Governance & Policies

Responsible for the overall functioning of the College, including ensuring the quality of service and welfare for all of our students, our Corporation is also responsible for the financial health of the College; making sure that public funds are used effectively. It’s also responsible for monitoring our students – their achievement and retention figures. Our entire focus at Plumpton is on helping you to continue your studies and achieve your learning goals.

All of our governors on the Corporation are volunteers – normally appointed for a period of four years. This is often extended for a further four years depending on performance and the skillset of the member against the needs of the Corporation. This period can also be extended in exceptional circumstances.

    Meet the Governors

    Julie Dougill - Chair of Governors & Safeguarding Link Governor

    Julie is an Independent Education consultant having previously worked in school improvement for 13 years in a local authority with strategic responsibility for Leadership Development and Governor Services. Prior to this Julie taught in both secondary schools and in Further Education at a Sixth Form College in Brighton where she was a member of the Senior Leadership Team.

    She has experience of teaching on a range of both vocational and academic programmes. Throughout her career in education she has served on a range of school governing boards developing a wide skillset. Julie is passionate about governance and has provided support to Boards and senior management teams in areas such as board effectiveness, preparing for inspections and development of strategic plans.

    Julie became Chair of Corporation in July 2020. She completed her degree in History at the University of Sussex and then went on to complete a PGCE at Homerton College, Cambridge followed by a MA in Education at the University of Sussex. She is also a member of the Search and Governance Committee, Finance Committee, Remuneration Committee and the Quality Group. Julie is the Corporation link governor for Safeguarding.

    Julie is Vice Chair of the AoC National Chairs’ Council and is the elected representative for Chairs’ for the Southern East region . She is also the Chair of the AoC Curriculum and Quality Committee Chairs' Network for governors.

    Julie brings her enthusiasm for the FE sector, land-based provision and education together in her role at Plumpton College.


    Paul Layzell - Vice Chair of Governors

    Paul has been an education leader for over 25 years, most recently as Principal and Chief Executive of Royal Holloway, University of London and previously as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sussex. During this period, he served as a trustee of AQA, the UK’s largest GCSE and A-level examination board, and was chair of AQA for seven years.

    Paul now serves as a non-executive director on several bodies, including Plumpton College and HFL Education (a schools-owned company based in Hertfordshire). He is also a member of the University Hospital Sussex NHS Foundation Trust.

    Paul has a keen interest in gardening and horticulture, making full use of his garden nearby Lewes.

    Jeremy Kerswell - Principal

    Originally from West Sussex, Jeremy grew up on a small holding, where his love of the countryside and interest in wildlife and animals began. 

    He went on to study Animal Science at Reading University, and it was after a short period of employment within both the animal and agricultural industries, that he decided to forge a career which would combine his passion for the natural environment with education. Having previously worked at other land-based colleges, including Brinsbury and Hadlow, Jeremy was appointed as the head of Cannington College in 2008, a successful land-based college in Somerset, and was known amongst his peers as the driving force behind its success. 

    Jeremy took over as Principal of Plumpton College in October 2015.  He sits on the boards for Landex and the National Land Based Colleges, is the Vice Chair for the SELEP Skills Working Group and is also part of the Management Advisory Group for WineGB, in addition to chair of the WineGB Education and Training Group. 

    Helen Atkinson - SEN Link Governor

    Helen has a range of experience in Higher Education practice and policy, Managerial Accounting and the Hospitality Industry. She has an Honours degree, an MBA and a PhD. She started work as a clerk at Barclays Bank and also worked as a Hotel Manager. After achieving her degree in Accounting and Finance, she qualified as a Management Accountant (ACMA) working for Eriksson Telecommunications.

    She invested the remaining 30 years of her career at the University of Brighton, lecturing in accounting, finance and business strategy, she also had a leading role in quality assurance and enhancement initiatives. Her leadership roles at school and Faculty level culminated in a pan-university role of Director of Education. Working with the Pro Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience she focussed on enhancement of learning and teaching practices, student engagement and inclusion across the whole university.

    She has a passion for learning and a focus on student growth, development and employability. As a dyslexic diagnosed at 37 years of age, with dyslexic children, she is particularly interested in supporting students with additional learning needs to achieve their full potential. Upon retirement, reflecting on her experience as a school governor, she joined Corporation in September 2019 to volunteer her skills and experience in support of Plumpton’s aspirations and continued development. Helen is currently Link Governor for Finance and SEND.

    Louie Benn - Student Governor

    I’ve been at Plumpton College since September 2022. I had previously attended from 2013-2019 staring on a 14-16 Level 1 Animal Care course then went full time for Level 2 and 3. I’m now studying Animal Behaviour and Conservation at Degree Level. My hobbies include nature walks, watching to and films and reading. I’m interested in conservation and how we can apply it to college life. I’d also like to see how we can make college life even more enjoyable for students

    Hilary Brown - Academic Staff Governor

    Hilary has been employed at Plumpton college since 2017, currently as Assistant Curriculum Manager for Forestry and Arboriculture, leading the Further Education and Apprenticeship teams. Hilary teaches business, employability and sustainability across a wide range of programmes encompassing 14-16, Further Education, Apprenticeships, Higher Education and Adult Education, having taught learners across nearly all of Plumpton College's divisions. Hilary is PGCE qualified in Geography. Hilary's prior career is in Human Resources in manufacturing, retail, defence, engineering, and pharmaceuticals.

    Hilary is passionate about providing the best experience for learners, while supporting them to develop skills and personal attributes for success in industry. She is a firm believer in the power of education and lifelong learning. With skills higher up the public agenda than in recent years, Hilary is keen to support Plumpton College's continued success in providing quality education and training which supports the future needs of the industries it serves.

    Jess Berry

    Jess joined the board of govenors in 2024. Jess currently works for the NHS as Head of Performance for Medical Education at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, working with universities and NHS England Workforce and Training to ensure that the doctors of tomorrow are getting the highest standards of education and training in one of the countries largest training hospital trusts. Prior to this Jess had worked in Further Education for 13 years firstly, having started as a lecturer in Equine at Hadlow College where she progressed to being the Head of Department for Animal Management before taking up the role of assistant principal at ekc Groups Canterbury College. Jess’s most recent position at Windsor Forest Colleges Group was as Group Vice Principal for Curriculum, Qulaity and Innovation working across the groups two large further education colleges, including Berkshire College of Agriculture.

    Outside of this, Jess has also been a memebr of the T Level route pannel for Agriculture, Environmental and animal care, working closely with IfATE to produce the outline content for these new qualifications for the Landbased sector. Alongside this Jess also worked with the Department for Education on the content of the National Technical Outcomes for this route and is an active participant in awarding body consultations on the upcoming curriculum reforms. Alongside Landbased Jess is also a passionate advocate for learners at risk of becoming NEET and those with SEND and is an advisory board memebr of Woodpecker Youth Activities an outstanding alternative provision based on the East Kent coast.

    Jess lives in Kent and enjoys riding and competing her two horses and spending time on walks in the countryside with her dog.    

    Doug Jackson

    Doug joined the board of governors in 2019.  Doug is NFU Mutual Senior Agent and NFU Group Secretary in Kent and East Sussex.  Prior to this Doug worked as a business consultant specialising in farming, rural and food businesses.  Doug is also a Director of RAMSAK a farming and rural co-operative helping to share farming resources, as well as accessing bulk purchasing prices, covering the counties of Kent, East and West Sussex and Surrey.

    Doug has been Chairman and Treasurer for Sussex Young Farmers’ Clubs, was an officeholder for South East YFC and was National Agriculture and Rural Affairs chairman, National Council Member and was co-opted to the board of management for NFYFC.  Doug has also served as a trustee and member of council for the South of England Agricultural Society and was Chief Pig Steward and Chairman of the Sheep, Pig and Goat Committee.

    Doug lives in Kent and enjoys spending time at home with his partner, their two girls and their two dogs.

    Derek Jones - Student Governor

    Derek is currently studying Level 3 Advanced Technical Extended Diploma in Land and Wildlife Management and is in his second year.

    Derek has experience of working in printing, IT and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning in sales and operational roles. He is a qualified Level 2 FA coach and ECB Level 2 cricket coach. His hobbies include sport music and the natural world.

    Hilary Knight

    For the past 10 years, Hilary has worked as a local food and drink consultant working in both the public and private sectors. She manages the Sussex Food and Drink Network which encourages collaboration between food and drink businesses with the aim to help them grow.  Hilary is a director of Natural Partnerships CIC a not-for-profit company, delivering projects which support the agri-food community across the region including the Sussex Food and Drink Awards. Formerly manager of ‘A Taste of Sussex’ Hilary has worked extensively in the food and drink sector throughout her career, in manufacturing, marketing, retail and event catering and has wide-ranging experience of the local food and drink sector.

    Hilary has been a Sussex resident for over 40 years.  Hilary has been a Governor since January 2021.

    Scott O'Brien

    Scott is the Chief Investment Officer at Innovate UK. He joined Innovate UK in 2017, initially on secondment from British Business Bank, and previously led Innovate UK’s credit function. He is a director at Innovate UK Loans Limited, chairing its Credit Committee.

    Scott’s role includes responsibility for the Innovation Loans programme, providing loans of up to £5m to small and medium-sized enterprises with later stage innovation projects and a clear route to commercial success. He also oversees Investor Partnerships, which provides grant funding alongside aligned equity investment from private providers to catalyse business growth through innovation.

    Before joining Innovate UK, Scott worked in British Business Bank’s debt solutions team, co-designing guarantee programmes with the European Investment Fund, making investments in funds and contributing to delivering the Enterprise Finance Guarantee.

    While at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Scott led the creation of Start-Up Loans, a micro-finance programme that is now an established part of the funding landscape, celebrating ten years of delivering £900m in loans and mentoring to nearly 100,000 budding entrepreneurs in 2022.

    Before joining the public sector, Scott worked in corporate and commercial banking in relationship and credit sanctioning roles.

    Gill Payne - Support Staff Governor

    Following a 15 year career with Barclays  Bank in various roles across London and the South East, Gill moved into the education sector initially as Bursar in Primary education, moving on to become Personal Assistant to the Principal of Uckfield College and then the Headteacher at Chailey School.

    Gill also worked as Exams Manager at both Uckfield and Heathfield Colleges before joining Plumpton College as PA to the Vice Principal in 2017. Gill has had experience in working across a number of areas within the College since that time and became Support Staff Governor in September 2021.

    In September 2022, Gill decided to reduce her hours and now works part time in the Registry Team as an Administrator.

    Tamara Roberts

    Tamara is the CEO of Ridgeview Wine Estate, the international award-winning & family-run English sparkling wine producer based in Sussex. Ridgeview is proud to be a pioneering force in the English wine industry. 

    Founded in 1995, they were one of the first wineries devoted to producing English sparkling wine. In 2018 they became the first English winery to gain the global accolade of ‘International Winemaker of the Year’ in the International Wine & Spirit Competition.

    Tamara has previously sat on the boards of WineGB, the wine industry national trade body and the Wine & Spirit Trade Association. In 2020 she became the first English wine professional to become President of the prestigious International Wine and Spirit Competition. As a qualified chartered accountant, Tamara is responsible for the financial management of Ridgeview as well as setting & implementing the strategy across all other areas from grape to glass. Tamara is on the Advisory Board at the University of Sussex Business School.

    Peter Taylor

    Professor Peter Taylor is Director of Research at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), located at the University of Sussex, UK. Previously he was Director, Strategic Development, at the International Development Research Centre, Canada, where he also led the Think Tank Initiative, supporting policy research organizations in Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

    He worked earlier at IDS as Leader of the Participation, Power and Social Change Team; as Education Technical Advisor with Helvetas in Vietnam on a social forestry education initiative; as Lecturer in Agricultural Education at the University of Reading, UK; and as an agriculture teacher in Botswana. He has also worked practically in land-based industries, including dairy, horticulture and fisheries.

    He has interests in theory and practice of organizational development and capacity strengthening, evaluation and learning, and facilitation of participatory and social change. Peter's background is firmly rooted in agricultural education, with a BSc in Animal Sciences from London University (Wye College), and obtained his PhD and MSc in Agricultural Education at the University of Reading. He also qualified as a Secondary School teacher at Dundee University with agriculture as a specialist subject. He has been fortunate to visit, and work in, many countries around the world and is very enthusastic about finding practical ways to connect the global and the local, especially in regard to rural development and land-based education. He became a Governor at Plumpton in September 2021.

    Shawn Town

    Sussex born & bred with over two decades dedicated to the management of Grounds on large-scale Estates, For the past 14 years, I've held managerial positions across expansive Estates, ranging from 1000 acres to 380 acres around the UK, with notable engagements in the Premier league and European football domains. This multifaceted experience has allowed me to gain a comprehensive understanding of Arboriculture, Horticulture, Sports Turf Management, Landscaping, and Land management, allowing me to effectively oversee diverse projects and initiatives within these disciplines.

    Throughout my 21-year journey, I've cultivated a profound passion for leadership & management, fostering healthy cultures that develops individual growth and inspires excellence. Central to my approach is the endeavour to assist organisations in crafting a workplace environment that fosters a healthy culture and optimise focus. I am deeply committed to enhancing staff retention and fostering unwavering commitment to organisations, recognising that the development and support of staff throughout their journey are paramount to achieving organisational success.

    My professional trajectory has been shaped by the generosity of mentors who empowered me to continually expand my horizons and embrace new challenges. It is with deep gratitude and a sense of responsibility that I seek to pay forward this invaluable support, guiding and encouraging others to unlock their full potential.

    As a governor, I am committed to leveraging my extensive industry knowledge and expertise to contribute meaningfully to the advancement of Plumpton College.

    Steve Webb - Skills Link Governor

    Steve is an accomplished Finance Director with significant experience of supporting evolving businesses though organic and acquisitive growth across sectors including, medical diagnostics, digital and property.

    Steve took the role of Finance Director at Fargro Limited, a leading and innovative supplier for the UK horticultural industry, in Feb 2016. He has successfully supported the senior team during Fargro’s growth and evolution, including an MBO in May 2021.

    A Chartered Management Accountant, he also has an interest in developing HR, legal and ESG expertise. Passionate about wanting the sector to thrive, he is keen to use his experience and skills to support the College in what is an exciting time for UK land-based industries.

    Tim Laker - Co-opted Member of Audit Committee

    How does the Corporation operate?

    Our full board meets eight times a year plus there are also three different committees:

    • Audit Committee (which meets at least twice a year)
    • Search and Governance Committee (which advises the Corporation on membership issues and meets when needed)
    • Remuneration Committee (which considers the pay of the Principal and Clerk)
    • Finance Committee (which meets four times per year)
    • Academic Quality (which meets at least three times per year)

    In addition, small working groups of governors are sometimes set up to consider certain specific issues - for example, capital projects.

    Most governors are linked to a particular curriculum or administrative area of the College. Whilst governors aren’t expected to get involved in day-to day operational detail (they must avoid stepping from governance into operational matters), we find that the link scheme provides governors with a useful opportunity to get closer to the coalface and understand how the College ticks. 

    When are the Corporation meetings?

    The Corporation generally meets 8 times a year with meetings commencing at 5pm. The public are permitted to attend meetings of the full Corporation as observers on prior agreement with the Chair (this can be arranged via the Clerk). The attendance of observers is subject to rulings by the Corporation with regard to confidentially and particular interest etc. If you’re interested in attending a meeting, please contact the Clerk. Members of the public are not entitled to attend meetings of committees of the Corporation, unless by specific invitation of the committee concerned (‘member of the public’ is defined as anyone who is not a member of the Corporation).

    The dates of Corporation meetings for the 2023/24 academic year are as follows:

    • 27th February 2024
    • 26th March 2024
    • 23rd May 2024
    • 9th July 2024

    As a Corporation we were keen to seek an independent view on the impact and effectiveness of our governance on the college. Our external board review was completed in July 2022 and reported that governance is ‘strong and highly effective’ in the college; we are an ambitious board offering pace, challenge and stretch. The recommendations from the report informed the governance quality improvement plan.

    Key Documents

    The Accountability Agreement Statement was approved by Corporation on 23rd May 2023

    Financial Statements

    Instrument and Articles of Government

    Rules and Regulations

    For copies of Minutes of meetings please contact Laura Holt (Clerk to the Corporation)