Education and Children’s Services: Group Executive Council

A meeting of our GEC


Find out more about our work in this area on our education and children’s services homepage.

Mission statement

Prospect’s Education and Children’s Services GEC exists to promote and support a cadre of education professionals who sit typically outside of teaching and senior school leadership roles whether that is in employment or in self-employment/consultancy.

The core functions of the Education and Children’s Services Group (ECSG) are:

  1. Our role as a trade union in protecting, supporting and negotiating on behalf of our members.  This is predominantly an operational role that is delivered by Prospect officers and staff, where possible with relevant representatives.
  2. Our role as a professional association in promoting the role and interests of education professionals and the children and young people they support; engaging in lobbying and sharing information particularly regarding the statutory obligations and professional practices that underpin these.  The GEC has a range of professional policy expertise and supports a knowledgeable and contemporary overview of policy developments affecting our members.

Group Executive Council members

The GEC members are:

Betsan O’Connor

Betsan has worked in education and public services for more than 25 years, with experience from youth service, local government, the third sector and Welsh government. Most recently, she has worked as HMI in Estyn and as managing director of ERW, regional school improvement service.

Currently, Betsan is seconded to the Welsh government as a senior professional adviser. She is working specifically on new Evaluation and Improvement arrangements to reform the current accountability arrangements and on supporting secondary schools causing concern.

Betsan enjoys the outdoors and keeps as active as possible through running mid-to-long distances and sea swimming. She is also an active member of the local sea rowing team, canoeing club and karate club.

Diana Robinson

Diana has been a member of Prospect since 1996 (NAEIAC, Aspect) when she joined Kent County Council’s Advisory Service, having previously been a headteacher in two primary schools.

Prior to joining the Advisory Service she had completed an MA(SEN) at Canterbury Christ Church University, and during her time in the Advisory Service she completed Ofsted training (although no longer active), and the SIP accreditation training for Secondary, Primary and Special schools during 2007.  There were, apparently, only 17 people who had done all three courses.

In the days of NAEIAC, Diana was an associate member of the GEC due to her involvement in a national group providing leadership and support to SEN Advisers across the country, and she also had the opportunity to represent this organisation at the Special Education Consortium steering group, which is a large group of union and third sector organisations which have an interest in SEN and can successfully lobby government by amplifying the views of the single organisations within it.  She is currently the Prospect representative on this steering group.

Diana now works for her own company providing advisory work to LAs, MATs and her favourite job, to be the SEN Expert in Independent Review Panels.  Her contribution to these results in a very high proportion of ‘Quash and direct to reconsider’ outcomes, and occasionally it encourages parents to Appeal to the Tribunal on disability discrimination grounds.

Gill Hedworth

Gill has worked in education for 25 years with a breadth of experience in leading behaviour, attendance and health and well-being.

For nine years Gill was an Associate Lecturer in well-being and resilience for North Tyneside SCITT. Gill also lectured in behaviour for learning for Northumberland and North Tyneside NQT’s.

In 2014 Gill was one of the few lecturers in the country chosen to advise the Department for Education on the behaviour content for initial teacher training.

Until 2016 she was the Lead Advisor on Behaviour, Attendance, secondary PSHE and Prevent in North Tyneside, she has also taught and had leadership responsibilities in primary, secondary, special schools and pupil referral units. Gill has produced a wide range of resources and intervention programmes to improve behaviour, attendance and well-being.

At present Gill is a part-time assistant headteacher with responsibility for the curriculum in the North Tyneside Pupil Referral Unit and an education consultant.

Gill has been a Prospect member for ten years and has represented her colleagues during two restructuring cycles in her Local Authority. She has been a regional winner and judge for the National Teaching Awards.

In her spare time, she loves walking in the Northumberland hills, reading, cooking and spending time with her friends and family. Gill is also very political and loves to support her party in campaigning activities.

Glenn Walsh

Glenn has worked in education for 30 years starting out as a mathematics teacher in a large urban secondary school before moving into an ICT advisory role with the local authority in 1998.

In 2007 Glenn moved into school improvement and leadership development and has successfully supported a number of post-primary schools in the Formal Intervention Process (equivalent to Special Measures). Glenn has worked with primary, post-primary and special schools and led the Northern Ireland teacher Induction programme.

Glenn started out as a member of NAEIAC and via Aspect became a member of Prospect in 2012.

Glenn is presently a Head of Service for School Improvement with the Education Authority in Northern Ireland.

In his spare time, Glenn likes walking, reading and cinema.

Jill De Paolis

Jill has been President for four years during which time, she has supported the full alignment of the ECSG with Prospect.

This included renaming Aspect to Education and Children’s Services, to supporting recruitment, broadening membership of both the Group and the Executive Council and campaigning for school improvement and childrens’ support services.

Jill is recently retired but worked in local government in a wide range of Childrens’ Services for more than 25 years. This included running frontline services for children and young people,  working in various education policy roles such as Healthy Schools, Teenage Pregnancy, PSHE, drugs and alcohol and commissioning services for children and young people.

She has a BA from Warwick in Politics and achieved distinction in her Diploma in Strategic Management and Leadership. Before coming into local government Jill spent some years working for local and national children’s charities as well as working for a large multinational in Italy.

She speaks good Italian and is married to an Italian. She has been a union member for most of her working life and was a Prospect local rep before her retirement.

She loves reading, gardening and her new granddaughter, cares about children, young people, schools, the environment and Europe.

Karen Flanagan

Karen Flanagan is Head of Special Education and Inclusive Intervention Services at the London borough of Camden.

Karen taught across a variety of settings before her roles within local government, including teaching key stage 4 pupils who were excluded or at risk of exclusion within alternative education settings, access courses within the FE sector and was a director for post-16 PGCE teacher training programme at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Her local authority roles have included commissioning, contract compliance and Alternative Provision.

Karen’s own entry into university education was from a non-traditional pathway which has sparked a lifelong interest and passion for inclusion.  It has also meant she is committed to equality and fairness and firmly believes that membership of a union can help to protect workers’ rights as well as a range of other benefits such as lobbying and greater awareness for members in terms of policy issues.

Maria Marsh

Maria Marsh started her career in education at Williamson Street Primary School, Hull.

Over time, Maria became increasingly aware of those children with specific learning difficulties and acquired a Diploma in Special Educational Needs and an OU degree in Psychology during the 80s and 90s. During this time she took responsibility for working as one of three Area Leads for the Hull Learning Support Service.

In parallel to her work as Area Lead, Maria took a part-time secondment and increased responsibility as Assessment Co-ordinator and a chance to support the development of overarching approaches to the assessment of all pupils across primary, secondary and SEN.

Following a spell teaching English in the United States, she did a part-time Masters degree in leadership and management.

This was followed by an Advisory role in special educational needs and professional development in the East Riding, during which Maria became an Ofsted Registered Inspector.

She later took on the post of Advisor for Special Educational Needs in North Lincolnshire where she welcomed the opportunity to drive local professional development via links with Sheffield Hallam University.

Next, the family moved south and Maria took on the role of Inspector for Special Educational Needs in the London borough of Sutton and later Lead Inspector for Inclusion for the same borough.

Maria formally retired in 2016, offering informal advice and support as requested but then decided, as a long standing member of Soroptimist International, to volunteer time to a STEM Challenge for girls in Years 8 and 9 which is currently being developed by members based largely in the south of England.

Maria has always belonged to a union. She was closely involved with negotiating teachers’ rights when Hull closed all its schools at the end of the Summer Term 1988 when it moved from a middle school system to a primary/secondary system. As an Inspector Maria moved from a teaching union to Aspect and later Prospect, and was the union representative for the London borough of Sutton.

Mark Patton

Mark has worked in education for 30 years as a teacher, school leader, local authority school improvement adviser and a lead inspector inspecting schools on behalf of Ofsted.

He lives and works in the north-east of England and has worked all over the north of England in many of these roles.

Despite climbing up the management ladder, Mark has always remained a committed trade unionist.  As a teacher, he was in a teacher’s union, and when he moved into local authority work, Mark joined Aspect, the predecessor to Prospect’s Education and Children’s Services (ECS) Group.

“I strongly believe in the principle of collective bargaining, agreements, protection and support that an independent external organisation can bring to a group.

“I think anybody who is employed in school improvement work inside a local authority, or council, should be in a union.”

In fact, his union activism is getting stronger as the years go by. Following discussion with his colleagues and with their support, Mark was elected to the ECS Group executive council in 2017 and was recently elected as President in 2019.

He has represented and spoken on behalf of the ECS Group in at many national conferences such as Prospect’s National Conference, the Public Sector Services Conference and the TUC Conference in Brighton in 2019.

At present Mark is an Assistant Director with Newcastle City Council, with responsibility for education and skills across the city.

To keep a good work-life balance, Mark is heavily involved in basketball.  He travels all over the country officiating and training officials.  He is also an Instructor for the sport’s international governing body (FIBA) which has taken him all over Europe to improve officiating in the sport.

Paul Watson

Paul Watson started his career as a chemistry teacher in North-East Scotland 1980 and, latterly, was the head of department in a secondary school in Moray for 11 years.

After teaching for 20 years he moved into local authority work, initially seconded to support primary schools with science developments and shortly afterwards he was appointed to the permanent post as quality improvement officer.

This role involved him in providing professional support to two secondary schools, along with their associated primary schools. He also held the strategic authority role for literacy and numeracy, managing a small team of development officers, and was the lead authority officer for self-evaluation and quality improvement.

Later posts included being manager for the quality improvement functions for both education and social work in the newly merged local authority Education and Social Care department in Moray and, for the three years before his retirement in 2017, he was seconded as senior education adviser for reviewing school catchment areas and establishing new schools.

He joined the National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants (NAEIAC), later to become Aspect, in 2003 and a few years later became the local Aspect rep for Moray.

He was a member of the small working party which developed the Aspect Professional Standards for Scotland (first published in 2009) and in 2012 was nominated as the Aspect representative for Scotland, succeeding Tommy Doherty who had been elected national Vice-President.

In 2016, Paul was elected as Vice-President of the Prospect Education and Children’s Services group and, despite retirement from full time local authority work in 2017, remains active in the union and was recently re-elected to serve a further two year term as Vice-President.

Sara Griffiths

Sara has worked in education for more than 30 years and feels very passionately about the importance of early intervention to improve school attendance and raise attainment. Sara has worked in local authorities as the Lead for School Attendance managing Education Welfare Services, Early Help Services and delivering exclusion prevention and advice services.

She has designed and delivered a range of training on attendance, safeguarding in education and exclusions. She also spent a period of time as a consultant working with local authorities to redesign and restructure Early Help, Children’s Centres and School Attendance Services. She is a qualified mentor and coach and has delivered training across the UK on the Outcomes Star.

She is currently working as National Attendance Lead for a large Multi Academy Trust, supporting schools to develop and improve their practice in managing school attendance.

She is also a member of the National Council for NASWE (National Association of Support Workers in Education), an organisation that works with members to improve school attendance and meets with the DfE regularly to develop policy and practice relating to school attendance.

In her spare time she enjoys live music, going away in her campervan, being with friends and family, including three grandchildren and five step-grandchildren, and walking two very mad Springer Spaniels. In any quiet moments, she likes to catch up on reading and watching crime dramas.

Sue King

Sue became a nursery teacher in 1981. She has worked in maintained and non-maintained provision, including several years as a registered childminder when her children were small.

Sue has worked for three local authorities as an early years consultant and area Special Educational Needs Coordinator. She took up a management role within a Children’s Centre and was then made redundant as part of a restructuring of targeted services.

Sue is currently self-employed and spends most of her working time conducting early years inspections for Ofsted. She originally joined Prospect when it was the National Association of Educational Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants (NAEIAC).

In her spare time, Sue enjoys walking with her local Ramblers group and coordinates the group’s six-monthly walk programme. She likes to read fiction of all sorts – and always has a ‘next book’ ready.

Tommy Doherty

Tommy has worked in education since 1975, initially as a mathematics teacher at secondary school level. As head of department, he led on various learning and teaching initiatives across Scotland, becoming a prominent member of the Scottish Mathematical Council.

He undertook a period of secondment to the Scottish Open Learning Consortium before becoming Adviser in Mathematics and subsequently Advisory Team Coordinator in North Lanarkshire.

In 2006, he was seconded by Learning and Teaching Scotland to set up and manage a new online teacher support resource, the Virtual Advisory Service, as part of the development of the Scottish Government’s Glow initiative.

Following early retirement, he undertook consultancy work, including work with City & Guilds on their Chartered Teacher certification scheme. Since the 1990s he has been involved with the work of the SCHOLAR Project, which is based at Heriot Watt University, becoming a member of its Academic Policy Board.

Tommy has been a Prospect member for 17 years, taking a leading role in recruitment of members in Scotland and being involved in discussions about pay and conditions following the publication of the McCrone Report. He has been an elected member of the group’s Executive since 2005 and served as President in 2012-13. Since retiring, he has remained on council as representative for members in Scotland.

He is a keen amateur photographer and was President of the Scottish Photographic Federation from 2012-14.

Vinod Hallan

Vinod has worked in education for 39 years and has wide-ranging experience of senior roles in school improvement, closing attainment gaps and cultural diversity.

He has worked for a wide range of providers of education services including local authorities, SERCO, CfBT, Capita, Ofsted and the DfE.

He has extensive experience of leading training events, professional writing and developing training materials.

Vinod is a longstanding Prospect ECS member, a past president, and has been on the National Council for 14 years.

He has 25 years’ experience as a school governor and has recently retired as a magistrate.

In his spare time, he enjoys long walks, reading, swimming.