Governing Body

St Mary’s is a Voluntary Aided Catholic Primary School. The school was founded by Buckfast Abbey in 1893. The school was founded to be run with a Catholic ethos and voluntary aided status enables the founding trust (Buckfast Abbey) to preserve the schools ethos by appointing the majority of the governors (these are called the Foundation Governors). Unlike other types of state schools, in voluntary aided schools the founding trust owns the land and buildings and the governing body employs the staff. The school joined the new Academy for Catholic schools in the diocese on 1st April 2014 known as Plymouth CAST.

The structure of the governing body

The Instrument of Government of St. Mary’s, states that the Governing Body is made up of the following:

  • 6 Foundation Governors
  • 1 Parent Governor
  • 1 Staff Governor
  • The Headteacher may be a Governor if they wish. If they do not wish to be a Governor they still attend all meetings.


Father Francis Straw

Chair of Governors, Foundation Governor, ECM & Assets Committee

Prior Administrator of Buckfast Abbey
Appointed a Foundation Governor in 2004; re-appointed in 2008

I believe strongly in the value of a Catholic education to give all children the best start on their learning and to become mature and responsible citizens of our Country, ready to earn their living and to help others. So I was delighted when the trustees of the Abbey appointed me a governor of St. Mary’s in 2004. I feel that my degrees in Physics and Theology enable me to support teaching and learning in the school and to help the staff to form an environment in which the social and moral values of the Catholic Church are the bedrock upon which all the activities of the school are built.

Nicola Slack


I have been a governor of a Catholic school for the past fifteen years and I am currently a governor at St Mary's, Buckfast in my capacity as Head teacher of the school. The Governing Body plays a unique role in supporting and challenging leadership, to ensure that the school provides the very best for its pupils and staff.

Deborah Fisher OBE BA (Hons) PGC

Foundation Governor, Chair of ECM Committee

I have been a Foundation Governor since September 2009. Two of my children attended the school (and really loved it) so I welcomed the opportunity to support the management and development of a school which provides such a supportive and caring environment for the children. I have done a variety of jobs in my career to date and have extensive personnel and resource management experience which I hope is helpful to the school governing body. I find being a governor very rewarding and enjoy learning more about how the education system works.

Tony Luscombe

Foundation Governor, Assets Committee

Appointed Foundation Governor in January 2010
I am a practising Catholic, committed to an Education which embodies and reflects the Spirit -what it is to live a Christian life today. Therefore I was delighted to be given the opportunity to serve as a governor of St. Mary’s School. I come to this post after along and diverse career in Psychology and Education and believe that the combination of my academic qualifications and my last ten years practical experience, spent teaching in Devon schools, gives me a clear understanding of the many challenges which affect Teachers, Pupils and Parents alike in Catholic schools today.

Paddy Mahon

Foundation Governor, Assets Committee

I was employed in Education, in the Primary range, for most of my life where all the enthusiasm and pleasure in learning is clearly seen.
St Mary’s gives me the opportunity to engage with a multi-qualified group of Governors, committed Staff and excellent Headteacher. Hopefully my learning also continues.

Jonathan Henderson

Parent Governor, ECM Committee

I grew up in Cornwall. For the last 10 years I’ve lived in either Ashburton or Buckfastleigh. I work at Riverford Organics programming their computer systems. I’m an active member of the Parish and was actually baptised at Buckfast Abbey in 2011. For a while I worked for Plymouth diocese as a technology advisor. My wife and I have two children at St Mary’s.

I want St Mary’s to be a truly outstanding school, that nurtures each child’s spiritual, mental and physical well-being – a place where the staff love to work and where parents feel connected with their child’s progress

Mark Norman

Foundation Governor, Vice Chair of Governing Body, ECM Committee

I have been a Governor since July 2014 first as a parent and then a foundation governor, and have been proud to support the school, the Headteacher, staff and pupils. Two of my children attended the school, they loved the community feel of the school, the outside spaces and supportive staff, which enabled them to achieve to their full potential. I welcomed the opportunity to support the school, utilising experience gained during my career in public service and other voluntary roles to support and challenge the school leadership team. I have a particular responsibility for safeguarding within St Mary’s School and I find the associated topics interesting and believe it is an important aspect for me to support the school.

Coralie Cherrett

Staff Governor, ECM Committee

I have worked at St Mary’s since 2015 and have worked all over the school. I am really pleased to be a staff governor as it gives me an opportunity to be involved with the strategic running of the school, as well as the operational. I am committed to giving the children at St. Mary’s the best opportunities in their learning whilst upholding the gospel values and nurturing them as they grow. I am committed to providing our children with the best possible education so that each individual reaches their true potential.

Mary Waterman

Clerk to the Governing Body

I was recruited to St Mary’s School as clerk to the governing body in 2013.
I have been Clerk to the Governors in a local small village school since 2000 and was a clerk to a local Federation of small village schools. I have been Chair of Governors of a special school in Plymouth and therefore understand the complexities and commitment of the Governors and am very pleased to be part of the school team helping to govern a small Catholic school in Devon.

Plymouth CAST Information

Plymouth CAST information