Governors Profiles and Information

Andrew Watts - Chair of Governors

Andrew Watts, the Executive Director of ‘changing places and changing lives’ charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle, names his priorities as expanding the global influence of the South Tyneside College’s world-famous South Shields Marine School, building greater business and community partnerships, and increasing educational opportunities and outcomes for all students.

Before joining Groundwork in 2005, Andrew spent 15 years working in the public sector in various environmental positions. His role as Executive Director is varied but includes helping create strategic partnerships across Tyneside and developing Groundwork’s asset portfolio, which includes the One Trinity Green business centre in South Shields and The Beacon enterprise centre in Newcastle.

He is also an active board member of a voluntary sector organisation in South Tyneside.

Sheila Alexander

Starting her career in nursing, both as a general nurse and midwife, Sheila gained a Masters of Business Administration in 2004. Within the NHS, she has held several strategic roles, designing and implementing a number of key systems to improve NHS services in the region. Sheila has a particular interest in the field of cancer services.

David Byrne

David Byrne brings vast experience of the marine industries worldwide and has a particular focus on supporting and promoting the global ambitions of South Shields Marine School. He is active in supporting the professional development of seafarers in the region.

David, a father-of-three, who lives in Gosforth, Newcastle, began his career as a deck officer, later becoming a naval architect. He subsequently worked in marine research and development in the North East.

He works as a marine consultant on marine operations, oil and gas and port development projects worldwide, enjoying a wide range of industry contacts and personal experience beneficial to the Marine School and to the success of the college overall.

He is also active in a number of maritime-related charities in the region including the Marine Society and Sea Cadets.

Graeme Cruickshank

Graeme completed a BSc and PhD in Chemistry at Edinburgh University, before joining Procter & Gamble at the Newcastle Technical Centre in 1994, spending 20 years in a range of product design roles.

Most recently, in July 2015, Graeme was appointed by the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) as Director for the UK’s National Formulation Centre, a new world-class UK-based open access innovation centre for advanced formulated product design and manufacture. In this role, Graeme will focus on the establishment and management of the centre, which will enable the development and manufacture of complex high-value formulated products within the UK, accelerating and de-risking the innovation process.

Bernard Garner

Bernard graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Civil Engineering from Leeds University in 1972, and was elected as a Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1976.

Between 1972 and 1985, he worked in a variety of engineering roles for West Yorkshire MCC and Fife Regional Council, until his appointment in 1985 at Nexus, the Tyne & Wear Passenger Transport Executive. At Nexus, he held several positions, culminating in his promotion to the role of Director General of Nexus in July 2006, a post he held until his retirement in December 2014.

Bernard has a wealth of experience in corporate governance, business performance, risk management, strategic safety management, transport strategy development, rail infrastructure management, leadership and management competencies and appraisal.

He has held a number of roles with other organisations, including being a member of the Board of the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, governor at Beacon Hill Enterprise College, Director of PTEG (Passenger Transport Executive Group) and member of the North East Chamber of Commerce Tyne & Wear Committee.

Malcolm Grady

Malcolm graduated from York University in 1973 with a degree in History/Education, and stayed to complete a PGCE. He began his teaching career in secondary schools in South Tyneside, during which time he was awarded a School Teacher Fellowship at St Chad's College, Durham University. After completing a Masters in Education at Durham, Malcolm moved into educational administration at Newcastle and South Tyneside LEAs, working in fields such as adult and further education, school governance, school workforce development, succession planning and Ofsted inspections.

He also contributed to several national organisations in an educational advisory capacity such as the BBC Schools Broadcasting Council, the National Institute for Continuing Education and the National Employers Organisation for School Teachers.

Malcolm gained his Doctorate in Education from Newcastle University in 2001, in the field of school governance. He has worked as a lecturer in Continuing Education for Durham, Newcastle and Sunderland universities, and currently contributes to the education programme for the Joseph Cowan Centre for Lifelong Learning, Newcastle.

He is married, with four children. Now retired, he spends his time part-time lecturing, researching and sitting as a magistrate.

Gary Holmes

Gary has a BSc (Hons) in French, with Medieval Ecclesiastical and Political History, as well as an MSc from Oxford University (Keble College) and many years’ experience as a university lecturer.

He is Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Partnerships) at the University of Sunderland.

Gary has been a governor in a number of schools for over 20 years, and is the Vice-Chair of Governors at Ponteland High School. He is also Chair of Trustees, UTC South Durham.

Martin Hottass

Martin had a CIPD Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management, as well as the German equivalent of 2:1 Honours degree in bilingual translation in English and German.

He has been with Siemens plc since 2006, and is responsible for the skills agenda at Siemens in the UK.

Prior to taking up his current position as Manager - Skills & Siemens Professional Education, Martin held several senior learning and development positions in Siemens Energy. He represents Siemens on the Strategy Group of the National Skills Academy for Power, which was instrumental in the development of the Wind Service Technician apprenticeship framework. He also serves on a number of steering boards including the National Training Academy for Railways (NTAR) and the Energy Efficiency Industrial Partnership. In February 2012, Martin became an Apprenticeship Ambassador.

Since October 2014, he has worked in Siemens’ Global Expert Team for Vocational Education and Skills.

Martin has been responsible for Siemens PLC’s Apprenticeship Programme in England, Scotland and Wales since Siemens PLC became a national training contract holder in 2008. In September 2015, he joined the board at SEMTA and became a board member of Group Training Associations England in 2016.

Mark Overton

Mark Overton is a retired Consultant in Public Health who spent much of his career working in South Tyneside.

He combines vast professional expertise, including that of strategic planning, with an intense interest in Further Education, and combines both within a single focus directed towards removing inequalities in health and education.

Mark is dedicated to using his skills and role of governor to progress the education of all young people who attend the college.

The married father-of-two, who lives in Monkton, South Tyneside, is also a governor at a secondary school and at a primary school in South Tyneside.

In 1991, he studied for a one-year Certificate in Management at South Tyneside College, a qualification he used as a foundation course and from which he began his successful and rewarding career.

Alain Reynier (Staff Governor)

Alain was born in the French Pyrenees, and moved to the UK in 1964. After a high school education in Warwick, he joined the Merchant Navy as a Deck Cadet with Silver Line in 1979.

Alain completed Class 3 (OOW Certificate) in 1983 and came ashore to operate in road transport. He joined Loughborough University of Technology in 1986 to read for a BSc (Hons) in Transport Management and Planning, and joined the National Freight Corporation’s Graduate training scheme, becoming a Depot Manager with Pickfords Removals in 1990.

Alain returned to sea in 1992 with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, serving in both dry cargo, fleet tankers and Landing ships, which included service in the former Yugoslavian conflict, for which the UN medal was awarded. Alain transferred to P&O Princess in 1996 after gaining Chief Mates certificate at South Shields Marine School, and then Joined Stena Line in 1999 on the Stranraer to Belfast ferry service, after gaining a Masters Certificate of Competency, also at South Shields Marine School.

Alain joined South Shields Marine School in September 1999, and was promoted to Curriculum Leader for the HNC courses in Deck Officer of the Watch in 2015. Alain is currently in a second tenure of UCU Chair.

Colin Seccombe

Colin is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He worked for KPMG from 1974 until 1997, becoming a partner in 1987. He then moved to Newcastle Building Society as Finance Director until 2006, when he became its Chief Executive, a position he held until his retirement in March 2010.

For several years, Colin has been involved with charitable organisations, including as a co-opted member of the Finance Committee of UK Community Foundations, the umbrella organisation for all CFs in the country; Treasurer of The Community Foundation, serving Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, and a trustee of Headway Arts, a charity based in Blyth, which uses performing arts as a means of inclusion for disadvantaged and less able people. He is also a former chairman of the MEA Trust.

Andrew Walton

From over 20 years of working in senior positions within the North East, Andy gained significant experience running high performing, technology focused teams within both the public and private sector.  

This experience has allowed him to set, and then execute high level strategies which generated significant new business opportunities and revenue streams for businesses and significant economic regeneration benefits within the region.

He is the co-founder and current CEO of The Nine Software Company, an innovative software development business, delivering solutions to organisations such as P&G, Nike, Nissan, the NHS and UK police forces.

Alongside Nine, Andy is a founder and director of Asset55, a software and consultancy company, focused on the oil and gas market.  Asset55’s disruptive technology is deployed to clients such as AMEC Foster Wheeler, Baker Hughes and BP. 

Andy, and his wife Kelly, live in North Tyneside with their two children, Mac and Nia.

Susan Wear

Susan Wear is director of corporate affairs at the Port of Tyne, a high-profile position in which she is helping develop the port as a global trading hub to bring greater economic success and growth to the North East.

Brought up in a former shipyard house overlooking the Tyne at Gateshead, she began her career as a trainee journalist on the Shields Gazette. In 1988, she became the first female chief reporter on the Newcastle Journal.

A variety of positions which followed focussed mainly on supporting the region’s economic regeneration.

Susan is married to BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown and the couple have one daughter, an actress based in London.

Dr Lindsey Whiterod, CBE – Chief Executive South Tyneside College

Lindsey Whiterod oversaw a rapid rise in education standards at South Tyneside College, where she was Chief Executive from 2009, by introducing a new focus on vocational qualifications.

Her resolute and forward-thinking approach to provision ensured courses and resulting qualifications targeted real jobs, a policy that won the approval of many within the North East business community and education inspectorate Ofsted, which graded the college ‘good’ with some exceptional features. In 2012, it was the only North East College where standards of provision were identified as rising.

Her influence on South Tyneside College’s academic resurgence was such that she was made an OBE for services to education in the New Year Honours List in 2013, and later made a CBE in the New Year's Honours List in 2018.

Lindsey’s achievements included overseeing capital refurbishment and estate rationalisation programmes in excess of £21m, part of which was a £4.5m upgrade to the college’s world-famous South Shields Marine School and the development of its globally-renowned brand into new markets in countries such as China, India and Bangladesh.

Significantly, she also ensured the college was rated financially outstanding by the Government’s Skills Funding Agency.

Director of Governance: Neil Longstaff

If you require any further information about the College's Board of Governors or any corporate or governance queries, please contact Neil Longstaff, Director of Governance on 0191 427 3903 or email