GEMS Learning Trust Central Board

GEMS Learning Trust Board

Our Central Governing Board

All schools are overseen by the central Governing Board.  All Directors are selected for the range of skills and expertise they bring to help realise our vision and values in the GEMS Learning Trust academies and to ensure effective strategic leadership and management. Terms of office are four years. Parent governors sit on the Local Academy Boards and their details can be found on the LAB page of each academy website.


Chair of the Trust Board – DR HARRY ZIMAN 

Dr Harry Ziman is a National Leader of Governance and a Director of the Independent Academies Association. He has chaired numerous governing bodies and is a recognised system leader. His services are much in demand to lead Interim Executive Boards of schools in both primary and secondary phases, and he is a regular speaker on the subject of governance at the Academies Show.  During his tenure as chair of Kelsall Primary School, the school was judged to be Outstanding by Ofsted; and throughout his governance, the school formed the first Teaching School Alliance. Dr Ziman has also chaired Interim Executive Boards at West Bank and Upton Heath C of E Primary Schools; both of which improved so rapidly, that Ofsted judged them as Good schools, post requiring Special Measures. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Harry also has a successful consulting business.



Jodie Croft is the founder and chief executive of the GEMS Learning Trust. She joined GEMS in January 2013 from Swedish Free School Company, IES, where she established a new secondary free school in Norfolk, UK, and her previous roles have included Deputy Head of Brentside High School in Ealing and Middle Leadership at Longford Community School in Feltham. Jodie oversees all operational matters as well as providing executive oversight of GEMS Learning Trust.

Director – RONY VALENY

Rony Valeny is currently Head of Marine Services at Union Maritime Limited. Formerly Rony was the CEO of GEMS UK and Europe and was responsible for the quality and growth of GEMS’ independent schools in both regions. Formerly, Rony worked in the Deloitte Middle East Financial Advisory Practice, where he headed up the Technology, Media & Telecommunications division for the region following a decade with PricewaterhouseCoopers in London. Rony is a qualified chartered accountant with a proven track record advising corporate and private equity clients as well as lending banks. Rony lends his expertise to the Trust on a voluntary basis.


Danielle currently leads the development, design and implementation of the strategy for recruiting first-class Principals/Head of Schools/Executive Leaders from around the world for GEMS Education. Danielle assists the GEMS Learning Trust in all matters relating to recruitment as well as assisting with the governance on Edudcational Standards. Prior to working at GEMS, Danielle was a member of an Executive Leadership Team at a large Multi Academy Trust; developing strategic direction, quality assurance and operational delivery for the Company working alongside the CEO, Director of Finance and Director of Education. She undertook school operations and developed policies and practices for the group of nearly 40 Academies.

Director  – LEAH PERRING

Leah Perring is currently deputy head at Ashton Keynes CE Primary School in Wiltshire, having previously worked as an assistant head at Gorse Hill Primary in Swindon and as a phase leader at Robinswood Academy Trust in Gloucester.

Leah has taken part in annual Challenge Partner reviews for the past few years whereby teams of inspectors and other school senior leaders visit and supply a rigorous quality assurance check. She has also been on an outward review working alongside others to review a school in Hounslow.

Having worked at both state primaries and MATs, Leah has knowledge and experience of varied governance structures and is a current associate governor at AKPS. Leah gives her time to Trust governance on a voluntary basis.

Director – LARA ROBSON

Lara is a qualified and experienced solicitor and mother of 2 primary age children. She has professional experience in both the education and charity sector and has trained Boards of Directors in aspects of compliance with company articles and assisted with legal updates. She is also experienced in handling and resolving legal disputes. Lara gives her time to Trust governance on a voluntary basis.

Director – ROWENA DUFF

Rowena is a qualified and experienced chartered accountant with a career in public and private sector audit in Canada and 11 years in the UK.  She has worked at Thomson Reuters for nearly ten years in a number of roles in Finance, and lately in Technology Finance.  She has experience of different educational settings and is a working mother with two pre-school age children. Rowena gives her time to the Trust on a voluntary basis.

In Memory – Andy Collings

Very sadly, Andy Collings, our Director of Finance, Audit and Risk, passed away in April 2018.  Andy was a director of the GEMS Learning Trust from very early on and was committed to successfully setting up and running the trust on a voluntary basis. Andy was also Chief Operating Officer of the Challenger Academy Trust  and former Finance Director of GEMS UK and Europe. We will remember Andy for his endless energy and good nature and for the pride he took in all his roles.