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.  


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 suited 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.


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.


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.  He was appointed Quality Assurance Manager and became Head of Quality for the Children’s, Schools and Families Service in Hertfordshire in 2001. 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 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'.


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 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.


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.


Gareth Morewood

Gareth Morewood started teaching in the mid 1990s and has been the Director of Curriculum Support (SENCo) at Priestnall School in Stockport since September 2002. At the start of his SENCo career Gareth volunteered for IPSEA supporting families with Tribunal preparation and appeals. Over the last twenty years, Gareth has helped shape provision in a number of schools, multi-academy trusts and local authorities across the UK, Ireland and Chile through support, research, training and consultancy. He continues to regularly support parents/carers with SEND legislation and provision, as part of his wider interest in equality and opportunity for all. Gareth is an Honorary Research Fellow in Education at the University of Manchester, Education Advisor to Studio III and Vice Chair of the senco-forum. Gareth has written and published extensively on SEND issues and his main areas of research are autism and emotional regulation.


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.