Leadership Team

Trudy Danby

Chief Operations Officer and Interim CEO

Richard Smith

Headteacher, St Michael’s Church of England First School and Executive Headteacher of Minehead First School, Interim Headteacher of Danesfield Middle School

Richard joined the teaching profession in 2000 and, upon completing his NPQH qualification, graduated from the DfE’s FastTrack Leadership programme in 2007. He has worked in Senior Leadership for over 20 years and has extensive strategic experience on leading School Improvement, Teaching & Learning, Curriculum Design and leading change. He has worked in a variety of roles – Exec. Deputy Head, Headteacher, Director of Teaching & Learning – across a variety of phases: Primary, Secondary and Sixth-Forms settings. He was instrumental in setting up both a large Multi Academy Trust and a Free School, developing his career in a growing MAT afforded him a rich learning experience across a diverse range contexts. He has spoken extensively both nationally and internationally on Curriculum Design and has tutored on NPQSL and SLE programmes. Prior to education, Richard worked in corporate banking in the city, and holds both a BA (Hons) and an MA in English Literature.

As Director of Education, Richard provides ongoing support and challenge for all schools within our Trust, currently leading on Teaching & Learning, Safeguarding and SIAMs. His educational philosophy derives from the understanding that every student is an individual whose needs are of equal importance. He believes that what matters most is that the quality of Teaching & Learning is both “Excellent” and “Outstanding” – quality first teaching is key; that is the key principle for improving the achievement, progress, and attainment of every student irrespective of their age, stage, or background. He loves his job, he loves his subject, and he loves his vocation.

Emma Murch

Headteacher, Old Cleeve Church of England First School

Emma Murch first joined West Somerset Academies Trust in September 2019 as Director of Early Years. Emma was an early Years Teacher and Advisor before having her own family.

In her role as Director of Early Years, Emma works with the Head Teachers and Early Years Teachers across West Somerset Academy Trust to create an outstanding curriculum that inspires children and meets their learning needs, to ensure they achieve their potential. In September 2021 she was appointed Interim Head at Old Cleeve School.

Maida White

Headteacher, St Peter’s Church of England First School

Maida White is Head of School at St Peter’s First School. She is an experienced teacher, having qualified in 2005 and spent more of her teaching career in the early years and KS1. Maida has worked in three of the Trust’s first schools; and St Peter’s First School is where she took her first steps into senior leadership as deputy headteacher in 2019, as well as becoming the designated safeguarding lead and SENDCo.

Maida believes that an excellent education will not only change a child’s life, but it will also make the local community stronger. It is important to make sure that the children have the confidence, qualifications, and skills necessary to be able to take their place in a highly technical and competitive world.

Laura Mackie

Headteacher, Minehead Middle School

Laura has been teaching for 22 years, starting her career at a secondary school in South Bristol teaching business and computing. She enjoyed 11 years in Bristol having gained experience in developing teaching and learning practices, raising standards and outcomes for young people, as well as embedding an ever-changing strategy for online education. Her move to West Somerset in 2012 where she now lives with her daughter, allowed her to broaden her experience, and for the past 12 years Laura has enjoyed teaching maths to young people from years 6 – 11.

She has continued to work within secondary education in various leadership roles in West Somerset, Taunton, and North Devon Schools where she trained to become a qualified SENDCO and safeguarding lead. Her philosophy for education is to provide an environment where young people feel safe, happy and can embrace a love of learning. She strongly believes in this environment we see young people flourish, and through the dedication of a committed team we can support our children to fulfil their potential and achieve their aspirations.

Laura joined Minehead Middle School as Headteacher in September 2023 and is looking forward to working with a group of exceptional young people, a passionate staff team and in partnership with the parents/carers who make such a valuable contribution to the provision we offer.

Photo of Gemma Chapman

Gemma Chapman

Head of School, Minehead First School

Gemma Chapman is Head of School at Minehead First. Having qualified in 2006, Gemma has spent most of her teaching career in the Early Years and KS1, specialising in early reading. Gemma has enjoyed working across Beacon Education, returning to Minehead First as Deputy Headteacher at the beginning of 2023, before stepping up to Head of School in September.  

Having specialised in early reading, Gemma is driven to ensure that all children make a strong start to their school journey.

Gemma is hugely passionate about developing a captivating and relevant curriculum for the children of West Somerset, ensuring that through this, they reach their full potential and have the knowledge, confidence, and skills necessary to take their place as citizens in West Somerset and the wider world.  

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