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Academy Council

Academy Council  Role
Andrea Wills Acting Chair of Academy Council, Trustee
Craig Abbs Head Teacher, Soundwell
Peter Hitchman Vice Chair of Academy Council
Ali Cade Councillor
Martyn Hinan Councillor
Sandie Davis Local Authority Councillor
Emily Currant Teaching Staff Representative
Leanne Bush Support Staff Representative
Bob Taylor Parent/Carer Representative
Kelly Field Parent/Carer Representative
Jen Southall Chief Executive Officer - Learn@ MAT


Learn@ MAT  Role
Rebecca Watkins Chief Finance and Operations Officer
Louise Shepherd Clerk

To contact the Clerk to the Governing Body, please telephone 0117 456 6513 x 2224 or email using

The Acting Chair of the Academy Council, Andrea Wills can be contacted using




Craig Abbs,  Headteacher

Craig has been in teaching for 12 years and is passionate about teaching, learning and the social and emotional development of the students and recognises and values the opportunities provided by a collocated specialist SEMH and SLCN provision with a short break (respite) residential facility.

For 10 of those years Craig has taught in Alternative Provision and Special schools.   He is passionate about the pupils getting local high-quality provision that will meet their needs He has held Leadership roles for 7 years in a variety provisions.

He has lived in South Gloucestershire for much of his life and previously worked in Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset.

Craig will  often be out running, cycling or walking the dog. He is keen on sports, recently completing the Cotswold 70.3 Triathlon.



Andrea Wills, Chair of Soundwell Academy Council

Vice Chair Board of Trustees, Chair of Quality and Standards Committee and Whistleblowing Trustee

Committee: Quality and Standards

Andrea lives in South Gloucestershire and is vice-chair of the Learn@ MAT Board and chair of its Quality and Standards Committee.  She has extensive governance experience with a specialist knowledge of broadcasting regulation, standard setting, and the investigation of serious editorial failings in the UK and Australia. She was Independent Editorial Adviser to the BBC Trust and investigated complex complaints over the decade it existed. She began her career as a journalist at BBC Radio Bristol, a TV producer in the Natural History Unit, and finally Chief Adviser with the BBC’s Editorial Policy team.  Andrea is on the Appeals Panel for the Video Standards Council Rating Board and is on the Board of the press regulator, IMPRESS, and is chair of its Standards Code Committee.


Peter Hitchman, Vice Chair of Soundwell Academy Council

Peter trained as a teacher at St. Paul’s College in Cheltenham back in the 1970’s.  In 1976 he got my first teaching job as a science teacher at Merrywood Boy’s School in Knowle West.  In 1983 he became the first male teacher at Pen Park Girls’ School in Southmead and the following year he was promoted to Head of Science there.

In 1991,Peter moved to Head of Science at Patchway High School where he remained until 2012 when he retired from school teaching.

He now owns the franchise for a photography company, in the West of England and South Wales.  Peter is married and has two sons, one who is married with a little boy and the other who is living and working in Munich.


Martyn Hinam,  Academy Councillor

Martyn Hinam is the manager of Kingswood Active Lifestyle Centre and enjoys developing his team to create a great environment for staff and customers.

The community is of great importance to Martyn, where he has created several initiatives to help adults and children with abilities and disabilities to become physically and mentally healthier.

He has been working in the leisure industry for over 25 year, where he has gained a wealth of experience from a wide range of areas.

Martyn enjoys spending time with his family and two children, especially outdoors in the fresh air.  In his spare time he is a tai chi instructor, who has over the last 16 years worked with a variety of people and groups including Choices 4 U, The Priory, health clubs and leisure centres.

Emily Currant, Teaching Staff Representative

Emily trained at the University of Gloucestershire specialising in Mathematics and Art. She then moved to Bath where she taught Year 1 for 2 years and headed PSHE. She endeavours to make every lesson creative and engaging using art as a means of doing this. When Emily is not teaching she enjoys baking and ice skating.


Leanne Bush, Support Staff Representative

Leanne has worked for Learn@MAT for 3 years, first in the Pastoral Team ,  she learnt many skills on how to work with different children when they are in crisis.  She  then became a Learning Factilitator in Key Stage 3 ,working closely with the young people ensuring that I supported their daily learning and social needs.

Since coming to Soundwell Academy Leanne has become a HLTA working with individual children to help them manage their behaviour and ensure that they are aware of the personalised steps they can take when they feel like they are in danger of escalating.

Previously Leanne worked in a mainstream school looking after SEND students and the behaviour of other children within the setting.


Alison Cade, Academy Councillor

Ali Cade has been a foster carer and encourager for eight years.  She loves cooking, baking and crafting.

Ali wants to see young people achieve the best they can in life through education and life skills.

Through her experience and training  in fostering she hopes she can make a difference for the young people at Soundwell academy

Sandie Davis, Academy Councillor

Sandie has been a foster carer for 38 years specialising in the care of children who have disabilities or additional needs, usually on a permanent basis, also adopting twice. Throughout this time it has been evident that good quality, appropriate education has been vital for the well-being of her children.  All six of her adult children and their children live in South Glos and keep Sandie grounded but busy.  

One of my her grandchildren has ASD and unfortunately no South Glos school could offer him a place, he was out of school for almost a year before being placed at an Independent school out of our LA.  Sandie saw first hand the trauma and worry this had on the whole family but particularly on the child. She desperately want to see more local provision being offered and saw Soundwell Academy being part of this. In 2019 Sandie became a councillor in the New Cheltenham Ward where Soundwell Academy is placed and was very pleased to be asked to serve on the Academy Council

Bob Taylor, Parent/Carer Support Representative

My wife Sue and I have been foster carers for the past 7 years. I worked for the Post Office in various roles for 25 years before finishing with them in 2014. I sat on the board of Sovereign Housing Association for 2 years as a tenant governor until 2016.

We currently have two foster children who both attend specialist education, one is at Soundwell.

I enjoy going out for walks with the children and our dog. We are lucky enough to live by the docks, Ashton Court and Bristol City FC so we are out as much as we can be.


Kelly Field, Parent/Carer Support Representative

After noticing differences and the struggles her youngest son was having, he was put on the pathway to an autism diagnosis. It has been a steep learning curve and Kelly wants to do what she can to ensure young people are not misunderstood and have the difficult experiences her son did in education. 

Working in the food and drink sector in marketing, education is a welcome change full of new learnings! 
Outside of working and looking after her two boys Kelly loves getting out for walks, enjoying animals and nature, but also watching basketball and rugby when she is  allowed!

With the recent lockdowns Kelly took up running which is almost unheard of for her! 


Jen Southall
Chief Executive Officer

Jen is extremely proud to have joined the trust in August 2021. Her vision is that across our academies we provide high quality learning opportunities and individualised therapeutic provision for children and young people who have been identified as having social, emotional, mental health (SEMH), social, language and communication needs (SLCN) and autistic spectrum condition (ASC). By doing so, provide our children and young people with the best possible education and to secure for them a positive and fulfilled future.