interact, she led the delivery of holistic tutoring programmes for hundreds of students to overcome barriers to learning with transformational results. Katie has also led and been part of new school bids for academy trusts and an international schools group; understanding both the state and private sector.

Outside education Katie has been an ambassador for The Sick Children’s Trust and on the Board of her local country parks charity providing accessible play equipment for all. Katie has fought for equality for children of all abilities throughout her career and brings this passion to her role at Coombe House.

Lesley Mellor

Chair and founder member of the Dorset Parent Council

Lesley set up the DPCC a voluntary forum and registered charity after moving to Dorset with her two sons who have special educational needs. Lesley is passionate about making positive changes for children and young people with disabilities in Dorset by giving a voice to families. She has worked closely with Dorset Council and the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group to share the issues relating to the SEND community living in Dorset and to ensure the services meet the needs of disabled children and families locally. Lesley represents families and also facilitates networking of volunteers through participation events, steering groups/boards, working groups and co-production events.

Hilary Morris

Commercial Director

Hilary has a wide range of commercial leadership experience through delivery of organisational change programmes and outsourcing/insourcing operating models in local authority as well as further education sectors.  Hilary has a strong governance background having been secretary of a national association and board observer.  In her substantive role as Commercial Director at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Hilary has developed an effective company governance framework and overseen the creation and development of several independent boards across the portfolio.

Cllr Frances Nicholson

Councillor and charity trustee

Frances was Lead Member for Children’s Services in Somerset for ten years up to May 2022, through a long period of improvement from inadequacy to a very solid Ofsted Good judgement this year.  She is co-chair of governors of a federation of small rural schools, and is their SEND and Children Looked After governor. She represents Exmoor on Somerset County Council and is currently opposition spokesperson for Children and Families, as well as being a trustee for a number of local charities all with a purpose of enabling young people in the area to achieve their potential and be the best they can be, no matter what challenges they may face. She has had a varied career from making pottery through magazine publishing to software development and is passionate about valuing equally all the different skills, aptitudes and aspirations that young people may have and supporting them to reach their goals.

Anil Patil

Entrepreneur and former Barrister

Anil is a former barrister specialising in children act, family and matrimonial finance law. As an entrepreneur he was the worlds’ first Starbucks franchisee, and now a principle shareholder of an organisation employing more than 2,000 team members across 107 sites. He currently volunteers as a mentor to looked after children; is an independent member of a fostering panel; Non Executive Director at Croydon NHS Trust and of two health and social care CIC’s; a governor of Walhampton school; and is a respite carer of a child in care. He is married, daddy to two boys and lives in Brighton.