Our board of trustees have overall accountability for IPSEA's strategic direction, the stewardship of our resources and the activities we undertake in the pursuit of our charitable objectives. They are all volunteers, who contribute a huge amount of time and wide-ranging expertise to IPSEA.  


Tony King - Chair of Trustees

Tony is a qualified 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 extensive global programme of legal-technical and business skills programmes for people at all levels at Clifford Chance. Tony has been a member of the Legal Education and Training Group and 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.


Esther Abraham

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


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 ten 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 for 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 four 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 IPSEA 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 of 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 of language and communication difficulties. Since then she has been involved with IPSEA on our 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'. 


Louise Meikle

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. Louise 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. She 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 also 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. 


Judith Russell

Judith has worked in procurement and commissioning in both the public and private sectors for over 25 years, most latterly working across the higher education sector managing procurement shared services and consulting assignments. She has also worked as a Specialist Parent Support Worker for a charity in North Hertfordshire providing support to parents/carers of children and young people with ASD and/or ADHD. She has been a trustee of a charity providing services to pre-school aged children with disabilities and a governor to a secondary school Academy Trust. She has four children, one of whom has ASD and severe learning difficulties and for whom she has sought advice in the past from IPSEA to ensure suitable educational provision. She is delighted to contribute to this charity that provides such essential advice, information and guidance to families often coping with very challenging circumstances.


Alison Sharman

Alison is a highly experienced media and communications executive who has held a range of senior management positions at the BBC, ITV and SBS Australia. In her previous roles, such as Controller of BBC Daytime, Controller of BBC Children’s, and ITV Director of Factual and Daytime, she created some of television’s most acclaimed programmes. In 2013, Alison moved to Sydney, Australia to take on the role of Head of Commissioning for public service broadcaster SBS. She returned to the UK in 2016 and now has a portfolio of Content and Communication roles. This includes being a Creative Consultant for high profile media organisations, a lecturer at the University of Arts London, and an executive coach for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Alison has led organisational change, promoted integrity in the workplace, and has a proven track record for delivering results in commercial and public service organisations. Increasingly now she is taking on the role of mentor for both those entering the media and its executives, as a means of promoting change and diversification within the industry. Her board experience includes the BBC and ITV management boards, Advisory Chair of the Edinburgh TV Festival and member of Children’s BAFTA committee. 


Sharon Smith

Sharon has over 20 years’ marketing and communications experience, gained in both large corporate organisations and small business start-ups. She has two children, who are 16 and 13 years old. Following the birth of her youngest daughter, who has Down syndrome, she co-founded a local Down syndrome support group and subsequently acted as Chair of her local parent carer forum during the development of the Children and Families Act 2014. Most recently, she returned to study and is now studying for a MA Philosophy of Education at UCL. Having had to rely on IPSEA to help secure suitable educational provision and speech therapy for her daughter on more than one occasion, she is delighted to be able to give something back to the charity that has provided her with such valuable advice and information.