Meet the Governors





Mrs D McGuiness, Mrs V Symons, Mrs E Graham, Mrs J Humphrey, Mr P Kelly, Mrs J Skipsey.

Curriculum and Standards


Mrs D McGuiness, Mrs V Symons, Mrs E Graham, Mrs J Humphrey, Mrs J Skipsey, Miss C West, Mrs O’Connor  


Portfolios Governors 2018 – 2019


 Area of focus



Pupil Premium & Sport Premium

 Vi Symons

Michelle O'Connor



Vi Symons

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, all 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 just transferred to LLOB, and we have just seen my Grandson becoming 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, excellent medical research ongoing in the North East and allowed me the time to meet my Governor role, as I have now retired I hope to be able to spend more time covering this role.

My outside interests, apart from my grandchildren, are singing with Inspiration Choir we perform 3 times a year at the Sage Gateshead 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, 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.

Vi Symons Co-opted Governor. Vice Chair, Chair of Curriculum & Pupils Committee since 2007

I graduated as a Primary School teacher in 1968. I have lived in Gateshead since 1975 so the majority of my working life was with the Local Authority. I retired in August 2006. 

I have been involved with Governing Bodies since the mid- 1980s, firstly as a staff governor but for the 12 years leading up to my retirement as a Head Teacher governor.

During those years I witnessed enormous changes in the role expected of a school governor. When I retired I wanted to give something back to the Local Authority in recognition of all the support that I had received as an educationalist so I decided that sitting on the other side of the fence would not only be different but would also be a challenge. Gateshead Local Authority has an excellent Governor Support Service that runs seminars and workshops, keeping governors abreast of legislation and educational changes. Learning is continuous.

I am married with two children, a daughter living in the USA with her husband and two grown up children and a son, married with one grown up daughter who resides in Gateshead. My granddaughter attended Portobello Primary School, Lord Lawson Academy & Newcastle College. Portobello did her proud. She loved school.

I bring to the Governing Body a wealth of committee experience and expertise in staffing, curriculum, finance, Health & Safety and premises management.

In addition my outside interests include gardening, walking, swimming and reading.

 I have the highest regard for the staff and the provision made at Portobello Primary and will endeavour to see that only the best education is on offer in this school community.

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 Community Governor and 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, Special Needs, staffing, safeguarding and finance.

 I am married to Colin and we have 2 children Jennifer, who works in Hull as a Physiotherapist and Ben  who is a Mechanical Engineer at Response Engineering. Both were pupils at Portobello and had a very happy time and made very good progress at Portobello.

 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 where I am now Pre-school Manager and have been for the past 16 years.  The Pre-school is based at the Adult Learning Centre in Birtley and many of the children who were at the Pre-school, are now at Portobello Primary.

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

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

I have worked at Portobello Primary School since 1998 and have experience in both Key Stages.

I enjoy being a Staff Governor and take a special interest in all aspects of school life. Being with the children and having contact with parents puts me in a good position to feedback to the Head Teacher all positive and negative things that occur.

I have a particular interest in Health and Safety and am always ready to report something, however small, to make sure our children and staff are safe.

I am part of the Wellbeing Team in school, myself and other members try and make sure the staff room and school is a pleasant place to be.

I am a ‘Kidsafe’ trainer. The course aims to give all of the children the ‘tools’ to look after themselves and keep themselves safe in and out of school. This has been very successful and will continue with refreshers and new courses.

 Portobello School is not just a job to me, I am proud of the school and what the children achieve in their time with us and will continue to do my best for the school in the future.

Michelle O’Connor Parent Governor since 2016

I joined the Governing Body of Portobello Primary School as I hoped that I could 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 who is currently in Year 4, my daughter 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.

 As a relatively new governor I look forward to the exciting journey that lies ahead.

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. 

 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 LA Governor since 2013

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.

I have enjoyed status of the HSE / Government Competent Register ‘OSHCR’ (Occupational Safety and Health Consultants Register) since it commenced a number of years ago.

My qualifications include: NEBOSH Diploma / 1992 Degree equivalent in Occupational Safety and Health; Chartered Member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (CMIOSH); NEBOSH Environmental management; HNC Mining Engineering (incorporating mining, mechanical, electrical engineering, surveying and management); MNEIMME Corporate Member of the North of England Mining and Mechanical Engineers; Adult and Further Education Teaching qualification and Food Hygiene and HACCP Management.

My work life experiences include full time roles in Safety Management and several years as a Management Consultant in a wide variety of establishments to include hotel chains, industry, brewery and the domiciliary branch of the care sector.

I have recently written a book entitled ‘Safety Management in Domiciliary Care’ {A practical guide} and this is due to be published in 2018.

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

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

I regularly attended Gateshead Governor Support training courses and I am active in regularly visiting the school in my role as Local Authority Governor for where I am committed to listening, challenging, supporting and contributing to the school behavioural and educational goals.