Governing   Council

The Governing Council is Benenden’s board of directors, whose role is to scrutinise, challenge and support the Senior Management Team’s plans and to oversee their implementation.


The Hon Anna Birkett

Chairman of Governing council & Chairman of Nominations Commitee

Anna’s career centred on the legal profession and management consultancy. She spent nearly 30 years practising as a solicitor in the City, specialising in environmental issues and commercial law, and then as the partner responsible for creating and running the professional practice function for a large law firm where she provided leadership on a wide range of professional and compliance issues. Mid-career, she took a break from the law and worked as a management consultant with an emphasis on strategy and organisation effectiveness.

Since retiring from the law she has focused on governance in the education sector and, in addition to her role at Benenden, she is a governor and chair of Remuneration at the Chelsea Academy, a governor at the Royal Ballet School and a member of the Advisory Board for the joint Central St Martin’s/ Birkbeck MBA programme. She holds a first degree in modern languages and law from Cambridge and an MBA from the University of Bath.

To contact the Chairman of Governing Council, please write to c/o Benenden School, Cranbrook, Kent TN17 4AA. Alternatively, she can be contacted via the main School Office on or 01580 240592.


Anne McNab

Vice-Chairman of Governing Council, Chairman of the Bursary and Partnerships Commitee

Anne started with Price Waterhouse in 1981 and qualified as a chartered accountant. Almost 38 years later she retired from PwC having spent the majority of that time as a partner in the firm’s assurance Banking & Capital Markets practice, initially as an auditor and latterly leading the Banking Regulatory practice where she built the practice and advised clients and regulators on difficult regulatory matters.

Mid-career, Anne spent six years consulting with clients and client teams on accounting technical issues. For her last four years with PwC, Anne sat on the firm’s Supervisory Board and chaired it for the last two years.

Anne worked under her maiden name, Anne Simpson. She graduated from Middlesex Polytechnic with a BA (Hons) Business Studies and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Anne is a former Benenden parent.


Fiona Blakemore

(A Benenden Senior) Fiona is CFO of Balderton Capital and is responsible for all financial activities at Balderton including reporting to investors and the monitoring of portfolio performance. Prior to joining Balderton, Fiona spent over 16 years at Man Group where she held a number of senior finance roles and most recently was Head of Investor Relations and Business Finance.

After leaving Benenden, Fiona read Engineering, Economics and Management at Brasenose College Oxford. She trained with PwC where she audited a wide range of financial services companies including asset managers and venture capital firms. Fiona is a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, and Treasurer and Trustee of the Sick Children’s Trust.


Debbie Coslett

Chairman of Education Committee

Debbie has worked in education for over 40 years and has had a varied range of experiences, including becoming one of the country’s first National Leaders of Education in 2006. Prior to her recent retirement, she was CEO of a small secondary multi academy trust, having previously been a successful Headteacher and Executive Headteacher in a number of secondary schools in West Kent.

Debbie has a BA (Hons) degree in History from Hull University and studied for her PGCE at Nottingham University. In addition, she has an MBA in Educational Leadership (International), also from Hull University, and holds the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).

Most recently, Debbie has undertaken part-time educational consultancy work in education, and is also a governor in two East Sussex secondary schools.


Dr Fiona Cornish

Chairman of Safeguarding Committee

(A Senior and former Benenden parent)

After Benenden, Fiona was educated at Cambridge and St Thomas’s. She has been a GP in Cambridge for more than 20 years and has successfully combined clinical practice with active roles as an appraiser, GP trainer, undergraduate teacher and member of the University Health Services Committee.

From 2012 to 2014 she was President of the Medical Women’s Federation.

She is also the school doctor for King’s College School in Cambridge, and a Trustee of Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust, Medical Support in Romania and the Paragon Trust. She was on the GPC Committee of the BMA from 2013 to 2015, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of GPs in 2013. She has been the Benenden Seniors’ Rep for Cambridgeshire for many years. Member of Safeguarding Committee

Dr Rupert Evenett, MBE

Chairman of Risk Commitee

Rupert’s career has combined leadership roles in each of the private, public and voluntary sectors. Starting as an investment analyst and moving into corporate finance at Morgan Grenfell, PwC and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and for the Government in the Cabinet Office, he advised clients from multinationals to tech and biotech start-ups on fundraising, capital structure, acquisitions and financial strategy. Over the past ten years he has focused on board leadership, governance and strategy in the charitable and educational sectors.

Previous roles include being chair of a national volunteering and environmental charity and chair of finance for a university.

Currently he is chair of a large London sixth form college, chair of finance for the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich and chair of audit for Alzheimers Research UK. He has a first degree from Oxford in history and a PhD in philosophy from the LSE, where his research was on the relationship of cosmopolitanism and the nation and on the role of the city in social justice and political community.


Patrick Marshall

Chairman of Finance Committee

Patrick’s whole career has been in the city. He worked at a number of institutions before joining Lehman Brothers. At Lehman Brothers, he headed up the loan portfolio and restructuring businesses in Europe and Asia.

He was appointed to manage the loan assets of the firm in its bankruptcy. In this role Patrick led the restructuring of a number of businesses and managed loan portfolio in excess of US$10 billion for the benefit of creditors. 
He has since worked in fund management, and is Head of Private Debt and CLOs at Federated Hermes International, managing a number of funds providing loans to SMEs in UK and mainland Europe.

He often speaks at conferences and universities on diverse financial matters. He was previously a governor of the Benedict Primary School in Mitcham, and is a current trustee to Brighter Path, a charity focused on giving educational support to young people who were in social care in Sri Lanka. 

Patrick is married with two boys. He has Bachelor of Commerce in Business Studies and French from the University of Edinburgh.


Damian McBeath

Principal, The John Wallis Church of England Academy

Damian McBeath is the Principal of The John Wallis Church of England Academy, 0 – 19 years. 

He was also, the founding headteacher of Ark Conway Primary Academy, the first free school to be designated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and described by former Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, as ‘an engine for social mobility’.

He has worked as an executive headteacher and a regional director for the children’s charity, Ark Schools. In 2014, Damian was named by the Education Foundation as one of their Educational Reformers of the year. He is co-author of ‘The 9 pillars of Great Schools’ and has contributed to publications and reports for the Department for Education.


Alison Mogridge

Chair of the Remuneration Committee

Alison works under her maiden name, Alison Clarke.

Alison started her career as a graduate trainee with a division of Mars and then moved in to communications consulting where she has spent over 25 years running major international consultancies and networks both in the UK and in Asia Pacific. She has advised some of the world’s best-known global organisations on reputation strategies, issues management and crisis communications.

Alison now runs her own business working as non-executive-director and board advisor to a range of businesses and developing and mentoring talent for corporates and consultancies. Member of Remuneration and Nominations Committees.

Alison holds a degree in Combined Arts from Reading University. She is a Fellow and former President of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and a Fellow and former Chairman of the Public Relations Consultants Association.


Jonathan Pearce

Chairman of the Investment Committee

Jonathan has worked as a solicitor for 38 years in the area of corporate law specialising in mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance. 

He worked at Ashurst, Coudert Brothers and latterly at the niche corporate firm Marriott Harrison where he was finance partner for seven years and managing partner for four years up to his retirement from the partnership in 2018. His practice was largely working with equity providers and SMEs in a wide range of sectors including many which were intellectual property based or ‘people businesses’.

 His work included international transactions and participating for four years in, and a term as chair of, the EMEA committee of Primerus which is an international association of over 150 law firms. He remains a consultant at Marriott Harrison.

His degree was at St Benet’s Hall Oxford where he read Law and won a cricket blue. Cricket remains an interest and he is the treasurer of The Free Foresters CC. 

He is married and lives in Kent a few miles from Tonbridge School where his two sons were educated. He is the Chair of the Investment Advisory Committee and sits on the Remuneration Committee. 


Paul Simpkin

Paul studied law at Churchill College, Cambridge University, graduating in 1989. He has since worked in Banking for Citigroup in London and also New York and is currently Chairman of EMEA Leveraged Finance.

He serves on the PCC and Finance Committee of St Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate, London. He is a member of the Benenden Finance Committee and has two children at Benenden School.


Catherine Stewart

Catherine Stewart’s professional career has been dedicated to public affairs, advocating the interests of business and civil society to government; business management, governance and professional ethics; and entrepreneurship. She has also been active in pro bono work with particular emphasis on gender opportunity, education and autism.

Her career began at CBI in London and Brussels after which she joined the first-cross party lobbying company GJW to establish their European capability. She established her own public affairs consultancy Cabinet Stewart in 1990, operating in Brussels, London and Washington DC. Having successfully sold her business to the Interel Group in 2007, she became Chairman International and built out their Global Network of Public Affairs Partners in over 60 countries.

She is currently the Chairman of the European Government Relations Round Table, a thought leadership group on best practise in public affairs for Vice-Presidents, EMEA, Government Relations of 20 major international companies. She is also a Senior Advisor to Dentons Global Advisors.

Catherine was educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge (MA, Economics), Marlborough College, Wiltshire, and St Felix School, Suffolk. She is married with two adult children.

Clare Thomas

Chair of the Estates Committee

Clare studied law at the University of Exeter and Cardiff Law School before going on to be a solicitor specialising in commercial real estate. She has 20 years’ experience and is a partner at global law firm CMS where she is co-head of the real estate sector, one of Europe’s leading real estate groups.

In her role, Clare acts for global property companies, funds and institutions on the acquisition, disposal, letting and development of property. Her transactional expertise spans a range of sectors including office, hotel, retail and mixed use.

She is an active member of a number of real estate associations including the Urban Land Institute and Investment Property Forum (IPF). She is a Board member and Treasurer of the IPF and has previously chaired its Education Committee. She was part of a working party which produced the IPF’s Guide to Readiness for Sale (a best practise guide to buying and selling commercial real estate which has been adopted widely within the sector) and was recently instrumental in the production of industry standard non-disclosure and exclusivity agreements.

She has been named one of Bisnow’s 51 most influential women in real estate and appeared in The Lawyer’s Hot 100 List. Clare leads CMS’s annual Thought Leadership research for the Real Estate Group and speaks extensively at industry events on topics including the future of work, environmental, social and governance matters and real estate post the pandemic.

Annabel Caton

Annabel is a highly experienced finance professional with over 25 years working in the sector, primarily in credit risk management. She has held positions at various global banks but has spent the majority of her career at Moody’s Investors Services, a renowned credit rating agency. Currently, she leads a global team of analysts specializing in structured finance transactions.

In addition to her finance career, Annabel is actively involved in the education sector. She serves as a Governor of Gladesmore Community School in Tottenham, North London, where she also leads the finance, site, and pay committee.

After leaving Benenden, Annabel read Economics at Manchester University. She lives in West London with her husband and son.

Helen Taylor

Helen is a Consultant Radiologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge specialising in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, especially breast cancer. She trained at Oxford University and then in various London Hospitals, before being appointed in Cambridge 25 years ago. She is also keenly involved in medical education, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Helen is College Lecturer in Anatomy at Newnham College, Cambridge. She is also a Tutor and postgraduate mentor for students.

She is a member of the Safeguarding and Education committees.

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