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Laura Preston 

Chair of Governors

Laura is a Chartered Legal Executive by profession, and came to Basingstoke in 1990. She specialised in litigation with an emphasis on personal injury claims whether arising from road traffic accidents or accidents at work. She worked closely with the Automobile Association Group Risks and Claims department training their staff and advising them on defending claims and claims avoidance. In 2002 she changed her specialisation to legal costs becoming a self-employed Costs Consultant primarily advising corporate insurance clients. In 2014 she left law for Recruitment working for Gotcha as a Talent Finder before taking early retirement.

When Liz Cooper came to talk to her Rotary club about the new Special Educational Needs school which was opening in Basingstoke she was inspired by the presentation and knew she wanted to be involved. She has always been interested in Autism having two friends with Autistic children, so is aware of the challenges they face and their unique gifts.

For relaxation she enjoys walking in our beautiful Hampshire countryside and Yoga. She is  a member of Basingstoke Deane Rotary club and enjoys the volunteering opportunities this offers. 

As the Chair of Governors her role is to support Liz Cooper in making the Academy a centre for excellence in education for the local community it serves.  

John Casey

Community Governor 

John is an experienced educator having worked in schools in London and the South East for over 30 years and was an exchange teacher with a school in Washington DC, for nearly ten years.   

John is honoured to be part of the Austen Academy team.  

John is also the Chair of the Shots Foundation, the charitable arm of Aldershot Town FC – no doubt plenty of school trips to the EBB Stadium in the future!

John was awarded a knighthood in 2016. 

John is a PIXl Regional Leader and is honoured to be one. He continues to enjoy supporting schools, Headteachers, RSL’s, leadership teams and Associates in their roles.



Alice McLaren

Community Governor 

Alice has worked in the higher education sector for well over 10 years and is currently the Head of Student Experience at the University of Surrey.  

Throughout her career, Alice’s work has focused on supporting students who are underrepresented in higher education, largely by delivering programmes with local communities and schools, and by supporting students who study at University.

Alice has previously chaired Access HE’s Disability Forum and was a member of the National Education Opportunities Network’s Executive Committee.

Alice is also the parent of an autistic child, who she is immensely proud of, and has seen first-hand, the positive impact that the right education and supportive environment can have. She is excited that the Austen Academy will be able to provide this opportunity for more young people and is looking forward to being able to support local families and the community through her role as governor.



Lucy Poynter

Community Governor

Lucy has 20 years teaching experience ranging from secondary and post 16 education to working with home educators and community education providers. Lucy is passionate about ensuring young people have access to excellent teaching and learning environments to truly champion success. 

As the SENDCo at a local sixth form college, Lucy recognises the importance of creating opportunities for young people to explore and develop their talents and assist them in accessing opportunities to further their progression. 

Lucy firmly believes that happy students are successful students, and this the energy and focus she hopes to bring to her role as a Governor at The Austen Academy.



Helen Key

Community Governor

Helen has been Transition Manager at Basingstoke College of Technology since October 2015. In this role she runs the learning support team and ensures that students with additional needs attending BCoT receive the support they need. She also leads on the mental health support to students at BCoT.

She is a DSL at BCoT and so has up to date knowledge and experience of safeguarding.

Previously, Helen has worked within supported employment services for people with learning disabilities and people with Autism. The importance of education in preparing young people for work is something she is passionate about.

Helen trained as a Youth Mental Health First Aider trainer in 2017 and has since then trained over 60 people to become mental health first aiders. Helen is looking forward to be able to offer this training and experience to staff at the Austen Academy.

Helen is a Rainbow Leader in her spare time and enjoys being out and about in the Hampshire countryside as much as possible.