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Meet the CU Trust Team

Children’s University is a network of centres that manage their activities locally. These local centres are run by existing structures and partners such as colleges and universities, Local Authorities and groups of schools. CU Trust is the charity that sits at the heart of this network, providing support, strategic guidance, and organising fundraising and communications activities.

Helen O'Donnell - Chief Executive and Director of Partnerships

Helen joined Children's University in November 2015, having previously served as Chief Executive for the Cheshire Community Foundation (CCF). It was at CCF that Helen first encountered Children’s University by funding one of our local centres.

Helen has extensive experience in the third sector with a particular focus on education and helping young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds access educational opportunities. Most recently this involved acting as Head of Development at the University of Liverpool where she was responsible for securing charitable investments.

Contact Helen with enquiries about national partnerships and strategic issues.

Sonya Christensen - Engagement and Inclusion Manager

Sonya joined the Children’s University in October 2018 having come from a background in both Third Sector and Corporate Management roles. Her recent experience as Development Manager for the pioneering work of the Greater Manchester Social Work Academy saw her tasked with improving Social Work education and Continued Professional Development across Greater Manchester.

Her background as a Child Psychotherapist in primary schools and as the Director of a National Lottery funded programme of life changing services to families with multiple and complex needs has fuelled her passion to widen access to services for children.

Contact Sonya with enquiries about setting up a new Children's University

Liam Nolan – Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement

Liam joined Children’s University in 2016 with a focus on working with the Children’s University network and shouting about its many successes. As a former teacher of English as a foreign language, he is passionate about education and the possibilities Children’s University opens up for young learners.

Liam has over 13 years’ experience in the charity sector in a mixture of fundraising and communications roles. Most recently he has been self-employed fundraiser and worked on high-profile digital projects for charity and government organisations.

Contact Liam with enquiries relating to communications, PR and media. 

Cordelia Howard – Digital Inclusion Officer

Cordelia joined Children’s University in September 2019 as Digital Inclusion Officer to work with the network in this exciting period as we transition to Children’s University’s online platform.

Cordelia comes from an Edtech background. She is passionate about education and the impact that digital resources can bring to help children realise their full potential and develop a joy of learning. She has over ten years’ experience working within education, first as a specialist SEN worker before moving into edtech where her focus has been on training schools and providing technical support. At the heart of all her work is a real care and interest in people.

Contact Cordelia with queries about Children's University Online

Meet the CU Trust Trustees

Peter is a Chartered Accountant with a long career in a variety of organisation, including Oxford University Press and The Law Society, but predominantly spent in Financial Services, most recently as Finance Director at Dudley Building Society.

His roles have encompassed a number of Finance Directorships as well as in Corporate Strategy and Corporate Finance and leading other Support functions, including HR, Risk and IT.

"I have a passion for education and for helping people to fulfill their potential. I am delighted and very proud to be a Trustee of Children's University, an organisation and a network that inspires children to learn and to enjoy lifelong learning."

Jock Brown

Jock has been a Trustee of CU Trust since 2013. The same year he launched CU Trust Scotland as a separate charity and served as its Chairman until February 2018, remaining on its Board until March 2019.

Educated in English Law at Cambridge he then qualified to practise as a solicitor in Scotland, where he is based, for more than 40 years.

As well as a wide breadth of experience and knowledge in many areas of law, including corporate, property, litigation and employment, Jock brings with him business acumen and a capacity for problem solving.

He has served as General Manager for Celtic FC and has an extensive history of sports broadcasting, having commentated on major football and golf events for four decades.

On 29 June 2019 the University of Strathclyde conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of the University in recognition of his work with Children’s University.

"I'm proud to be a Children's University Trustee because I can contribute to a wonderful charity which promotes a love of learning and improves the life chances of children."

Jackie is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Access and Lifelong Learning) at University of Wolverhampton. Her career has very much been focussed on lifelong learning and access to higher education so being part of the Children’s University Board of Trustees is a natural fit.

Jackie brings to the Board extensive senior experience in a range of Universities and a commitment to opening opportunities to children and young people.

I am proud to be a Children’s University Trustee because I believe that every child should have the opportunity to go as far as their talent and hard work will allow, regardless of background. I have seen the impact that the Children’s University can have not just on the children, but on their families and their communities, and it is a privilege to be involved."

Jim is a Chartered Accountant and has been a Trustee of Children’s University since 2016 and is a former Chair of CU Trust’s Finance, Audit and Risk Committee.

Outside of Children’s University, Jim sits on the board of The Dudley Building Society and holds several non-executive roles. In addition, Jim is Treasurer of the Warrington Disability Partnership.

Graduating as a Bachelor of Accountancy from the University of Glasgow, Jim began his career working in audits and acquisitions. His varied career experience includes serving as finance director for a football agency, construction group and an architectural practice. Most of his career has been spent in consulting with some of Financial Services’ best-known businesses in global professional services firms.

As well as his financial insight, Jim’s commitment to improving the life chances of children throughout the UK makes him a valuable member of the CU Trust board. He says of his time with Children’s University “seeing so many children enjoy participating in extra-curricular learning opportunities who might otherwise not but for Children’s University, has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career”.

Bina is Head of Strategic Partnerships (Research) at Cancer Research UK. She is a medical graduate who has spent her career spanning the worlds of medical tech, research and innovation, and improving outcomes and experience for patients.

Bina has a passion for diversity and inclusion and is committed to promoting educational opportunities, having seen first-hand the transformational effect of a broad education.

“I am proud to be a Children’s University Trustee because it's a great way for children to find and enjoy the road to lifelong learning”

Kate is a Regional Mentor at Primary Science Teaching Trust, where she promotes best practice in primary science across the West Midlands and is part of the Trust’s national innovative College of Fellows. She is part of the West Midlands board for the Association for Science Education, has written for teacher journals and is on the editorial board for Primary Science.

Before joining the PSTT, Kate was Assistant Head Teacher of Clifton Primary school in Birmingham, where part of her role was to introduce and co-ordinate Children’s University.  Kate also introduced Children’s University to other local schools and has presented at graduation ceremonies to inspire children to aspire to be the best they can be and ‘reach for the stars!’ This first-hand experience seeing the impact of our work has inspired Kate to put her extensive professional skills and insight to use on the Board.

I am proud to be part of Children’s University, as I have seen first-hand the impact it can have on both the children themselves and their family; raising aspirations and awareness of the wonderful world of learning and new activities!”

Lynne first joined Children’s University as Director of Learning in 2011 to manage the development of the Children's University's curriculum for learning. After retiring in 2016 she became a Trustee of CU Trust.

Prior to working for Children's University, Lynne was employed as a Senior Curriculum Advisor with the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority (QCDA). She started her career as a Modern Foreign Languages teacher and has worked with children, undergraduates and adults in a range of institutions in Leicestershire and Nottingham. 

Jan is a senior strategic leader with over 30 years experience of senior management in the HE and research library sectors. Most recently, Jan spent ten years at the University of Manchester, and before that, held senior roles at the British Library, the University of Leeds, the LSE, following a range of roles within the former polytechnic and college sector.

Jan has acted as external adviser to a range of universities internationally, and continues to be involved, as a consultant, in the development of senior HE leaders in Europe and Dubai. Spending her life in the education sector, Jan is passionate about what Children’s University is trying to achieve.

“I am proud to be a CU Trustee because I want children to have all the opportunities in life that society can give them. I believe the CU can make a significant contribution to this by developing a love of learning in children from all backgrounds”.

Meet the CU Trust Ambassadors

Di has a passion for engaging with and supporting young people to “be the best they can be”.  Di spent much of her working life until her retirement in November 2017 employed by the University of the West of England, Bristol as Head of Widening Participation Pre-16 and more recently as West of England Children’s University Manager

In her role as Children’s University Manager Di set up and managed Children’s University Bristol and South Gloucestershire and supported the setup, training and development of CUs in North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon, Wiltshire

Di has vast experience of engaging children, families and communities through 25 years of working within the area of widening participation.  As the Aimhigher West area events Coordinator, and UWE Head of Widening Participation Pre-16, she coordinated and supported, a team of colleagues from 5 universities to develop and deliver a range of hands-on activities designed to raise awareness and aspirations towards higher education for young people and their families.

Alec was a Trustee of the BBC Performing Arts Fund while it was active as well as a Trustee of Children’s University Trust until 2017. 

Alec has extensive experience within the BBC and served as Head of BBC Outreach, Corporate Responsibility & Partnerships until his retirement in 2013, organising outreach activities across the BBC’s six public purposes. His role had a particular focus on interacting with harder to reach audiences, and his experience has afforded him a breadth of knowledge in creating partnerships with the needs of particular communities in mind.