Our Trustees

Sarah Gillett, Executive Trustee – Executive Head Teacher (CEO) Sarah holds a post graduate diploma in special education, a Master’s degree in education studies, a specialist leader in behaviour and attendance qualification and the national professional qualification for headship (NPQH) as well as qualified Lead Ofsted inspector. She has also completed the SSAT executive Heads course. Sarah has worked in senior leadership for the last 12 years. Prior to her teaching career Sarah worked in commerce in London and the Middle East, managing a property portfolio of over £200 million on behalf of a variety of UK and international based clientele.

Skills: leadership, education improvement, finance, business, HR and data handling 

Annette Benny, Trustee



Term of office4 Years


Governance roles in other schoolsNone
Business/Financial interestsDeputy director of corporate affairs – NHS NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group. Director, Delt Shared Services Ltd, Plymouth
ProfileAnnette commenced her career as a podiatrist, joining the NHS in 1988. She has since held roles in operational management, leading capital projects, consultancy, commissioning and performance management in both the NHS and Department of Health. As the programme manager, she helped set up the largest CCG in England, NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, which was established with no conditions in 2012. More recently she has led a portfolio comprising contracting, business intelligence, information technology, referral management, human resources and organisational development.

Passionate about making a difference for local people she has led a number of major change programmes such as the roll out of Choice, Choose and Book across Devon and Cornwall and the redesign of the Devon wide Referral Management Service. She is a Director at Delt Shared Services; a company she co-founded between the CCG and the City Council to provide great IT services in partnership and to maximise opportunities to improve health and wellbeing by keeping quality jobs at a local level.

She is currently the Deputy Director of Corporate Affairs and Chief Information Officer and is proud to have worked with her fellow Chief Information Officers across Devon and Cornwall to produce a jointly owned Digital Roadmap covering 1.7million population.

As a result of her work above she has a broad range of experience and skills which she is able to offer as a Trustee of ACE. She cares that the Multi Academy Trust continues to make a difference for even more young people and is proud to be a part of it.

Tim Searle, Trustee

RoleChair of Trustees


Term of office 

1 Year

Governance roles in other schoolsNone
Business/Financial interestsAerospace and high technology materials engineering and wind energy, usually in pan European collaborative and commercial research programmes
ProfileTim Searle is a consulting engineer, with a special interest in high technology materials for aeroplanes, large wind turbines and sports equipment etc. He is passionate about sport and has completed 10 marathons and 2 Ironman triathlons. He would like to be faster! He lectured in engineering at Plymouth University for 10 years and has chaired the large Youth and Children’s program at Mutley Baptist Church.

He is married to Debra and they have 2 girls Heidi and Molly. Surfing camping and other outdoor things take up their spare time as a family.

Tim is the Chair of Trustees for the ACE Multi Academy Trust.

Sue Bickle, Trustee

Term of office

4 Years

Governance roles in other schoolsChair of Governors Courtlands Local Governing Board
Business/Financial interests 
ProfileBorn and raised in Plymouth I held a number of different Jobs before taking on the role of director for the family business.  We did this for 26 years until the time came for my parents to retire at which point we bought the business to a close.  I am a wife and mother of 2 children, one of whom has special needs.  It was in the early years of learning to deal with my youngest daughter’s needs that I started to see some of the struggles and battles that many parents and carers were dealing with daily.  I became a Governor at Courtlands Special School mainly because I wanted to give something in return for the amazing care my daughter was given there but also as I quickly realised that many of the pupils had no-one in their corner fighting for them and that bothered me deeply.  Since then I have gone on to become Chair of the Governing body and am now looking forward to the new and exciting role as Trustee with Ace.  My husband is now a TA specializing in Behaviour support so together we are constantly striving to understand the difficulties faced by our young students and find strategies to help them access the education they so deserve.  I love being in School, working with the Children and supporting the Staff and do my best to always be approachable.  These are new and exciting times for us as a School joining the Ace Multi Academy Trust but I am confident that our similarities in vision and values will mean that we can only help each other to be better versions of ourselves.

Peter McDonnell, Trustee


Vice Chair of Trustees

Term of office 

1 Year

Governance roles in other schoolsNone
Business/Financial interestsEmployed full time by Navitas Limited as the College Director. Principal of Plymouth University International College.
ProfilePeter joined ACE Plymouth in June 2014 as a Community member on the Executive


Management Committee, and subsequently became a member of the Finance &

Resources Committee and Pay Committee. He is currently employed as the College

Director and Principal of Plymouth University International College; a Higher Education pathway College operated by Navitas Limited, a position he has held since July 2010. Prior to that time, Peter had a military career which spanned 36 years during which he held a number of Command appointments including sea Command of the surface ship HMS Anglesey and the nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine HMS Victorious. He also held positions as the Career Manager responsible for the professional development and appointment of all submarine warfare specialist officers, and Command of the Royal Navy Submarine School.

Peter has a Master of Science Degree in Leadership and Management from the University of Portsmouth and a First Class Honours Degree in Education and Training, and a Certificate in Education (PCET) from the University of Plymouth. He is a member of the City and Guilds Institute for Leadership and has a Level 5 Certificate in Coaching and Mentoring in Management.

As Deputy Chair of the Board of Trustees for ACE Schools MAT, Peter brings a wealth of experience, management, leadership and financial acumen to the Board. He is passionate about providing opportunities for young people to achieve their full potential, and the promotion of a lifelong learning culture.

Joan Watkins, Trustee


Trustee & Chair of Local Governing Board

Term of office4 Years


Governance roles in other schoolsNone
Business/Financial interestsNone
ProfileJoan is a mother of 2, having a son and a daughter. She is a grandmother to 5 grandsons ranging in age from 1 to 15 years old.

Joan is now a retired nurse and midwife. She was also former Plymouth City Councillor where she chaired the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Panel before becoming Cabinet Member for Children’s Services.

Joan is now working with Youth Offending Services and Aneurin Bevan Health Board developing Befriending Services in Wales as a volunteer. She also sits on the Scrutiny Panel for Children’s Services Newport, representing the Monmouth Diocese Church in Wales.

Joan’s interests include reading, gardening travel, politics, cooking, meeting friends and of course very involved with her family.

Joan is committed to supporting ACE in all aspects of the services it provides and what it continues to achieve for our children.


Meeting minutes