Meet the Governors





Mrs D McGuiness (Committee Chair), Mrs E Graham, Mrs J Humphrey, Mr P Kelly, Mrs J Skipsey, Dr N Weatherspoon, Mrs C Wilkins

Curriculum and Standards


Mrs D McGuiness, Mrs E Graham, Mrs J Humphrey, Mrs J Skipsey, Miss C West, Mrs O’Connor (Committee Chair)


Portfolios Governors 2020 – 2021


 Area of focus



Pupil Premium

Catch Up Premium

Sport Premium

 Dorothy McGuiness

Michelle O'Connor



 Michelle O'Connor

Paul Kelly




Michelle O’Connor

Dorothy McGuiness



Paul Kelly

 Nicola Weatherspoon

Early Years Foundation Stage


Clare Wilkins

Julie Skipsey


Portfolio Governors will be responsible for triangulating their evidence base through pupil observations and discussions thereby taking over the role of Class Link Governors.

Read our Governor Profiles

Dorothy McGuiness Co-opted  -  Chair of Governors since 1996

I have been a school governor since 1985 firstly as a parent governor until my children left school in 1993 when I became a Community governor, and subsequently became Chair of Governors in 1996 and attended many training courses over the years and still attend (it’s amazing what can still be learnt or improved upon).  I endeavour to be a good critical friend to our School.


Both of my Children (and two of my step children) attended Portobello and then Lord Lawson School going on to University, and are extremely successful in their chosen fields, I think testimony of their excellent early education here at Portobello.  My Granddaughter having had the same and better opportunities at Portobello has recently to LLOBA, and now my Grandson is a pupil here.


Having run a business for several of these years I felt that I could bring knowledge, of finance and HR and be a critical friend to the school.


For 19 years I worked for Newcastle University Medical School as a Grants Administrator – facilitating academics applying for research funding from a variety of sources, which afforded me the insight into grant applications, higher education, and excellent medical research ongoing in the North East and allowed me the time to meet my Governor role. 


I have recently retired I hope to be able to spend more time covering this role.


My outside interests, apart from my grandchildren, are singing with 2 Choirs including, Inspiration Choir. We perform 3 times a year at the Sage Gateshead and this has also enabled me to travel, performing and raising money for many Charity events far and away; the pinnacle was performing in Carnegie Hall, New York (same stage as the Beatles) and getting a standing ovation for our rendition of the Lion King.  It has been medically proven that singing is extremely good for Mental and General health, learning 24 songs 3 times a year also helps to keep the old grey cells going.


I also enjoy cooking for my family and friends and teaching the grandchildren; time permitting I also like to read.


I would hope that I am approachable and that I will always do my best for Portobello’s children and their education.




Julie L Skipsey  Co-opted Governor since 1998

I have been a Governor at Portobello since 1998, firstly as a parent Governor and now as a Co-opted
Governor. The reason I have stayed as a Governor here, when my children no longer attend Portobello,
is because I have high regard and respect for the hard work and dedication that the staff have towards the children and for the school.

I bring to the Governing Body a wealth of experience including Early Years, SENDCo, staffing, and
finance. I am a Pre-school Manager at the Grove Pre-school, which is a registered charity, and located
in Birtley, where I have worked for the last twenty years. Many of the children who were at the Grove
are now pupils at Portobello Primary.

My training includes: Early Years, Special Educational Needs, the new Education Inspection Framework,
Child Protection, Safeguarding, 1st Aid, Health and Well-Being, Communication, Language and Literacy,
Health and Safety, Data Protection/GDPR, Prevent/Channel General Awareness training, Cultural Capital and I am also a member of the Ofsted Big Conversation group, representing the Private and Voluntary Groups in the North East. I also attend the Local Authority Early Years Cluster Meetings.

I am married to Colin, who works at Beamish Museum, and we have 2 children Jennifer (28) who is
Physiotherapist at the Freeman Hospital, and Ben (25) who is a Mechanical Engineer at Ashgarth
Engineering in Consett. Both were pupils at Portobello, had a very happy time there and made very good

In the past, I have lived and worked in London. I worked as a Pathology Office Manager at the Royal
Free Hospital before coming home and working as a Doctors Receptionist before having my 2 children.
After having Ben I became a childminder and when he started school I went back to college and studied for my Level 3 in Childcare and Education while working at the Grove Pre-school.

My hobbies include spending time with my family, walking, boating holidays, photography, reading and
going to the cinema and theatre.

Elaine Graham LA/Parent/STAFF /Co-opted Governor since 2009

I decided on a career change in 1994 when my two sons were more independent.  I went back to college to follow a path in childcare, something I always felt I was meant to do.


I began working at Portobello Primary in 1999 covering a maternity leave. I was sad to leave when the time came but extremely happy when asked back when a post became vacant.


As I feel a strong bond with Portobello I thought that being a governor would help to give me a little bit more of an insight into the management of the school. I enjoy being part of the decision making team which does its best to help the school maintain and make continuous improvements for the benefit of its pupils. As a staff member I see the day to day running of the school which qualifies me to add my opinions and suggestions to help it to continue to be an excellent school.


I am married and my sons and their wives have given us three granddaughters and three grandsons, all of whom keep me very busy. In addition to being a ‘hands on’ grandparent, I enjoy weekends away with friends and family. We like visiting new places and especially enjoy good food! I also love reading, cooking and music.


I feel very lucky to be able to say that I really like my job and because of this will always do my best to help Portobello Primary School to provide the finest education in the safest and nurturing environment that it possibly can.

Michelle O’Connor Parent Governor since 2016

I joined the Governing Body of Portobello Primary School to support the running of the school and ensure that all of the pupils who attend the school receive the best possible start to their education journey.


I am the parent of a child in Year 6, who has always loved school as did my older daughter who left Portobello in July 2017 to transfer to Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy.


I work as a teacher in another local authority and so hope that these skills transfer in a supportive way to my role on the Governing Body. In my job I am responsible for the spending of Sports Premium money and I have received training in this area. I have also received training in English and Pupil Premium spending.


I also enjoy volunteering in school, particularly hearing children read and supporting the various sporting events which school are involved in. .



Miss West Co-opted Staff Governor since 2015

I studied at the University of Durham, completing a BA Honours degree in Primary Education, where I enjoyed and was successful in many placements within both the key stages and the foundation stage. Since qualifying I have taught in both year one and year two and spent a small amount of time teaching year three. My philosophy of education has been developed through the experience I have gained in different schools, reflected on by feedback given from other experienced teachers and influenced by training and new initiatives. I know that is my life long career.


Since joining Portobello in October 2013 I have been extremely fortunate to work with successful teams of people and delightful children. I took on the role of PE coordinator for the whole school, whilst mentoring a less experienced staff member to enable her to confidently take over the role in the future. This gave me the opportunity to work alongside children across both key stages and coordinate the planning and delivery of PE, staff development and confidence, whilst utilising outside agencies such as professional coaches. Since September 2014 I have been part of the leadership team, during this time I have shadowed the role of SENCO before progressing to follow my chosen professional development path of Key Stage One lead. My heart lies in Key Stage One and I enjoy providing the children with experiences that enable them to build and create knowledge as they come to understand the world around them. It is also a pleasure to lead a group of dedicated teaching professionals, whilst also mentoring NQT and SCITT teachers who are at the beginning of their teaching career.  For the last three years I have been a part of the English lead team, I have immensely enjoyed identifying strengths in this subject and then areas which need developing in order to have maximum impact of the progress of all children.


I was extremely proud to become a part of Portobello’s governing body. I have good interpersonal skills and enjoy working with others and appreciate that whilst acting as teacher governor my colleagues will put their faith in me to fulfil this role to my full potential. During my nine years of teaching, I feel that I have gained valuable experiences and knowledge which I am certain I can apply to a governing body role, positively impacting on the school, children, staff and parents alike.

Paul Kelly  Governor since 2013, appointed Vice Chair in November 2020

I am a self-employed Health & Safety and Food Hygiene / Food Safety Management Consultant and adult teacher. I have remained a Safety professional for over 30 years and operate on a part time basis only.


My qualifications and professional status include:

‘Chartered’ Member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health;

OSHCR (Occupational Safety and Health Competent Consultants) – UK National Register;

NEBOSH Environmental management;

Mining Engineer;

Adult & Further Education Teachers qualification;

Food Hygiene and Food Safety & Hygiene Management Systems (Including HACCP Management)

My other Voluntary senior roles and positions include:

I am a Trustee and Council Member of the NEIMME (NE Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers) where I organise regular free events in Newcastle;

I am a Trustee and Board Member of the 'Birtley Community Partnership' based at the Birtley Hub.


My work life experiences have included full time roles in Safety Management as British Coal Safety Engineer (where I was also team captain as a Mines Rescue Brigade member), Vaux and Wards Breweries Safety Manager and NEXUS Safety Advisor. I have enjoyed several years as a Management Consultant in a wide variety of establishments to include hotel chains, brewery, manufacturing industry, special school and the domiciliary branch of the care sector.


In 2018 I wrote a training and practical guide book entitled ‘Safety Management in Domiciliary Care’ {A practical guide}.


My experiences and expertise along with the recent years as PPS Governor allow me to contribute and assist in governor meetings and during other planned visits to our school.


I have lived in Birtley for over 20 years, married and have 2 grown up children who live and work elsewhere.


I regularly attend Gateshead Governor Support training courses and I am active in my role as PPS Governor where I am a regular visitor at the school.


I have recently confirmed that I will remain a voluntary PPS Governor for at least another 4 years and I will continue to be committed to listening, challenging, supporting and contributing to the school behavioural and educational goals.

Claire Wilkins - Co-opted Governor since 2018

I was born in Birtley and still live here with my husband and my two children. Both of my daughters have attended Portobello Primary School, my eldest having now moved on to Lord Lawson of Beamish Academy.

I have always worked in the early years, having left school to become a nursery nurse and building my career from there. Before having my own children, I managed a range of early years settings. I also have experience of working as an early years advisor for the local authority and senior positions within what used to Sure Start Children’s Centres. My responsibilities included setting up new childcare settings, quality assurance and support for nurseries and childminders. There was a lot of interagency and partnership work, which gave me good knowledge and experiences of how different sectors operate, including education, health and social services. When we started our own family, I chose to work from home as a childminder and this just grew and grew. For the last 8 years, I have enjoyed running my own business, which is a small chain of early years and out of school settings. We have provided wrap-around care for Portobello Primary school for over ten years now.


I have in-depth knowledge of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum, which I hope can be of benefit to the school. My recent training includes Safeguarding, Ofsted EIF Framework and online safety. Being a relatively new member of the governing body, I would like to access some further training within the local authority to help me to develop this role.


My outside interests include travel, music and reading.

Dr Nicola Weatherspoon - Parent Governor since 2018

I joined the Governing Body as a Parent Governor to support and build on the successes of the school to date. I have one child in Key Stage 1 with my youngest child starting school next academic year.


I am a Senior Lecturer in the Leadership Development and Organisations Futures Team at Newcastle University Business School, which focusses on bringing together organisations and the university in a shared ambition of supporting leaders in the changing context of work.


I am currently Programme Leader for the MSc Strategic Leadership, an External Examiner at Robert Gordon University and a qualified Executive Coach. My research interests lie in leadership, entrepreneurship, diversity and inclusion on which I have published a number of academic journal articles, book chapters and policy brief.


Having spent 15 years working in Higher Education designing and delivering innovative work based programmes, I am passionate about lifelong learning and inclusion to provide equitable experiences to raise the aspirations of every child’s view of learning and their future. I am therefore extremely proud to be the supporting Governor for Portobello’s achievement of the Bronze Award for the UNICEF Rights Respecting School and in our current efforts to become a Stonewall School Champion.