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Meet the Governors

The Governors have overall responsibility for the school and are representative of the community in which it is based. They have a responsibility to uphold the Catholic ethos of the school, with additional responsibilities for the curriculum, for premises and finance. Our Foundation Governors are appointed by the La Sainte Union Sisters; the Local Education Authority nominate a representative, and the remaining Governors are elected by the teaching staff and parents. The Head of School is also a Governor. They are an active and dedicated group whose wisdom, guidance and hard work are given voluntarily throughout the year for the benefit of our children.




Foundation Governors

Mrs O Akeume (Co-Chair)

Mrs R Thomas (Co-Chair)

Mrs J Iwobi (Vice Chair)

  • Appointed
  • Chair of Resources Committee and member of Pay Committee
  • Link Governor for Finances and Health &Safety

Mr B D'Souza 



Parent Governors



Staff Governor:

Mrs Nuwa Omo




  • Mr C Birtles (Executive Head Teacher)
  • Mrs H Westrop (Assistant Head Teacher)


Associate Governor

  • Ms Mercy Wasike (with full voting rights)


Clerk to Governors:

  • Mr Stephen Islip


To find out more about the Governors, please read their biographies:

Mrs Rachel Thomas - Co-Chair 

I feel privileged to have been nominated as a parent governor in March 2018. I am married with 2 children. My daughter attends the school and my husband I have been really pleased with her progress since joining the school year 2. I hope my son will also join the school in 2020. I am a practising Catholic as are both my children and feel the Holy Cross School plays a fundamental role in my children’s faith. Many of my family members are teachers and work in the Education system.  I have worked for many years as a beauty and holistic therapist and achieved an Award in Education and Training where I taught beauty and holistic therapy to students 16 years old plus in an award winning training academy in Essex. After having my son, I changed my career and am now a Manager at M&P Estates Sales and Lettings based in South Ockendon, where I lead a busy team of nine members of staff selling, letting & managing properties. I have an extensive knowledge of the area and am a member of the local BRN Group (Business Referral Network).  When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and am a volunteer for a charity called ‘ The Nystagmus Network’ - people who are partially sighted where I offer support and advice to families whose children are affected with the condition and help the charity with fundraising.


Mrs Penny Johnson-Foundation Governor

My name is Penny Johnson and I am delighted to have been appointed to the Governing body at Holy Cross this December 2016. As an ex-pupil I have come a long way since then, and hope that my experiences will help support the school and the governing body. I am really pleased that the school is doing so well, and hope to be a part of its success in the future, as it has been part of mine.

 I am the Head teacher of Grays Convent, which is one of the five La Sainte Union Schools in England, and therefore a sister school to Holy Cross.  I live close to my school in Grays, and although I have lived and worked away from the area for most of my working life in East London, I know this area very well.  I have four children and I hope that my experiences in education as well as a parent will be of value to the school, and help me to support Holy Cross in continuing to deliver an excellent standard of education.

 I have an MBA (International) with a focus on leadership, as well as many other leadership qualifications. I am an English teacher of many years, and still teach to this day. I am an active parishioner of St Thomas of Canterbury where I am an extraordinary minister and also deliver children’s liturgy.

Just like Holy Cross’s mission statement, I hope to ‘give my best in all things’.


Jennifer Iwobi-Foundation Governor

I am married with two children, my youngest is currently at Holy Cross Catholic Primary School, and my son has just gone into Year 8 at Campion. My relationship with the school has been a lengthy one as several of my nephews and nieces have passed through this school.


I have a degree in psychology and have worked in the Civil Service since 1998 when I came back to England.  I worked for Department of Work and Pensions for 16 years in various supervisory roles, managing staff and performance. I also worked as a Disability Employment Adviser in which I attained my British Sign Language Level 3 and Advice and Guidance Level 3. I currently work for HMRC as a Policy Adviser in Transport Taxes.


I am very passionate about Catholic education, being raised a Catholic myself and experiencing first hand the moral and spiritual values that are manifest in Catholic schools. I feel privileged for the opportunity to contribute towards the continued development and progress of Holy Cross Primary School. In my spare time I enjoy baking, reading, watching movies and listening to Music. I am also a member of the Westminster Charismatic Praise and Worship Group since 2000.


Barry D'Souza - Foundation Governor

“It’s a privilege being a governor at Holy Cross Catholic School and having the opportunity to work as part of a Committee striving for excellence.

I am married with two children, my oldest is currently in Holy Cross. Having had a Catholic education ourselves, my wife and I are very keen on ensuring the same for our children. We have been brought up with strong Christian values and are practicing Catholics. I am also an active member at Holy Cross Catholic Church and involved in various committees.

On the professional front, I’ve been in financial services for the last 15 years and I am currently a Compliance Manager for a mortgage lender in the City. I’ve graduated in accounting and finance. 

In my leisure I enjoy spending time with my kids and family. In my ‘me time’, listening to music is most relaxing. 

I aim to contribute to the continuous development and improvement of the school by effectively supporting and encouraging the parents, staff and most importantly the children in demonstrating the values of the school and our Christian values. I strongly believe in leading by example. “


Ciara Manning - Head of School

Having being born in Co Antrim, N. Ireland, I fulfilled my childhood dream of becoming a teacher, training at St Mary’s University College, Belfast, where I completed a Bachelor of Education Honours Degree, with Irish as my main subject. I moved to England in 1998 after securing my first teaching post in Bethnal Green, East London, in a Catholic Junior school. The school amalgamated with an infant school in 2001 and I became part of the senior leadership team of the new primary school, being responsible for Inclusion. I worked there for 14 years, and taught most year groups. In 2006 I became the Year 6 teacher and in 2007 I became the Acting Deputy Head teacher, posts which I held until I left in 2012. It was then that my journey with Holy Cross began, having being appointed as the Year 5 teacher in September 2012. The following year I was appointed the KS2 Phase leader and in 2016 I job shared the role of Deputy Head teacher. In September 2017 I was appointed as Head of School at Holy Cross, a role which is an honour and a privilege. I hope to continue to see the school through its journey of improvement, with the core values of respect, honesty forgiveness, tolerance and justice underpinning all that I do.


Chris Birtles: Executive Headteacher (Observer)

Having studied at St Mary’s College, Twickenham I qualified as a teacher in 1985. Initially, I taught in a Secondary school in Surrey before moving to Havering to teach in a Catholic Primary school. In total, I have worked in seven different schools in five different Local Authorities. I was appointed to my first Headteacher post in January 1996 and have led and managed schools both large and small.

I was recently appointed as the Executive Headteacher of the three school partnership between Holy Cross, St Joseph’s, Stanford Le Hope and St Thomas of Canterbury, Grays. I am a Local Leader of Education for the DfE and work as an inspector for OFSTED. I also work for the Brentwood Diocesan Education Department supporting Catholic schools and governors.

My wife is also a Catholic Primary School Headteacher and my eldest daughter teaches in a Catholic Primary school.