Our Leadership Team

These are the people responsible for the day to day running of Activate Learning.

A warm welcome from our leadership team

Activate Learning is led by a well-established Group Executive Team, which enjoys both breadth and depth in professional and management experience. This team are responsible for the strategic management of the Activate Learning group, and are supported by a strong Group Leadership Team, comprising Directors from across the business.

At Activate Learning we are well known for developing talented people who are sought after by businesses around the world. This is because we go beyond giving you great qualifications. Our focus is on building the mindset, attributes and skills that are most relevant for the ever-changing workplace, and developing you personally so you open up future career and life possibilities you cannot yet imagine.

Gary Headland

Group Chief Executive, Activate Learning

Our Leadership Team

Bernard Grenville-Jones Managing Director Activate Enterprise Ltd

Bernard joined Activate Learning as a Group Executive Director in 2015. Prior to this he performed non-executive roles for Activate Learning as Governor; Chair of Group Audit and Risk Assurance; Chair of City of Oxford College Advisory Board; and inaugural Chair of Activate Enterprise Limited. Before working full-time in education, Bernard spent over 25 years building businesses in financial services consulting and software. He is a Chartered Director and has an honours degree in Business and Management in addition to spending an additional undergraduate year at Warwick University studying Computer Systems Engineering.

Bernard’s executive portfolio has spanned many areas of the business, and leading our merger bids, since 2015 and currently includes leading three of our six faculties; Technology, Lifestyles and Creative Industries. He is the strategic lead for Systems and Processes across all our faculties, working with a network of middle managers driving transformation. Across Oxfordshire Bernard holds a number of key stakeholder relationships, and has recently joined the Steering Group of the Oxfordshire Inclusive Economy Partnership, where he also Chairs the Education and Skills Working Group alongside the Chairman of OxLEP.

Bernard most enjoys helping people to develop and succeed, with a keenness to work alongside a team of brilliant students, staff and partners at Activate Learning. Outside of work, Bernard enjoys family, food and the great outdoors.

Cheri Ashby Deputy Chief Executive

Passionate about Activate Learning’s mission to transform lives through its award-winning Learning Philosophy, Cheri’s role as Deputy Chief Executive encompasses responsibility for our curriculum. Furthermore, she has become the nominated individual for leading on behalf of Activate Learning in Ofsted inspections. She has also joined the Trust Board of Activate Learning Education Trust (ALET), which oversees our schools.

With over 25 years’ experience in the Further Education sector, Cheri has undertaken several different roles, including teacher, course leader, curriculum manager, Assistant Principal, Head of Campus, and Group Executive Director.

During 2019-20, Cheri led on the merger of the Surrey Colleges (Guildford College, Merrist Wood College, and Farnham College) into Activate Learning.

Cheri enjoys being part of a large group committed to transforming lives through education. During her employment at Activate Learning, Cheri has had ongoing opportunities to ‘learn on the job’; she is a champion of Activate Learning’s Philosophy and is delighted that the organisation continues to retain a strong focus on learners, learning, curriculum design and delivery.

In her spare time, Cheri enjoys several activities, including travelling (Asia being a particular area of interest), sailing, gardening, walking, and reading.

Gill Davidson Group Executive Director

Gill's role as an Executive Director includes responsibility for faculty leadership of Academic and Professional Studies, Farnham College, Landbased and Lifeskills faculties; and is the chair of the group Safeguarding committee.

With over twenty years of experience within the FE Sector Gill has worked in many areas of the business, from Apprenticeship delivery, mainstream delivery of  16-18 study programmes and managing teams in both Faculty and Business Support.

A strong believer in prioritising people development, Gill has enjoyed a very successful career developing strong leaders and nurturing new talent. She also enjoys the outdoors, long walks, and the gym, as well as supporting local charities.

Jon Adams Group Executive Director

Jon is one of Activate Learning’s Executive Directors, with responsibility for Business development. He is responsible for the growth of our organisation, especially commercial income, international work, Higher Education, and our stakeholder engagement strategy.

Spending the first twelve years of his career in the welfare to work sector, Jon worked to help long-term unemployed people back into work. Starting out as an Employment Advisor, Jon progressed through various management roles with Ingeus UK (a private provider of employment support services), to become Director of Operations and subsequently Director of Business Development. In 2015 Jon was appointed as CEO of ATG Training, which became part of Activate Learning in 2017 and has since been fully integrated into the organisation.

Jon enjoys working for an organisation that aspires to provide more than just technical training and education, but instead seeks to prepare people for successful careers. He is especially proud of Activate Learning’s work with many young people who have not previously had a positive experience of education. Jon has always been passionate about providing services that make a positive difference to people’s lives, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Louise Basu Group Director of People and Change

As Activate Learning’s Group Director of People & Change, Louise is responsible for creating and driving the Staff Journey, which focuses on the workplace experience of our employees. Championing a positive and impactful employee experience, Louise has a keen focus on building a participative environment that is fully inclusive, so that everyone can bring their whole selves to work and feel welcomed into the organisation, thriving in whatever their role or chosen pathway.

With a commercial background in Sales, Pharma and Finance, Louise brings a customer and brand focused approach and an ability to work at pace within a changing people climate. Upon joining Activate Learning in early 2019, she immediately established the need to build a specialist Talent Acquisition function as well as a team dedicated to providing Learning and Development for employees to take personal accountability for their careers. Both are now thriving functions and have evolved to meet the diverse needs of our changing workplace culture and employee communities over recent years.

Louise is driven by continuous improvements to the employee experience and channels this people-centric approach through her work both as an organisational leader and as a functional director. Louise has developed the People function to one which partners impactfully with the business through both professional expertise and robust data. Louise balances this by building a culture which nurtures wellbeing and the importance of hearing individual voices, alongside one which recognises potential and develops people to build diverse career pathways within Activate Learning.

Outside of work, Louise prioritises relaxing with family and friends, planning trips away, and reading with her lively Book Club.


Paul Newman Group Executive Director

As Executive Director Paul Newman has strategic oversight for our student services, the student experience, student voice, student satisfaction on our campuses and online and the physical environment for our students. Paul is responsible for contributing to Activate Learning’s strategic plan, as well as overseeing regional key stakeholder relationships including membership of the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, Reading UK and Chair of UTC Reading Local Governance Committee. Having worked with Activate Learning for twenty-four years, Paul has progressed through a number of different roles, including technician support, teacher, manager, senior manager, director, assistant principal and principal (interim).

During his time working with Activate Learning, Paul has enjoyed the support and development opportunities available, as well as the chance to be challenged, particularly when overseeing the Bracknell merger. The variety of work, the people (both colleagues and students), the direction of the organisation and having a manager who invests time into his development are also important elements of Paul’s role at Activate Learning. A significant part of Paul’s interest in his work is also the aspect of understanding people, relationships and behaviours.

Outside of work, Paul’s pastimes include home improvement, motorcycling, walking, cycling and spending time with family.

Perry Perrott Group Director of Governance and Compliance

Ensuring that Activate Learning’s mission to transform lives is supported by strong systems, governance and up to date guidance,  Perry’s role as Group Director of Governance and Compliance encompasses responsibility for Health and Safety, centralised administration and of the support of the Governing body in partnership with our CEO and the Chair or Governors. Furthermore, he has become the regional Skills and Education ambassador for the Institute of Directors, working directly to promote our group within this major membership organisation. 

With over 25 years’ experience in Further and International Education sectors, Perry has undertaken several different roles, including lecturer, course leader, curriculum manager, Assistant Principal, Senior Director , and Global Vice Principal, all leading to a strong, evidential based experience of the sector and how to improve processes to support outstanding learning. 

During 2022, Perry was the winner of the DMJ awards for Innovation in Governance, the only Education based winner awarded in the UK. 

Perry is passionate about making a difference and being part of a large group committed to transforming lives through education. During his employment at Activate Learning, Perry has had ongoing opportunities to work with some of the best Governors, Industry professionals and team members which have enabled a clear focus on driving improvements through compliance and governance. 

In his spare time, Perry enjoys several activities, including cars, walking, fitness, National trust (with Cream teas) and technology, a real geek at heart! 

Steve Ball Chief Financial Officer

As Chief Financial Officer, Steve’s main responsibilities include establishing and delivering a group financial strategy, as well as line managing all financial processes within the Group. Steve is also responsible for the line management of IT and Property & Estates and leading on the merger processes (legal and financial structuring) for Bracknell & Wokingham and Guildford.

Steve has significant experience in leadership roles in Retail (Marks & Spencer), Supply Chain (DHL) and Education (SEMTA), and is also a qualified accountant.

In terms of his role with Activate Learning, Steve takes a keen interest in driving change and making a difference. He believes that he is able to use his financial experience and expertise to generate value, knowing that the organisation is helping people to become employable. Steve also takes pride in leading and developing teams, and ensuring that finance (and similar functions) are ‘partners’ to the organisation and supporting and improving decision making – rather than operating as remote disengaged ‘experts’.

In his free time, Steve enjoys good food and wine, spending time with family and friends, travelling, sport (with a particular interest in football) and theatre.