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AoC National Chairs' Council

AoC established its National Chairs' Council (originally the Governors' Council) in 2008. The Council’s mission is "to develop and use the experience and expertise of governors, to represent their views in the formulation of AoC policy and promote best practice in college governance".

AoC National Chairs' Council is committed to working in an open and transparent way. It publishes the minutes of its meetings. See the Council minutes.

The Council maintains networks in all AoC’s regions. These networks aim to engage with governors and collect their views to inform AoC policy and initiatives. The Council’s regional network provides Governors with feedback and information from AoC and other organisations. These networks run events to support and develop governors’ understanding of issues within the sector.

If you would like further information about AoC National Chairs’ Council, please email AoC’s Governance Team or call 020 7034 9900.

The Council members consist of:

  • governors who have either been elected from each of AoC’s nine regions or have been co-opted to ensure that the Council is properly representative of the diversity of colleges and governance structures
  • a member of the National Governance Professionals' Special Interest Group – thus recognising the important role of governance professionals
  • a number of AoC ex officio members

AoC Regional Member (Chair)

Simon Perryman

Yorkshire & Humberside Region

Simon was previously Executive Director of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills. He managed the UK network of Sector Skills Councils and delivered £300m of industry led skills development. He has extensive experience of skills and small firm policy development from his background in Government.

Simon has been Chair of Governors at Barnsley College for 6 years, where he has overseen ambitious strategies to enhance the curriculum, develop higher level skills and build assurance-based governance. He was appointed, in 2018, to be a National Leader of Governance supporting the FE Commissioner and was elected as the chair of the AoC Governors Council in November 2021.

He established a TVET consultancy business in 2015, advising governments and the TVET sector on skills systems and strategies. He specialises in employer engagement in skills, apprenticeship policy and the link between skills and productivity.


AoC Regional Member

Andrew Leighton-Price

South West Region

Andrew has a diverse background all worked within the IT and accounting world, from leading the education division for the UKs largest computer manufacturer, to the ICAEW, looking after accountancy students. Recently developing his own businesses within the IT world and selling them to global companies. Andrew has also been a Governor at Herons' Moor Academy since it opened in 2003 and has been its Chair of Governors for the last 7 years.


Co-opted, Chair of NGPG

Anne-Marie Nixon

I am the Director of Governance at Hugh Baird College and have seen significant changes in public sector policy and governance since I started my career in 1989 as a graduate trainee at Newcastle City Council.

I spent over 20 years in democratic services, policy and training and development before joining Hugh Baird in 2010. I qualified as a Graduate Member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in 1991 and obtained the Institute’s Post Graduate Certificate in FE Governance in 2011.

I am proud of the amazing support I have received throughout my career, which has enabled me to help and support others in promoting and embedding Nolan’s Seven Principles of Public Life.


Co-opted, Sixth Form Colleges

Sandra Prail

Awarded an MBE for services to education in the 2022 New Years’ Honours List Sandra is a recognised and respected specialist in FE good governance at a national and local level. A dynamic influencer and supporter of educational governance Sandra has extensive experience of Boards in corporate, local government and educational settings.

Sandra is currently Chair of Governors at BHASVIC a modern, vibrant Outstanding Sixth Form College. She sits on the Association of Colleges Governor Council, provides mentoring support on the ETF Chairs’ Leadership programme and undertook a variety of reviews on the pilot AoC/ETF Board Review programme. As a National Leader of Governance (NLG) appointed by the FE Commissioner Sandra works across the country providing support to enhance leadership and governance to improve outcomes for young people and adult learners in further education.


Co-opted, Land Based Colleges

David Butler

David Butler is a Fellow and Past President of the Chartered Institute of Housing. He is also a Chartered Surveyor and Charted Secretary and has a Masters Degree (M.Sc) in Public Sector Management.

David retired from full-time employment in 2008 after a 40 year career in housing and local government which includes 15 years as Director of Housing at Newcastle City Council, and 10 years as Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing. During his 10 years at the CIH membership grew by 40% and CIH launched HouseMark, now the sector's leading data and analysis service.

Since retirement he has been a member of the Learning and Skills Council for the North East; an Advisor to Dunelm Property Services, part of the Esh Group of Companies, and a member of the Durham Cathedral Property Committee.

He is currently Vice Chair of Karbon Homes having previously been Chair of Cestria Community Housing and a Board member of the ISOS Housing Group.

He has been a Governor at East Durham College since 2012 and was appointed Chair of the Corporation in February 2014.

AoC Regional Member

Mervyn Ward

North West Region

Mervyn has recently become representative for the Northwest region of the AoC Governors Council. He has been Chair of Corporation at Warrington & Vale Royal College and previously Warrington Collegiate since 2016. This (Ofsted) good GFE college is now growing successfully following merger in 2017.

Mervyn is a retired qualified management accountant with a career spanning local government, atomic energy, further and higher education, and the civil service.

Beyond employment Mervyn served 27 years as a school governor and since 2016 has been a non-executive director of a local health, leisure and wellbeing community interest company. He is also a regular panel member for independent school admission appeals.

As an almost eternal student Mervyn is a great advocate for continuing education and is currently researching aspects of further education. As a master's athlete Mervyn still competes, coaches, officiates and still finds time to watch non-league football supporting Warrington Rylands FC.


AoC Regional Member

Julie Dougill

South East Region

I am currently the Chair of Governors at Plumpton College, an innovative specialist Land Based College in Sussex of over 2000 students, and the college Safeguarding link governor. I have been in this role for the last two years but throughout my career I have served on a range of governing boards developing a wide governance skillset.

I have worked in the education, learning and skills sector for over 30 years in various senior management roles in FE, schools and at local authority level working on strategic quality improvement and partnership working and in supporting providers, colleges and schools to prepare and deliver post 16 qualifications. More recently I had strategic responsibility for Leadership Development and Governance Services across East Sussex.

I have been actively involved with colleagues across Sussex to inform and shape our successful LSIP bid, in promoting collective governance models and have been part of a national Charis’ forum working with EDF to develop a competency framework for FE and Chairs. I am passionate that as a group of volunteers our skills, knowledge and expertise is used by the AoC to both inform current practice and to drive future change in effective governance.

As your representative, I will use my vast experience of working collaboratively with a range of stakeholders alongside my open-minded approach to new ideas and opportunities for change, to ensure that as a group of South East Chairs we are kept informed and more importantly have a strong voice both locally and nationally on the AoC Governors Council.


AoC Regional Member

David Blake

Eastern Region

David became involved with East Coast College a few years back after a LinkedIn approach, starting as a governor on the main Board and several sub committees. He is now into his second year as Chair. David has really enjoyed being able to help East Coast College become a better place for students to study and leading the Board to achieve its strategic aims.

David currently splits his working life between East Coast College as Chair; professional futures trader on the Chicago & Mercantile Exchange USA trading his own book as well as acting as market contributor to Spotgamma (Tenten Capital LLC); and several CFO roles for SMEs.

David has worked as both a Chartered Accountant and Business Finance Professional under the Institute of Chartered Accountants England & Wales, having lived and worked in various places around the world outside of London, including Hong Kong and the Maldives.

Having graduated in Chemistry, he continues to have a passion for science and enjoys fitness, electric guitar, shooting, and family time outside of work. David is a proud Christian and has lived in Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire for over 20 years.


AoC Regional Member

Paul Butler

London Region

Paul has been involved in the college sector since incorporation in 1992. He has a passionate commitment to young people and adults and the importance of providing quality training and education opportunities that helps individuals to achieve their potential. He has extensive experience and networks within the education/skills sector.

Paul has held a range of national and regional roles as a director and chief executive in skills, education and community development. He has been an ACAS Council member and previously a National Leader of Governance for the AoC, he currently provides mediation support for boards and senior teams.

He is on the AoC London Region Board and also holds a number of non-executive roles nationally. He has been involved in cross-party committees on issues of workforce development and inclusion and has sat on a range of advisory groups for Metropolitan Police focusing on issues related to community engagement, inclusion and BAME representation.

Paul has been Chair of the Board at Waltham Forest College for 7 years and leads in a collegiate way with expertise, empathy and tremendous insight. Paul’s skills, networks and experience provide high level knowledge and understanding, invaluable to representing London colleges and learners on a national stage.


AoC Regional Member

Stuart Lindemen

East Midlands Region

Stuart is presently a part–time specialist education consultant and law society accredited mediator. His consultancy roles have included work for the Office for the School’s Commissioner, Sport England and Multi Academy Trusts. His last substantive post was as Strategic Director of Education for Partnerships for Schools, the government agency responsible for Building Schools for the Future. Prior to joining Partnerships for Schools Stuart had a successful career in local government including roles as Assistant / Deputy Director of Education for Leicestershire.

His earlier career included other local authority roles as an OFSTED inspector, Director for TVEI, Further Education Officer and Staff Inspector. His school / college experience included time as a teacher, senior manager and Head of Dartington Tech. He is Chair of Governors at Loughborough College and a specialist adviser to the Leicester- Shire Active Together Board. Stuart is passionate about making a difference for local communities and promoting the unique contribution FE makes to their lives. He feels colleges are central to this vision and that strong advocacy is needed now more than at any other time.


AoC Regional Member

Mervyn Jones

West Midlands Region

Further Education faces an existential dilemma of being respected and needed yet taken for granted, such that it risks ceasing to be sustainable. As College Chairs, we need to ensure the credibility of the present and present the challenges of the future, in a fashion which delivers investment commensurate with the importance of the sector.

I bring experience from industry and from education.

In business, I spent 20 years with BP in commercial management within oil trading, refining and petrochemicals in the UK and interactionally. I then spent 20 years as Chair or as an NED of innovative companies, focusing on energy, the environment and the arts, for which I received the IoD Scottish NED of the Year and UK Director of the Year for Sustainability.

In education, I have been a Council member of the Scottish Further Education Funding Council and Scottish Funding Council, a member of Court of the University of St Andrews, an Advisory Board member of the Scottish Marine Science research pool and Chair of the Scottish University spin-out competition. In the past, I have been a Board member of North London College and created the ‘Aiming for a College Education’ initiative in East London.


AoC Regional Member

Michael Wood-Williams

North East Region

AoC Chair

Shaid Mahmood

Shaid is the first Chair of the newly created Leeds City College Group Board with strategic responsibility for a family of HE institutions, colleges and schools having previously served as Chair of Leeds City College - one of the largest FE organisations in the country now rated as good with many outstanding features.

Following a range of leadership and management roles in manufacturing and research and development in industry, in the Connexions Service and in Children’s and Family services, he is now the serving Chief Officer Communities for Leeds City Council, with leadership responsibility for the Council’s work on equality, migration, prevent and counter-extremism, the third sector, the council’s work with communities to generate greater capacity for self-reliance, and the integration of public services to address inequalities in neighbourhoods. Shaid is also a serving board member of a Housing Association, a trustee of the Leeds United Football Foundation, and Patron of the National Centre for Diversity.


Ex-Officio Member

David Hughes

Chief Executive, Association of Colleges

David Hughes became Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges in September 2016. Before that he was CEO at Learning and Work Institute, a leading think tank, research and policy organisation which was formed in 2016 from a merger he led between NIACE and Inclusion.

From 2000 to 2011, David worked in senior roles at the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). At the LSC and SFA David led the funding and improvement relationships with colleges and providers and successfully took on trouble-shooting roles to rescue crises in capital funding and Educational Maintenance Allowances.

Prior to that, David worked in the voluntary sector across a wide range of roles and organisations in the UK and Australia, in social housing, co-operatives, welfare, regeneration and community development.

David has held many Board and Committee roles, including a few years as Vice Chair of the East Midlands Regional Assembly in the 1990s. He played a leading role in establishing the new Education and Training Foundation in 2013 and has established and supported several third sector organisations.


Please contact the Governance Team for further information on the NGPG.