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National Governance Professionals' Group

AoC's National Governance Professionals' Group (NGPG) is a voluntary association of clerks of boards of corporations.

Its mission is "to promote excellence in governance by providing a mutual support network for clerks, representing the views of clerks, and providing a communications channel to and from clerks and other groups and individuals who are in a position to influence college governance".

The NGPG usually meets four times a year. It is the conduit for information to and from the regions and is responsible for promoting the voice of governance professionals in the sector and ensuring they are properly informed on all key governance issues. Its members are elected to represent each regional committee and there are also co-opted members.

The minutes of the meetings are published.

The NGPG works closely with both AoC and the National Chairs' Council. There is a Memorandum of Understanding between AoC and the NGPG. The NGPG has a co-opted member on the National Chairs' Council.

If you would like further information about NGPG, please email AoC’s Governance Team or call 07795 477118.

National Governance Professionals' Group Members

The National Governance Professionals' Group comprises of representatives from each regional committee and co-opted members.

AoC Regional Member (Chair)

Heather Cross

South West Region

I have many years’ experience in FE as a Governance Professional, a governance expert and was previously a College Vice-Principal. My experience ranges over both urban and rural colleges across different sizes and types, including SDIs. I am a fully qualified Chartered Secretary and a National Leader in Governance, working to provide governance advice and support for colleges who may be in need of governance development.

I am currently Governance Adviser and Clerk to the Corporation at Wiltshire College and University Centre in the south-west and also co-lead the ETF Governance Professionals Expert Programme.

Some information about my role in the College
I have worked at Wiltshire College advising and supporting governors since 2011. In that time I have worked with three Principals and three Chairs, all very different.

The most rewarding part of my role
The variety of what I might be asked to advise about, plus as a national leader of governance helping and advising other governance professionals in other colleges– and seeing them thrive in their roles.

Something interesting about myself that you didn’t already know
When I took part in a Capital Radio quiz show many years ago, I was made to sing live on air! (If you ever meet me and ask me nicely, I might tell you what the song was….)

The three people (either living or dead) I would invite to my dream dinner party
As everyone will say, it’s so difficult to choose just three – but here goes -
Nigella Lawson – because I think she would be great fun, but also because I would
ask her if she would be prepared to help me with the food!!
No doubt he will have had lots of invitations – Nelson Mandela. A truly great man, with great wisdom and the capacity for huge forgiveness. Doris Lessing – author of some of my favourite books. So many to chew the fat


AoC Regional Member (Vice Chair)

Ra Hamilton Burns

London Region

Describe your role as a governance professional

My favourite description of a governance professional comes from the national role template which calls us ‘Guardians of Integrity’. It sounds high-handed but captures the essence of the role we do as backstops for the Board and College ensuring that they don’t fall foul, wittingly or by omission, of all the duties, requirements, and best practice that the many external stakeholders and agencies place on an FE institution.

In my past I’ve been a full-time clerk/GP in three GFEs, a sixth form college, a primary school and interim in over ten colleges as a part-time governance professional, merger advisor, mentor, and insolvency governance advisor. Before FE, I worked as the European Marketing Director for a US software company and
as an Account Director in a Soho-based PR firm.

Most rewarding part of my role

  • Fortunately, there isn’t just one rewarding part of the role. I love to see the students who have been governors and really embraced the role go onto use the experience and succeed. It’s particularly pleasing that so many alumni student governors keep in touch and let me know how they are doing.
  • It’s rewarding when a Board meeting or awayday goes well and both the governors and Exec Team are buzzing, and I’ve contributed to making that happen – it doesn’t always work out that way but great when it does!
  • That moment at the end of the summer when the cycle of business is winding up, the self-assessment items are all done and nothing major has gone wrong to make my worst nightmares come true!!

    Tell us something interesting about yourself that we didn’t already know
    I keep bees – I love keeping bees. It’s a totally absorbing pastime when you have your head and hands in a hive with 40 thousand bees and you have no spare capacity to be worrying about what you might have forgotten to put on an agenda or where that next new governor is going to come from.

    If you could invite three people to your dream dinner party, who would they be?
    Dawn French/Jennifer Saunders (they come as a pair) – because the time would pass joyfully with some witty conversation.

    Barack Obama – to ask him what his approach would be to politics in our four nations and to let him choose the playlist.

    Sally Coveney – acting Principal who when I was first a Clerk – she used to reassure me not to worry as it (FE) was like the mad hatter’s tea party and it would all change in a minute. How right she was proved to be, and I was delighted to be invited to attend her wedding a couple of years ago.

    AoC Regional Member (Vice Chair)

    Wendy Stanger

    Eastern Region

    Wendy is Director of Governance at East Coast College which has campuses in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. She was formerly Head of Governance at Great Yarmouth College and acted as Clerk to the Shadow Board and East Coast College Designate Board overseeing all the legal requirements for the establishment of East Coast College.

    Wendy is Chair of the AOC East Governance Professionals network and has taken an active part in various governance working parties with ETF and AOC all with the aim of improving governance.

    Wendy has worked for the public sector in various roles including as a Housing Manager in Local Government, an Internal Auditor in the Health Service and as an VAT Inspector for HM Customs and Excise.

    Wendy has BA (Hon) in Politics and Law, a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management, is an Associate Member of Charted Institute of Management Accountants, was a Corporate member of the Institute of Housing and awarded ICSA Governance Professional of the Year in 2019.


    Co-opted, Chair of Governors' Council

    Simon Perryman

    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

    Bella Howard

    South East Region (Co-Chair)

    I am the Director of Governance at East Sussex College Group, which has campuses in Hastings, Eastbourne, Lewes and Newhaven. ESCG, which formed in 2018 following a merger between Sussex Coast College Hastings and Sussex Downs College, is the leading destination for further education in East Sussex. I have been in role since 2022 and provide trusted advice and guidance to the Board, with a particular focus on supporting the College in delivering against its strategic priorities, whilst facilitating robust governance practice.

    I previously worked for a local authority Governor & Clerking Service, responsible for leading the Governor training & development programme, as well as advising governance professionals across the county in a broad range of educational settings. Before then, I was fortunate to enjoy a variety of exciting and challenging leadership roles within the financial services sector.

    I have been a governance professional for over six years, with prior experience as a Governor and then Co-Chair of Governors in a school setting. I am passionate about governance and the invaluable mechanism it provides for driving positive outcomes for learners and local communities.


    AoC Regional Member

    Georgina Flood

    South East Region (Co-Chair)

    AoC Regional Member

    Caroline Menadue

    West Midlands Region

    Educated at Leicester University (BA History), Caroline initially trained with KPMG Peat Marwick McLintock prior to becoming Graduate School Manager at University College Worcester responsible for research degree management, coordinating research weeks and the publication of the College’s research bulletin.

    Caroline was seconded to HEFCE as a national panel secretary for the Research Assessment Exercise 2001 and acted as Project Officer for the University Title Project Group for Worcester University.

    Caroline became Clerk to the Corporation at Warwickshire College in 2006 and has been involved in several Mergers, and Senior Postholder appointments alongside other exciting projects during this time.

    In her spare time, Caroline plays the cello in two local orchestras a string quartet and a cello quartet, loves gardening and has a busy family life.


    AoC Regional Member

    Debbie Corcoran

    North West Region

    Please describe your role at the college.

    I am Director of Governance at the Nelson and Colne College Group, which includes Nelson and Colne College, Accrington and Rossendale College, and Lancashire Adult Learning (LAL). As the governance professional for the Group, I offer independent advice and support to the Board of Corporation to ensure it meets its responsibilities and can deliver on its vision and ambition for the College Group. The College Group was formed in 2018 through merger, has a real breadth of provision and continues to make significant and exciting campus investments and curriculum developments - so the roles really interesting…

    What is the most rewarding part of your role?

    Being part of a Group and whole College team that’s all about learners, businesses and communities having the highest quality skills support they need to succeed – I love hearing and seeing every day how the Group, and FE as a sector, transforms people’s lives.

    Tell us something interesting about yourself that we didn't already know.

    I have another day job – as well as my College role I’m a non-Executive Director in the NHS, which is equally as interesting!

    If you could invite three people to your dream dinner party who would they be?

    Author and poet Maya Angelou, comedian and author Deborah Frances-White and David Attenborough


    AoC Regional Member

    Christine Stretesky

    North East Region

    AoC Regional Member

    Catherine Sykes

    Yorkshire and Humberside Region

    AoC Regional Member

    Louise Hazel

    East Midlands Region (Co-Chair)

    Louise was appointed as Director of Governance and Policy in 2016 having
    previously held a policy and planning role at the College.

    Before joining Leicester College she worked for the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC). Louise has many years’ experience as a school governor in both primary and secondary schools including as Chair of Governors.

    She has also been Company Secretary for a Co-operative Trust school. Louise holds BA (Hons) and MA degrees from the Universities of Manchester and Essex


    AoC Regional Member

    Ian Jones

    East Midlands Region (Co-Chair)

    Barrister specialising in education law.

    Substantial experience of providing advice to meetings and of training and supporting governors.

    Primary School Chair of Governors. Former National Leader in Governance.


    Co-opted, Natspec representative

    Paul Ferguson

    Paul joined LINK19 College, a small Kent-based SPI in 2022. As Company Secretary, Paul has responsibility for all aspects of governance, including planning and evaluation. A rewarding part of the role is providing support and guidance to enable the SPI’s strategic aims to be achieved. Aside from LINK19 College, Paul can be found taking country walks and visiting cultural retrospectives.


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