St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School – Local Governing Body

Mary Bilous – Foundation Governor

Chair of the Governing Body
Link Governor for Leadership and Management

Mary has been a governor at St Bernadette’s for twenty years. She was born and brought up in Lincoln where she lived with her parents and sisters. Although her father practiced as a GP in Lincoln, he was originally from Ireland. Mary attended St Joseph’s Convent in Lincoln and then Presentation Convent Matlock for sixth form where she boarded for two years. After training as a nurse at Guy’s Hospital in London, she subsequently became a midwife and health visitor.

Mary says, “I am married to Rudy and we moved up to the North East when my daughter was 4 months old, for Rudy to work in Newcastle. We came to Stokesley when he became a Consultant. He has now retired from the NHS and works for Newcastle University Medical School in Malaysia. I work at James Cook University Hospital as a diabetes specialist nurse, a job which I really enjoy.

We have four children who were all at St Bernadette’s school and my association with school dates back over the last 24 years. St Bernadette’s is very close to my heart.”

Paul Conway – Ex Officio Headteacher

Paul has been a governor at the school since his appointment as Headteacher in September 2017. He was born in Norton as the youngest of four siblings. He attended St Edward’s Primary School in Middlesbrough before going to Newlands FCJ School. He continued his Catholic education at St Mary’s VI Form College for A-levels and Trinity and All Saints University, Leeds where he completed a Teaching Degree.

Paul says, “Although I enjoyed my time in Leeds, my heart belonged to Middlesbrough and I returned to teach at my former primary school – St Edward’s. I stayed there for 12 years before successfully applying for the post of Deputy Head Teacher at St Bernadette’s.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as Deputy Head developing my leadership skills under the guidance of an inspirational Headteacher. In July 2017, Mrs Cobbold retired after 23 years in post and I was delighted to succeed her as Headteacher of St. Bernadette’s.

I am a passionate advocate of Catholic Education and look forward to every challenge and opportunity to continuously drive our school further forward.”

Paul Benfield, BA, BEd – Foundation Governor

Link Governor for Quality of Education

Paul has been a governor at St Bernadette’s for the last ten years and in other schools for nearly 30 years. He was born and bred in Middlesbrough and educated at St Mary’s College when it was the local grammar school. He trained as a teacher at Christ’s College, Liverpool and over his forty years of teaching he worked in six different secondary schools in the Cleveland area. Paul is a former Head of a comprehensive school where he gained nineteen years of experience as a leader and manager. He is also a retired magistrate. In his free time he is a keen golfer, gardener, walker and caravanner.

Paul says, “I have lived in St Bernadette’s Parish for over 51 years, serving as a Eucharistic minister and Reader. My three sons had the benefit of being educated in local Catholic schools; St Bernadette’s, Newlands and St Mary’s College – where I attended as a member of the Sixth Form intake when it first moved to Saltersgill from Linthorpe.

My vision for the future of St Bernadette’s is that all students benefit from a broad progressive education to become the best that they can be. I believe that Trinity Catholic College has huge potential and is capable of offering outstanding education opportunities to the children when they leave St Bernadette’s.”


Laura Cuff – Staff Governor

Laura has been associated with St Bernadette’s since attending as a pupil She was born in Middlesbrough and after primary school attended Teesside High School where she developed a love of Classics, History and English Literature. She went on to study a degree in History before completing a PGCE in Education.

Laura says, “I have been privileged to experience life at St Bernadette’s, not only as a teacher for the last twelve years, but as a child too! After qualifying I couldn’t believe my luck when I was appointed as an NQT to my old primary school. As a child, I always felt so supported, loved and welcome within the community of St Bernadette’s. Therefore, I knew it would be an incredible place to start my teaching career. As an adult, I have always been encouraged to continually learn, develop and grow by our Head teacher and leadership team, in the same way I was when I was a child.
I have taught in Year 3, 5 and 6 and I am responsible for Literacy across the school. I love my job and look forward to many more years of challenges!”

Laura Cutler – Foundation Governor

Link Governor for Safeguarding, Catholic Standards

Laura joined the governing body of St Bernadette’s in 2015. For a number of years she worked as a school chaplaincy coordinator in both the Middlesbrough Diocese and the Hexham and Newcastle Diocese. She therefore brings to the governing body an expertise which supports the Catholic life and ethos of the school.

Laura says, “After a number of years of work, I am now enjoying being a full time mother to my daughters who both attend St Bernadette’s. I enjoy being part of St Bernadette’s Local Governing Body as a foundation governor.”

Stuart Finn – Parent Governor

Link Governor for SEN Provision

Stuart was born in Middlesbrough, the middle of three siblings. He attended St Gabriel’s Catholic Primary School before moving onto Newlands FCJ School. He studied for his first degree at the University of Teesside and continued with learning through further degrees at Bradford and Manchester Business School. A qualified Diagnostic Radiographer, Stuart now works as a service manager for the Neurosciences Tertiary Service at South Tees NHS Foundation Trust. He brings the knowledge of how to deal with daily challenges from this environment to support the development of the school.

Stuart says, “As a governor I currently assume responsibility for Year 5 and SEN. My two daughters attend St Bernadette’s and are in KS2. I can see the enjoyment and development they gain from the progressive and inclusive environment that supports all aspects of education at St Bernadette’s. This is one of the main reasons I decided to become a governor. I find the role both fulfilling and rewarding. I hope to continue devoting a valuable proportion of my time to help the leadership team achieve even greater aspirations.”


Jonathan Willett – Parent Governor

Link Governor for Pupil premium and Sports Premium

Jonathan joined the governing body of St Bernadette’s in March 2019. He is currently the managing director of Henderson Insurance Brokers Ltd. As Client Director in addition to being the Managing Director of the Stockton Office his roles include Client Development & Retention, Health & Safety, Human Resources, Financial Management, Sales & Marketing and being overall responsible for the Success of the Local Office. When he isn’t working he enjoys family, golf, tennis, football, rugby and the gym. He is also a keen Middlesbrough Football supporter and has had a season ticket since he was 6 years old. He is also Vice President of Middlesbrough Rugby Club.

Jonathan says, “I am passionate about the success of St Bernadette’s and have a personal interest as my daughter currently attends the school and I would like to see her education flourish. I was born in Guisborough and went to school at Galley Hill Primary School, followed by Yarm Grammar School where I sat my GCSE’s and A Level’s. I then went to Teesside University and studied a Business Management & Communication Degree, qualifying with 2 : 1 Honours. On graduating from Teesside University I went to London for 4.5 Years to work as a Lloyds Of London Underwriter.

When I returned to the North East, which I am passionate about, I became involved in the family insurance broking business ‘Willett & Ross Ltd’. In 2003, the family business was sold and I worked for the new company Towergate until 2009. In 2009 I left Towergate and set up Henderson Insurance Brokers Ltd.

I relish the role of parent governor and look forward to supporting the school through my experience and passion for education.”

Mike Wren – Foundation Governor

Link Governor for Behaviour and Attitudes (Including Attendance)

Mike was inspired to become a foundation governor by his daughter’s love of attending the school and church. Born in Thornaby, the youngest of three, he attended St. Patrick’s RC Primary and Secondary Schools before continuing his education at St. Mary’s Sixth Form College. He is married to Claire who is a former pupil of St Bernadette’s. His interests include running, gardening and walking.

Mike says, “My involvement in special educational needs, developing inclusive opportunities for children with disabilities and charitable giving all first began at St Mary’s. In my previous career, I was a qualified social worker for 18 years serving local communities predominantly in Middlesbrough. Taking up my current role, as a Senior Lecturer at Teesside University. Leading on courses, practice placements, modules and CPD opportunities across – Social Work, Education and Health Departments. I graduated from Sunderland, Huddersfield and Teesside Universities with my First degree, MA in Education and Diploma in Management Studies. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

I hope to combine my experiences and dedication to Catholic education with a passion for working together to ensure that every child can genuinely be the best they can be!”