The Vine Schools Trust is a multi-academy trust and is the accountable body for all twenty three of its schools. Therefore, the overarching responsibility for the governance of the Trust and its schools lies with the Vine Board of Directors.  They fulfil the three core functions of governance:

  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
  • Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the effective and efficient performance management of staff; and
  • Overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure its money is well spent.

To enable the Directors to fulfil their responsibility eight regional Local School Boards work on their behalf and undertake delegated local governance of between two and four schools.  Community Boards in each school enable local support and provide information to enable good governance.

The key principle is that all three Boards together with Executive Leaders will provide an aspect of governance the other cannot as set out in this chart.

This model of governance is undertaken under delegated responsibility. For full details see below.


The Vine Local Board of Ridgewell Primary School is made up of representatives from Parents, Diocese, Parishes and Staff. The governors meet regularly to discuss items such as school budget, health and safety in school, the school development plan and the curriculum. They agree on school policies and monitor school priorities. They work closely with the Headteacher and staff to ensure standards and achievement of all pupils is maintained.

Mike Simmonds – (Chair)

Mike Simmonds has recently taken on the role of chair and joins us from the Vine Academy.

The Revd Canon Jonathan Lowe ACII CF

Jonathan joined the Governing Body in 2013 and is the Vicar of the six villages of the Two Rivers Benefice, which comprises Steeple Bumpstead, Helions Bumpstead, Ridgewell, Ashen, Birdbrook and Sturmer. In addition to Parish ministry, Jonathan is also a serving Army Reserve Chaplain, currently with 254 (East of England) Medical Regiment. Additionally, he is Area Dean and a Canon of Chelmsford Cathedral.

Prior to entering ministerial training in 2008, he worked in the London Insurance Market in a variety of roles encompassing strategy, planning, finance, compliance, customer services and operations. He finished his City career as Managing Director of a Lloyd’s Reinsurance Company.

Jonathan is married to Theresa and they have two wonderful daughters. Outside of work, he enjoys reading historical fiction, is a keen runner and a lifelong West Ham United supporter.

Mrs Kirsty Stuart

Kirsty took the role as Head of School over Belchamp St Paul and Ridgewell in September 2018. Prior to that she joined Ridgewell in 2010 as a class teacher.
Kirsty is originally from South Yorkshire where she taught in another Church School.

In her time as a class teacher she enjoyed teaching all elements of the curriculum but most especially Art and Forest School. She loves to paint and draw, read books and cycle (but not all at the same time!)
Kirsty is happiest when outside and loves to organise and plan school trips. Every two years she has taken the Year 5/6 at Ridgewell on a residential trip, camping on Mersea Island. Her love of camping started when she was young and spent family holidays under canvas.

Mr Nigel Benwell

Nigel was elected to the governing body in March 2018 and lives in the village with his wife, Kim, and three of his daughters who attend Ridgewell School. Nigel is an officer in the British Army who has deployed on operations in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and served in various parts of the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. He currently works in Westminster planning the Army’s strategic engagement and communications. Nigel brings a wealth of experience in education including the last three years educating the senior officers of the Canadian Forces in Toronto and previously commanding an Army training school in Hampshire. He is an operational planner and recently delivered the Government’s Afghanistan flagship project, an Army Officer Academy in Kabul.

Nigel is a keen sportsman and is seen on Saturdays playing rugby for Haverhill RFC. An advocate of continuous professional development, he holds two Master of Arts degrees in Business and Defence Studies and professional qualifications in Project Management. Free time is spent with his family. His interests include skiing, political studies, military history, theatre and the Arts.

Mrs Maureen Rigg (Vice Chair)

Maureen lives with her husband in Ashen and is Church Warden for Ashen Church. They moved from Chelmsford nearly nine years ago having lived there for 35 years. They have two grown up sons.

Most of her working life has been in education. She worked as a Lecturer in Adult Education at Chelmer Institute Catering Department, for 15 years in a secondary school as a Senior Teaching Assistant and Deputy SENCo and for 10 years worked as a tutor and as a NVQ assessor for School Support Staff. The latter taking her into many primary and secondary schools.

Maureen has been a member of the Scout Association since she was 16 years old, and held many roles, as a Leader, Assistant County Commissioner for Cub Scouts and Adult Training. At the moment her role is as an Explorer Scout Leader looking after the training of Young Leaders and also is involved in some Adult Leader training. In her spare time Maureen likes cooking and gardening.


We currently have a vacancy for a PCC representative.
If you are interested please speak to The Revd Canon Jonathan Lowe to learn more about the role and commitments involved.