Villiers Park Educational Trust is delighted to announce the appointment of three high-profile new trustees. Former National Union of Students president Shakira Martin, former shadow education minister Gordon Marsden and senior HE leader Professor Christina Hughes join the board of trustees this month. They will play a significant role in overseeing a crucial period for the charity, as it launches its pioneering new Future Leaders programme and develops ambitious plans to support more young people from less advantaged backgrounds across the country.
Shakira Martin is head of student experience at Rose Bruford College and founder of The Class of 2020 initiative. Prior to this, Shakira served as the national president of the National Union of Students (2017-19), representing 7 million young people studying in further and higher education. She was only the second person to hold the post from an FE background, and the first black women to have held the role in the NUS' 96-year history. She is also a governor of Lambeth College, and until recently sat on the Office for Students’ Student Panel. She has achieved a level 7 diploma in strategic management and leadership from the Chartered Management Institute, and is studying for an MA at the University of Winchester.
Ms Martin said: “I am really excited to be joining the Villiers Park family as a trustee. In these crucial times, it is essential that we remain focused on ensuring no young people are left behind, but are instead given the opportunity to reach their full potential through education. I am proud to being joining a board that is fully committed to social justice and social mobility.”
Gordon Marsden is former shadow minister for higher education, further education and skills. He previously sat as a member of the House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee and Education and Skills Select Committee. He set up and coordinated the independent Lifelong Learning Commission which last year produced a report and policy recommendations for the Labour Party. Gordon also served as chair of the Associate Parliamentary Skills Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Veterans, and was MP for Blackpool South from 1997 to 2019. Before becoming an MP, he was an Open University tutor and lecturer and editor of the History Today magazine.
Gordon has chaired the History of Parliament Trust for the past four years and helped launch English Heritage in the 1980s. He is also a past chair of the Fabian Society.
Mr Marsden said: “I am delighted to be joining Villiers Park - it is a vibrant voice for social mobility and life chances, helping young people countrywide. Both as a shadow education minister and a Blackpool MP, I have seen how crucial support for young people is, not least in areas of transience and disadvantage. As the first person in my family to go to university from a working-class background, this is a very personal passion.”
Professor Christina Hughes has extensive experience of social mobility, student achievement and higher education through her work at Warwick, Sheffield Hallam and Kent universities, where she has held senior leadership roles. A sociologist by training, with 16 books published and £1.6m secured in external grant funding, her research focuses on gender and equity. She has been a trustee of the Royal Society of Arts (Academies) and is a governor at Leeds Beckett University. Christina holds a visiting professorship at the University of Coventry’s Centre for Global Learning, Education and Attainment, and is co-founder and an honorary life member of the Gender and Education Association. She is also an honorary fellow of the Warwick International Higher Education Academy and principal fellow of Advance HE.
Professor Hughes said: “I am honoured to be joining Villiers Park. Through its work with young people, this amazing organisation is dedicated to achieving that rare outcome I care so much about - a better, more equal and more hopeful world. If I can play a small part in that, I am thankful.”
Rae Tooth, chief executive of Villiers Park, said: “The impact of inequality on life outcomes has been writ large in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our work to empower young people to succeed has never been more important. I am delighted that we are being joined by three new board members, each of whom brings considerable professional knowledge and expertise, as well as passionate advocacy for the power of education and championing young people’s voices. I see it as a real vote of confidence in Villiers Park’s new vision and programmes that individuals of such high calibre want to support our mission and challenge us to make the biggest possible difference.”
John Tizard, chair of Villiers Park, said: “We are delighted that Shakira, Gordon and Christina are joining the Villiers Park board. They bring amazing and diverse experience and knowledge to the trust. They share our values and our commitment to equality, opportunity and equity and addressing the barriers to these in and through education. This is a challenging yet exciting time for the trust. Like many others, we face the challenges of Covid-19 and its consequences. As we roll out our new Future Leaders programme, Villiers Park has demonstrated its resilience and our ability to respond agilely and innovatively. These appointments strengthen the board and Villiers Park’s ability to fulfil its mission and champion young people.”