The St Laurence Education Trust (SLET) was established in 1997 as the governing body for Ampleforth College.

The Trust is made up of volunteer trustees from a variety of backgrounds who, amongst other things, oversee the financial, educational and strategic management of the school. They have overall responsibility for the school to meet all of the requirements set by external statutory bodies such as The Department for Education and Skills, the Independent Schools Inspectorate and the Charity Commission.

Trustees meet formally every term as a full trustee board and for sub committees but communicate frequently between these meetings. They are regular visitors to the school, meeting staff and students and attending school events. To learn more about the individual trustees, please see the biographies below. To find out more, please contact Helen Ashley-Taylor, Interim Clerk to the St Laurence Education Trust, on  Mrs Claire Smith, Chair of the St Laurence Education Trust, is the Proprietor.  She can be contacted throughout the year via Helen Ashley Taylor by telephone on 01439 766710 or in writing to Helen Ashley Taylor, Interim Clerk to the St Laurence Education Trust, Ampleforth College, York, YO62 4ER.

Ampleforth College is undergoing a full review of governance. In October 2018 a framework agreement was signed between the St Laurence Education Trust and the Ampleforth Abbey Trust which ensures that the trusts operate as independent charities with clarity of responsibilities and boundaries.  The agreement places the highest priority on the safeguarding of students.

At the same time, SLET trustees are working with the Director of Governance to enhance governance practice and ensure the highest standards of accountability.  A recruitment programme for SLET has recently yielded a number of new Trustees and Advisers whose skills and experience complement that of our existing Trustees.  This programme is ongoing and we are committed to adding further high calibre individuals to our Board so as to ensure the best strategic leadership and oversight for the future of the College.

Mrs Claire Smith
Chair of the St Laurence Education Trust

Mrs Claire Smith, Chair of the St Laurence Education Trust, worked in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1979-2006 in a variety of roles, including secondments to the private sector.  She has been an adviser to the St Laurence Education Trust since 2010, and became a trustee in September 2012. She was also Chair of a school governing body in the London Borough of Newham from 2008-2013; a Visiting Lecturer and Professor at several universities in the UK, and has worked on a number of international professional development programmes.  She has been a non-executive director of an international engineering consultancy and sat on a Cabinet Office appeals panel. She is a member of the St Laurence Education Trust Planning and Finance Committee, the Ampleforth Abbey Trust Finance and General Purposes Committee, and is the Chair of its Nominations Committee.

  • Mr James O'Neill

    Mr James O'Neill, is a member of the St Laurence Education Trust and member of its Education Committee, has been involved in education for more than forty years. He has taught in state schools in Sheffield, Chelsea, and Bexleyheath, and from 1987-1993 was Deputy Headteacher at All Saints' RC Comprehensive School in Mansfield. From there he became Principal of Carmel College, Darlington, a post he held until 2009. He was a National Leader of Education: in this role he supported other schools facing difficulties with performance outcomes. Current educational roles also include Director of Leadership Links Ltd., Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Education Village Multi-Academy Trust, Former Chair of the Sponsors' Monitoring Group for the St Aidan's CofE Academy, Darlington, and Regional Director and Leadership Development Adviser for the North-East for The Future Leaders Trust. He is a trustee of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough.

  • Mr Matthew Craston

    Mr Matthew Craston was a student at Ampleforth College and a graduate from Oxford University and has worked in London's financial sector for more than 30 years. He began in banking at Chase Manhattan where he spent the 1980s. Through the 1990s he worked in the corporate finance department of SBC and SBC Warburg, and then as a managing director in the leveraged finance group when the bank became UBS Investment Bank. In 2004 he switched to the fund management business, managing credit funds at at European Credit Management Limited for ten years. He has recently set up his own company, Finance Map, to provide students and others with an understanding of the financial world through one-to-one tutorials. Matthew is Chair of the St Laurence Education Trust Planning and Finance Committee and a member of the Ampleforth Abbey Trust Investment Committee.

  • Mrs Elizabeth Berner

    Mrs Elizabeth Berner's professional life has been spent in teaching, particularly working for the Girls' Day School Trust over the course of thirty years.  In some of the Trust's SW London schools roles have included Head of a History Dept, Sixth Form Careers Adviser as well as undertaking subject and general Oxbridge preparation. She has also been a tutor in higher education in HM Prison Wandsworth.  Additionally she has held non-executive directorships in the NHS in the 1990s and currently sits on the boards of various voluntary sector organisations.  Her connection with Ampleforth arises from both her husband and son having been educated at the College, the latter also at the prep school at Gilling Castle, as well as from participation in some of the Lourdes pilgrimages and various retreats at the Abbey.

  • Mr Christopher Adams

    Mr Christopher Adams studied Mathematics at Cambridge University and trained as an accountant, eventually becoming a Partner at Armitage & Norton Chartered Accountants. From there he moved to KPMG, where he became Head of Charities in the North of England, before joining Saffery Champness in 2003. He remained a Partner there until 2012. He is now a self-employed Chartered Accountant, acting in a personal capacity as a trustee and board member for a small number of commercial companies, family trusts and charities. He is a member of the St Laurence Education Trust Planning and Finance Committee and Chair of the Ampleforth Abbey Trust Audit and Risk Management Committee.

  • Rachel Fletcher

    Rachel Fletcher worked at Ampleforth College for 23 years, initially as a Teacher of English. She later joined the Senior Leadership Team as Director of Professional Development before taking up the post of Director of Admissions until her retirement in 2014.  She has served as a Governor at St Benedict's RC Primary, Ampleforth, St Martin's Prep School, Nawton and St Mary's Girls' School, Baldersby.  She was also previously a Trustee of St Martin's Ampleforth Prep School.


  • Robin Burdell

    Mr Robin Burdell was educated at Ampleforth College (1969-1976) and is currently Head of Finance and Marketing Appointments for RSAcademics Ltd. Previous posts include Director of Finance and Operations for Worth School and Finance Director for Worth Abbey; Business Director and Secretary to the Board of Truro School; Director of Finance and Estates at Nottingham High School; and Head of Finance and Administration and Company Secretary at Stanford Hall Enterprises Ltd. He has served on the Independent School Bursars’ Association (ISBA) Executive Committee, Chairman of the ISBA General Purposes Committee, and on the Board of the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). Robin Burdell is a qualified Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (FCMA) and a Member of Chartered Global Management Accountants (CGMA).

  • John Sykes

    John Sykes was educated at Ampleforth College and went on to study Business Administration at Herriot Watt University, Edinburgh, followed by a Masters in EC Competition Law at Kings College, London. He qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and worked as a partner at law firm DLA, and then at Lupton Fawcett from 1992-2017. He is now working as a consultant and is a director of Mohun Intellectual Property Limited, a patent attorney firm.  John Sykes is a member of the Intellectual Property Committee of the Law Society of England and Wales and an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys. From 2008-2017 he was governor at Leeds Trinity University.

  • Sr Frances Orchard

    Sr Frances Orchard CJ has spent her entire career in senior education and brings extensive knowledge of Catholic education, and the transition from religious to lay leadership in Catholic schools. She was the headmistress of St Mary’s Ascot and General Secretary of the Catholic Independent Schools Conference (CISC). Since retiring from teaching, she has taken up several school governor posts in schools across the country. She is currently the Provincial Superior of the Congregation of Jesus, Chair of Trustees of the Congregation of Jesus Trust and Chair of Trustees of the Bar Convent Trust York.