Focus on David Woodgate

  • 11th July 2023

David Woodgate was born in Okehampton in Devon. He went to school at Plymouth College which was then a direct grant school which went fully independent once the direct grant was abolished. He currently lives in Little Venice in central London but also enjoys escapes to his cottage in Porthleven in Cornwall. He is a determined traveller with 114 countries under his belt, including North Korea.

Woodgate qualified as a barrister in 1982 following a first degree in languages (French and Russian), law and linguistics. This included six months studying in the former Soviet Union in 1979. He moved from the law into the City, holding several senior management and executive positions in National Westminster Bank and The Royal Bank of Scotland – in strategic planning, corporate finance and latterly as director of e-commerce for the corporate bank. He ran an outsourcing business and a specialist internal consultancy providing market intelligence and competitor analysis.

He was chief executive of the Institute of Financial Accountants from 2007 to 2015 after which he spent a year as the strategy consultant to the Institute of Public Accountants in Australia.

He completed an MBA at Warwick University Business School in 1992. A former chief executive of the Institute of Administrative Management, he also holds a postgraduate diploma in charity management from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a chartered banker, a freeman of the City of London and a liveryman and member of the court of the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights. Woodgate is also a former chair of governors of an HMC independent school and is currently a governor of the City of London School.

Woodgate was appointed chief executive of the Independent Schools Bursars’ Association (ISBA) in May 2016. ISBA has 20 staff and 1,300 member schools.

What has been the biggest challenge in your job so far?
Meeting the needs of our schools during the Covid pandemic in a fast-moving situation with many unknown unknowns and great uncertainty.

What will be the likely next big challenge?
Facing up to the multitude of political, geopolitical, economic and societal threats facing the sector and supporting our member schools in rising to the challenges that such threats will entail.

What has been the biggest surprise for you about the sector?
Pleasantly, the strong professional commitment to doing everything possible to support children’s education and to deliver excellence in the business process of our schools. Early on I was also impressed with the breadth of schools within ISBA and the diversity of backgrounds of the people who undertake bursarial roles.

What is the most useful advice you’ve been given?
Listen to the inner voice; if it is telling you something does not seem right, it most likely isn’t. Follow instincts and experience and be prepared to make yourself unpopular if necessary to do the right thing. Do not underestimate instinct and gut feeling arising from experience and don’t make the same mistake twice.

Who’s been the biggest influence on you in your career?
I am lucky to have had a number of role models throughout my career and people who have acted as wise sounding boards or just to whom I can have a rant on a Sunday evening.

Please share a funny story about a career mishap.
When working for a leading bank, I managed to delete the whole strategic plan on which we had been working for nine months just one week before it was due to go to the main board for approval – in the days before back-ups were routinely done. It was suggested that I might like to take a long walk around the block while the rest of the team tried to resurrect what had been lost. A useful learning point!

What do you hope your legacy at ISBA will be?
A strong and powerful organisation that has a clear sense of strategic direction but which evolves continuously to meet the needs of its members as these evolve in turn. A trusted voice in the sector and an influencer of everything to do with the business of independent schools.

What are your hobbies/outside interests?
Theatre, reading, travelling, serious walking (I have completed the whole coast path around Cornwall of something over 300 miles) and believe it or not, I do exercise at the gym quite regularly.

What are your personal future plans?
The CEO of ISBA is the best job I have had and at times it feels like all of my experiences over the past 35 years have come together to support what I am doing for the association. So long as the board and members will have me, I am happy to stay on for a few more years, but after eventual retirement I will look for non-executive or trustee roles in the not-for-profit sector and plan to do some serious globe-trotting.



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