Our Chair, Robert Upshall
Robert is a retired GP and worked in what was to become the Whinfield Medical Practice for just over thirty years. Robert moved to Darlington at the same time as joining the practice having trained in London and the South East hailing originally from the South Coast. Nowadays Robert lives near the centre of town but he does often visit Florida, which is where Roberts wife originates from.
Liz’ background is in Primary Education with a particular interest in Special Educational Needs. She was a head teacher from 1993 to 2002 after which she ran her own Education Management Consultancy until 2012, undertaking Consultant and Interim Headships in Co. Durham, Leeds and Leicester.
She sits on Education Appeals Panels for a neighbouring Local Authority and is a Governor of a local Primary School. She was Chair of Governors from 2002 to 2012 when she relinquished that post. She held the position of Chair of the Interim Executive Board of a Leicester Primary School for 2 years.
She has been a volunteer with Darlington and District Samaritans since 2000.
Valerie Johnston is a retired Civil Servant with wide-ranging experience in the Departments of Employment; Education and Skills; Children, Schools and Families, latterly Education (DfE) , and ACAS.
She has long experience in management roles with teams ranging in size from 7 to 45 staff; experience in Human Resource Management, Training and Development, Contract Management, Procurement, buildings management and outward facing representational roles.
Valerie has served as a Trustee for several organisations in the Voluntary and Community sector including Age UK (previously Age Concern), The Women Matter Bursary, over a period of 24 years. She is an experienced school governor, currently a Director of Firthmoor Primary School, and Chair of the Local Advisory Board of Corporation Road Community Primary School, both in Darlington.
I don't consider that I had a career until I was 40. Before that I had jobs that fit in with family life.
It started when I went to the library to offer to help with adult education. I went on a course at the college and so I didn't have to pay for it, I signed up to do 60 hours voluntary work. It was amazing, I felt such a sense of achievement after the first session I helped with. It set me on a path of self discovery that is continuing to this day. I went to college myself to build up my qualifications. I took risks along the way, leaving a permanent job for a temporary contract and reducing hours for another opportunity. Fortunately it all worked out and five years after the start of my journey I got a job in a mental health day centre. After that I ran a small housing department for another charity, with a level of responsibility that I never dreamed of. I have now retired by choice but I'm still passionate about voluntary work and the benefits it provides to the community and on a personal level.
From 1997 until April 2017 I was employed as a Band 6 Sister caring for both high dependency and intensive care patients within the Darlington Critical Care Unit. I was largely clinically based with a managerial, educational, and supportive role in equal measure. I was a shift leader, a communicator, an enabler, and a clinical nurse, working in a multi-disciplinary critical care team.
I retired from the NHS in March 2013 but returned to the same role until April 2017, when I reduced my working hours to two 7.5 hour days and returned to the critical care environment in a senior staff nurse role. I continue to be employed by the Darlington & Durham NHS Foundation Trust.