Corporate Governance

Ensuring the smooth running of Activate Learning.

Become a governor

Corporate governance structure

The Activate Learning Corporation Board is responsible for providing strategic leadership, oversight, and accountability to the Activate Learning Group.

The board sets the strategic direction of the group and appoints senior post-holders, who are responsible for day-to-day leadership and management.

By setting a clear mission, strategic objectives, and robust progress measures, the board can:

  • ensure the solvency of members of the Activate Learning Group
  • safeguard public funds and assets in our care
  • ensure sustainable, high-quality provision that meets the needs of our local communities.

The Activate Learning Corporation Board has adopted a structure of governance based on a Carver, policy-driven model, and therefore focuses on outcomes and impact (the ‘ends’), whilst ensuring that all other statutory requirements are effectively met. 

Find out more about the Framework for Governance.

Meet the governors

The Board comprises of governors from a wide range of personal and professional backgrounds, who are highly committed to the vision and mission of Activate Learning. For the purposes of company and charity law, the governors also fulfil the role of non-executive directors and trustees.

The Board is advised by a clerk who is employed directly by the Corporation, and meets seven times per year, including an annual strategic away day. In addition to external governors and the CEO, the Board includes elected members of the staff and student bodies, who provide valuable insights from their unique perspectives. 

Leadership

Sue Sturgeon Chair of the Corporation

My name's Sue Sturgeon, and I'm the Chair of Activate Learning. Well, I retired from my substantive position in 2017. I was the chief executive officer of Guildford Borough Council, which is a £150 million business with about 800 staff. I joined Guildford College about six years ago and when we merged with Activate Learning in 2018, I became the link governor from Guildford, who joined the board.

They asked me to join as I was somebody who had been to Guilford College in the late seventies and I was somebody who struggled at school; I did not like school, it didn't work for me. Yet when I joined Guildford College to do A Levels there, I really thrived. What made the difference was that there was somebody that believed in me and inspired me, and it really made me want to work and to learn. I went on to do Accountancy in my career.

I became the Chair of Activate Learning about 18 months ago and we've gone through a period of managing two of the mergers that took place just before I joined. I think we've made a lot of positive progress, but there's lots more work to be done. I think I've really been able to add value in that work. We've also, throughout 2021, been going through a process of appointing a new CEO as our former CEO, Sally, retired in 2022.

Gary Headland CEO

My name is Gary Headland and I was proud to be appointed as the CEO of Activate Learning and co-chair of the Activate Learning Education Trust on 1 April 2022.

Prior to this appointment, I was CEO of the Lincoln College Group for seven and a half years, responsible for colleges in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire as well as international operations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and China.

I hold voluntary offices as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the County of Lincolnshire and President of the Royal British Legion in Lincolnshire. I am also a non-executive director and chair of a cyber security company called KryptoKloud Ltd.

Prior to joining the education sector, I was a Director of Northgate Public Services for three and a half years, a Director at Norfolk Constabulary for over two years and a senior Royal Air Force officer for 23 years serving in locations throughout the UK and overseas in Germany, Italy and the Middle East.

I believe that lifelong learning is vitally important and so I have underpinned my public and private sector career spanning over 35 years with high-quality education and training. I hold an MA from Kings College London, an MBA from the Open University Business School and a Level 7 qualification from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). I am in the final throes of becoming a Chartered Director which is a Level 7 qualification awarded by the Institute of Directors (IoD).

I am a Fellow of the IoD and qualified previously as a Fellow of both the CIPD and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Transforming lives through the delivery of exceptional and highly-relevant education, and meeting the needs of our local communities, are my passions.

Perry Perrott Director of Governance and Clerk to the Corporation

Hi, my name's Perry and I'm the group Director of Governance for Activate Learning. My role within the company is to work with the Chief Executive and the Chair of Governors. I work between the two parties to get the information flowing clearly and concisely between all parties to work on the regulatory, the legal, and all the compliance elements needed to run the college and keep the governors informed on everything that is happening in the marketplace from the DFE, the ASFA, and any other bodies that we deal with. Some people call it, “The conscience of the college.”

So, I came in to Activate Learning after over 25 years in education, specialising in further education. I did a brief sojourn into private education, yet it wasn't fulfilling; I wanted to be able to give something back. Activate Learning is such an excellent group to be a part of as they do so much for the students. Being here enables me to use all my experience to help a corporation move forward and help learners access the best facilities and opportunities that they can.

I think the positives of working within the Activate Learning Group—and especially being the director of governance is— we can effect change. We have a fantastic Board of Governors chaired by Sue, our current chair, and what they bring to the table is an incredible amount of knowledge. Being part of that, and being able to facilitate the conversations we have, as well as the in-depth reviews, and really the way we oversee the college really brings me a sense of satisfaction.

Committee chairs

David Goosey Vice Chair of the Corporation and Chair of the Remuneration Committee

I had 20 years with BP and then in 2020, I took on the role of chief executive of a clean tech start-up near Oxford. I'm now working as an independent advisor to business. I'm also treasurer and founder of a woodland and educational charity in West Berkshire.

I've been a governor now since 2019, I started just as we went into lockdown. Given my business background, I'm really conscious of just how important talent development is for businesses and the country to be successful. I'm also a father of two kids and really conscious of how important the right education is to enable us all to make the best of who we are. The one thing I love about the role of governor is the breadth of topics we have been involved in. Last year, I was also asked to become vice chair, so I've been working very closely with Sue and the rest of the board, but one thing I particularly enjoy doing is working with Fiona Stilwell and the apprenticeship scheme. Fiona and I are particularly busy on employer engagement to help really make sure that the training and education that we provide matches what employers are looking for and also to help improve the employability of all of our students.

Dermot Mathias Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee

I used to be chair of BDO, the world's fifth largest accounting firm, my mother's very proud!

Subsequently, I've had a number of non-executive directorships, mainly listed companies. I have been a governor for nearly six years. The thing that motivated me is the fact that I have always been passionately in favour of vocational education. My story is that I'm dyslexic.

I didn't know I was dyslexic when I was at school. I was going to go to a conventional university, but I could see no point in it. I ended up doing a degree in Hotel and Catering Management at Surrey University and that really was the foundation of my subsequent career.

So, when I was at BDO, I was a Mergers and Acquisitions partner. Therefore, it has been particularly useful that I have M&A experience for the mergers that Activate have undertaken.

Pauline Odulinski Chair of Search and Governance Committee

Hello. My name is Pauline Odulinski.

I'm a director of my own company. Since I left my full-time job and retired in 2021—which was a principal CEO of a college—my role now is really working freelance in the education sector. I've been a governor since 2015. My motivation is really a life-long passion for really helping people. I’m very, very passionate about equality, diversity and inclusion and I really enjoy working in the college environment because it really gives an opportunity to ensure that we're giving something back. We're really helping people with their careers and their goals.

Since I've been working on the board at Activate Learning, we've gone through many, many different changes, and I'm really proud of the fact that it's grown into this organisation that is so people centric. It's really a culture of learning. The Learning Philosophy is a fantastic way of really making sure that people get the personalised learning that they need and deserve for their life goals.

Governors

Andy Stone Link Governor: Health and Safety

I run an AV consultancy business. We design primarily theatres and television studios. We're working mainly in the education sector, the higher-education sector. I've been a governor of Activate Learning for two and a half years, and prior to that I was a governor of Bracknell and Wokingham College. I was involved in the merger with Activate.

Most of my work is in the education sector and it just felt a good time to be able to give something back to the community and really get involved in the local college. I think the main thing I've be doing at Activate Learning is trying to use my industry experience to help the college, so I've done a number of projects working with Creative Media and Performing Arts within the college. Most recently, I've helped out on the theatre conversion at Reading, so new projects in association with Reading Rep theatre.

Cathie Prest Co-opted Governor

Hi, my name is Cathie Prest.

I have enjoyed a long and extensive career in further education and became a co-opted governor for Activate Learning in April 2022. My passion for further education began when I became a student at my local technical college many years ago, and this has continued into my retirement.

I’ve held a number of Executive roles, including interim Principal, Deputy Principal and Vice Principal Curriculum and Standards in various further education colleges. I serve as a co-opted governor on the board of Buckinghamshire College Group, having previously been an independent member on two corporation boards, East Surrey College and Guildford College. In addition, I was the Vice-Chair of the Standards Committee for Surrey Police Authority.

For ten years, and until my retirement in July 2021, I managed my own management consultancy company and provided bespoke coaching for senior leaders, curriculum and quality reviews, inspection preparation, and interim senior leadership and management. I was an additional Ofsted inspector for nine years before being appointed an FE Adviser for the Further Education Commission in 2017 until July 2021.

My belief is that further education should be of high quality and accessible to all. I hope that I can utilise my knowledge and experience of the further education sector for the benefit of students attending Activate Learning’s group of colleges.

Dan Willis Staff Governor

Hello, my name is Daniel Willis.

I am the Group Contact Centre Manager at Activate Learning. My team look after customer enquiries via both telephone and email, alongside application processing received on our websites and in person.

In terms of my background, I have worked and studied at Reading College and Activate Learning since 2013 and have the unique advantage of having seen both sides of the organisation, as a student and as a staff member.

Alongside my day-to-day role, I am also the staff governor and have been in this role since December 2021.

I became a governor as I had a lot to give in terms of my perspective and experience, which I felt would be an asset to our governing body. From a personal perspective, I also wanted to gain further insight and understanding into strategic thinking and planning to help progress my career further.

Currently, I am still finding my feet in the role, but I hope to have real impact in the coming months with the potential of myself becoming a link governor for sustainability.

This will entail ensuring that we are meeting our sustainability key driver: I’ll be working with staff, students, and employers to make sure that everything we do takes into consideration the impact on our local and global environment.

Emma Shipp Link Governor: Student Experience

My name's Emma Shipp and I've been a governor of Activate Learning since 2019. In my professional job, I'm a solicitor. I've got 30 years' experience of corporate transactions, commercial contracts, and I've also sat on boards and chaired boards in the legal sector.

Activate Learning is the first education institution I've been a part of, and what really drew me in was The Learning Philosophy. I think it’s a fantastic draw for people. Furthermore, the enthusiasm of the staff and the passion that I've seen throughout the time I've been here has been absolutely amazing.

I sit on the Audit and Risk committee, and I also get involved in other projects for Activate Learning. My first couple of years here, I wasn't really able to meet people, but even so, the passion that people had really came across, even virtually.

Now we can get out and about, I'm able to go round colleges and meet people. That passion's coming across even more! From the zoo at Merrist Wood, to the furniture at Oxford...I mean, they’re just such fantastic facilities! I'm really committed to treasuring that for the future.

Henry Chukwu Student Governor

My name is Henry Chukwu.

I have been a student governor for Activate Learning since late 2021, and I am currently studying for a Law Diploma at Reading College.

My aim of studying law is to become a solicitor. This has been my long-standing dream since childhood. The effective application of the Activate Learning Philosophy at Reading College has helped broaden my knowledge of law and further increased my zeal to become a lawyer. As I was getting so much out of the college, I felt personally motivated and encouraged to contest for the position of Student Governor, so I could get involved in the management side of things at Activate Learning Corporation. I feel very privileged to have been duly elected as a student governor by Activate Learning students across its UK institutions, in what was a highly contested election.

In addition to being a law student, I work in facilities/security management. I am also an Army Reserve officer in the British Army, after having served for around seven years as a regular under the Queen's Guards division.

Due to my huge interest in education, I decided to join the Activate Learning Corporation as a governor because I am impressed with its inclusive methods of bringing education to people around the world, irrespective of their race, gender, age, religious belief, and so on. I am eager to see how I can contribute to both the success of the Activate Learning Corporation and also to the spread of further education across the globe.

Although I am relatively new to the corporation, I believe that I have a lot to contribute to its success, especially in the areas of improving students' experiences, security, safety, diversity and inclusivity. I am already taking part in some really positive plans being made to move the corporation forward. I am really invigorated by these plans and very keen to achieve further success with such a prestigious corporation.

James Voûte Link Governor: Schools

Hello, my name is James Voûte and I’m delighted to be a governor for Activate Learning.

I became a governor in October 2021 because I was motivated to make a difference to young people’s education and to help them succeed. I’m a sales and marketing leader in the publishing industry and have a strong professional interest in digital learning.

Since joining Activate Learning I’ve been greatly impressed by the passion and engagement of our staff and students, and the very high standard of facilities across our campuses. I’m also a link governor for the Activate Learning Education Trust, so I’m particularly focused on the performance of the seven schools in our portfolio.

John Cope Governor

I've worked in politics, communications, and education policy since 2010 and I'm the director of strategy, policy, and public affairs at UCAS, the charity that connects people to their next step in life, whether that’s university, college, or an apprenticeship.

Alongside this, I'm a board member of a government body: the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, and a local councillor on Elmbridge Borough Council.

Originally from the Midlands, before joining UCAS, I was deputy director of Public First, an education consultancy and polling company. I've also worked with business leaders across the UK as head of education and skills policy at the CBI, advised three former education ministers, and was a founding director of the Education Policy Institute.

Outside of work, I'm a trustee of the charity Achievement for All, governor of a special needs secondary school, and a former National Chairman of LGBT+ Conservatives.

Julia Von Klonowski Link Governor: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

Hello, I'm Julia. I consult as Digital Director to Career Colleges Trust, which assists 14 to 19 year olds in taking the next step to a fulfilling career by equipping them with the skills and experience they need to succeed. I also consult as the Digital Skills advisor to Amazon Web Services, advising them in how to assist young people to develop the necessary skills for a successful career and designing programmes to achieve this aim. Additionally, I'm a T Level and Apprenticeship Ambassador working with the DfE on T levels and Industry Placements.

I hold various non-executive and advisory roles with other organisations including The Prince’s Trust, Comic Relief, City Lit, The Roberts Centre, The Samaritans, London Sport, UK Active, MCC, DVLA, Colleges and Local Government, the South African Department of Education and Poland’s Ministry of Defence.

I'm the Chair of the Trustees for The CyberHub, a joint venture with AWS, the National Crime Agency, National Cyber Security Centre and the Police to assist with deterring young people from cyber crime, educating the community on ethical behaviour and safety online, as well as working to fill the cyber skills gap.

I'm passionate about providing the best possible opportunities for all young people, and in particular those that come from disadvantaged backgrounds. My work with Activate Learning has allowed me to further my interest in the education sector, as well as watch the organisation grow to meet the needs of people and businesses both currently, and in the future.

My personal interests are mentoring, gardening, theatre and literature, travelling, food, and meeting new people.

Kathy Slack Link Governor: Employer Engagement

Hello! I joined Activate Learning as a governor in December 2020 and am the Link Governor on employer engagement.

I'm the chief executive of Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, where I work with others to create the environment for businesses to grow and flourish across Hampshire and Surrey. I have successfully secured over £250m of funding for the Enterprise M3 area for infrastructure development, skills and enterprise and innovation.

I have a passion for joining up people and initiatives and I'm the lead CE for Catalyst South, an alliance of six LEPs that champion the importance of the business community across the South. I am also the cluster lead for the four growth hubs supporting businesses in Hants, Surrey, Berks, Solent, Sussex and Brighton.

I have nearly forty years of experience of working with businesses and people to support economic growth, first in helping the long term unemployed to get jobs, then in work to support young adults get training and assisting business to start up, scale up and grow. I spearheaded the first skills strategy produced by the South East England Development Agency and championed work to get girls in schools interested in IT careers. I was honoured to see my work on economic development across the South of England recognised when I received an OBE for the work in 2017. I'm passionate about achieving greater diversity on boards and in teams and I champion work across all LEPs.

I live in Oxfordshire and enjoy the local countryside and unwinding in my garden.

Lesha Chetty Governor

Hello, my name is Lesha Chetty.

I currently lead the local government sector, arts, culture and heritage, and sports and leisure sectors for Mace Consulting, across the UK.

I wanted to work with Activate Learning as I feel really passionate about education and the role that we as a community have in educating others. I'm actually local to Oxford, and I think there's a real opportunity for us to actually integrate learning, training, and skills more in terms of what we're doing in the community and how we actually drive that message home.

Within the role that I do in the local government sector, my focus is really on social value. Skills and training are such a huge part of the way that we can actually transform places and communities, so for me, I feel really passionately about it.

Malcolm Wicks Link Governor: Safeguarding

Hello, my name is Malcolm Wicks, and my area of expertise is strategic marketing.

I've been on the board of Activate since 2016. I actually became a governor because I was a non-executive director of a training company that merged with Activate, and I came along as part of the package.

I've been very fortunate to be the lead governor on mergers, so working with the board and also with the management team, we successfully concluded the merger with Bracknell and also with the group at Guildford.

Meheryar Khan Co-opted Governor: Audit and Risk Committee

Hi, I'm Meheryar. I'm currently a manager at Ernst & Young LLP, delivering audit and assurance services to a number of clients, from start-ups to FTSE 350 and global businesses.

My experience is significantly technical, particularly in the reporting and auditing areas, as well as dealing with environments subject to high levels of change and helping teams navigate through evolving landscapes. I've worked with the company since 2014, having started a graduate program with Ernst & Young, following completion of a BSc in Accounting and Finance. I'm also qualified as a Chartered Accountant, receiving my qualification with the ICAEW in 2015.

I believe that being a governor will provide me with a unique opportunity and insight into the education industry, as well as being part of an organisation that contributes greatly to society. The ability to have an impact on the future of students has encouraged me to become involved with Activate Learning.

In my private life, my interests include both the automotive and aerospace industry. I'm a regular attendee of car and air shows.

Activate Learning is a Further Education Corporation, registered under the Further and Higher Education Act (1992) on 01 April 2003, as Oxford and Cherwell College. The Corporation was renamed Oxford and Cherwell Valley College on 17 August 2005 and became Activate Learning on 01 September 2013.

Activate Learning is an exempt charity under Part 3 of the Charities Act 2011 and until July 2016 was regulated by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills as Principal Regulator for all Further Education (FE) Corporations in England, and since July 2016 has been regulated by the Secretary of State for Education.

The Activate Learning Group includes Activate Enterprises Ltd, Activate Investments Ltd and the Activate Learning Education Trust, of which Activate Learning is a Member.

Activate Learning is a member of the Activate Learning Education Trust (company number: 08707909)