Elaine Maxwell - Chair of Trustees

Elaine is our Chair of Trustees. She qualified as a barrister in the 1970s specialising in chancery work and public law and planning. Elaine chose to specialise in education law as it fitted in well with her interest in public law as well as using her experience in the Civil Service.  After becoming a partner at a firm in Preston, Elaine set up her own practice in Lancaster in 1998, focusing solely on education law and provision to help those with special needs.  It grew to be the biggest team acting for individuals in the education sector and won large contracts from the Legal Aid Agency.  From 1998 until 2014, Elaine became involved with ensuring appropriate standards in the delivery of education law advice, advising the Legal Services Commission. She joined IPSEA as a Trustee in 2014 and then became the Chair of Trustees in 2015.  Within IPSEA, she takes a particular interest in legal policy as well as marketing of services and some aspects of IT, as well as discussing issues and providing an informal sounding board for the Chief Executive.


Esther Abrahams

Esther spent many years in the youth work field prior to qualifying as a teacher in the 1990s. She has two children aged 8 and 10, the oldest of whom has Down Syndrome. Esther spent some years volunteering with SENDIAS before becoming involved with IPSEA - this was to help resolve an issue she had with the LA with regards to speech and language therapy for her son. Esther became a volunteer with IPSEA on the Advice Line in 2015.


Roger de Ste Croix

Roger is a Qualified Social Worker and subsequently managed social work teams in a variety of settings including disability teams in a number of local authorities.  Subsequently he was appointed Quality Assurance Manager and in 2001 Roger became Head of Quality for the Children’s, Schools and Families Service in Hertfordshire. On taking early retirement in 2007 he qualified as an IRCA registered Principal Auditor and now works part time as a Quality Management Auditor. He is a member of Hertfordshire Healthwatch.and an authorised ‘Enter and View’ Representative. Roger volunteers on the IPSEA Advice Line.


Ben Essex

Ben is an IPSEA volunteer. For 25 years he worked as a GP in London. He also specialised in the development of primary care in developing countries and was a consultant to the World Health Organisation for 15 years. During the past 10 years he worked as a medical advisor to the North East London Strategic Health Authority and to Lewisham and Croydon Primary Care Trusts. He also undertakes clinical investigations into deaths in custody on behalf of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. Ben volunteers in our Tribunal Support service and is the Board member liaising with the volunteer manager and team.


Sharon Gillott

Sharon Gillott is a Chartered Accountant with over 30 years’ experience. After graduating from the University of Leeds with a degree in Economics she went on to qualify as a Chartered Accountant with Coopers & Lybrand. She has particular experience in providing advice at times of change for a business. Her current role is Group Accountant, reporting for a group of companies offering a range of facility management services across the north of England. She has been involved with the voluntary sector in a number of capacities over the years. Sharon has been a Governor of a special school for 4 years, served as co-Chair of her local Parish Pastoral Council and has been a member of the Parish Finance Committee for many years. Sharon is the Board member who liaises with the staff dealing with financial matters.


Lea Hurst

Since arriving in England in early 1967, Lea has taught in a range on settings in London and Kent, but always with interests in the special educational field. In 2000, Lea retired from teaching in a special school  for children and young people with a range language and communication difficulties. Since then she has been involved with IPSEA on the Advice Line. In 2010 she gained a research based MA in the subject of inclusion in mainstream of children on the Autism Spectrum. Having weathered the changeover in legislation in 2014, she announced her retirement in September 2016 but is delighted to have been asked to act as a trustee for the charity that she continues to admire and support. She hopes to continue to earn the description awarded to her, some years ago, by a grateful parent as ‘that nice lady from IPSEA'.


Tony King

Tony is a qualified as a solicitor and he taught at The College of Law for several years before joining one of the firms which merged to create Clifford Chance as a tax lawyer. Tony was involved in education, training and professional development at Clifford Chance from 1988 until he retired as a Director in July 2014. He was instrumental in introducing the Firm's extensive global programme of legal-technical and business skills programmes for people at all levels in the Firm. Tony has been a member of the Legal Education and Training Group and of its North American equivalent. In addition, he is a member of various City of London Law Society's Training Committees and a member of the Advisory Board of the International Bar Association's Academic & Professional Development Committee. He has written articles and contributed to books on a range of legal and professional development topics as well as having co-written two legal textbooks.  Within IPSEA, Tony is closely involved with fundraising on grant raising and funding from legal corporates.


Louise Miekle

Louise has 16 years of HR experience at a leading City law firm and is also a qualified solicitor. She oversees people-related activities including recruitment, talent management, employee relations, performance management, reward and benefits, learning and development, diversity and inclusion and corporate responsibility. She regularly presents to the Board and the Operations Committee and sits on the firm's Health and Safety Committee, Business Continuity Steering Group and Information Security and Data Privacy Committee. Louise manages a team of around 50 people. Louise was a member of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Education and Training Committee from 2007 to 2012. Louise is committed to professional development for her and others and has attended a Leading Businesses into the Future programme at London Business School which has inspired her approach to leadership. Louise has been a mentor on the 30% Club cross-company mentoring programme, the ultimate goal of which is to broaden the pipeline of female talent and help more women to attain senior leadership positions. She is currently a mentor on the OUTstanding Mentoring Programme which brings together current and future LGBT+ and ally leaders. Louise is a Member of Aspire Academies Trust, a Multi-Academy Trust in Hertfordshire.

IPSEA mailing list

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IPSEA training

IPSEA provides a wide range of SEN training for Parents, School Staff, Parent Forums, Support Groups, Local Authority SEN teams, Parent Partnership Schemes, School Governors and other groups / organisations. Click here for details.

Advice Line

This provides next step advice on: problems with schools, requesting statutory assessment, statements and Education, Health and Care Plans, annual reviews, disability discrimination and exclusion. Please click here to book an appointment to get one of our advisers to call you back.

Tribunal Helpline

Our Tribunal Helpline Gives next step advice on SEN appeals and disability discrimination claims to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. When you call we will also assess whether you need casework support. Please click here to book an appointment to get one of our advisers to call you back.

Information Service

The Information Service is for general legal enquiries and will signpost you to factsheets and resources on our website.  The Information Service cannot provide specific advice about individuals and their circumstances.

Face to Face Advice

IPSEA is now able to offer free and independent legally based SEN advice at Face to Face sessions organised in conjunction with the Pen Green Centre for children and families (pengreen.org).

For information on how to book a session please click here.