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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.

Email 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.

Email 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 14 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.

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

Cordelia Howard – Digital Inclusion Manager

Cordelia joined Children’s University in September 2019 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.

Email Cordelia with queries about Children's University Online.

Sukie Duhra - Evaluation and Quality Manager

Sukie joined Children’s University in January 2020 to project manage the Children’s University EEF Evaluation Trial.

Sukie has over 14 years of experience working in the Higher Education sector, this experience includes primary and secondary school outreach, project managing data and evaluation projects and closing the BAME attainment gap. The main focus of her career to date has been on widening participation, raising attainment and raising aspirations.

Email Sukie with queries regarding the Children’s University EEF Evaluation Trial.

Meet the CU Trust Trustees


Jackie is Vice-Chancellor of Newman University, Birmingham, having previously been 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."


Jan is a senior strategic leader with over 30 years experience of senior management in the HE and research 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 Children's University Trustee because I want children to have all the opportunities in life that society can give them. I believe the Children's University can make a significant contribution to this by developing a love of learning in children from all backgrounds”.


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."


Vicky is Assistant Director of Technology and Data at Shelter. She has worked in technology, data and digital roles both in the public and not for profit sectors, leading on large scale change programmes, agile ways of working, governance and culture change.

Vicky is passionate about how digital/technology can be used and the opportunities it enables to evidence impact, improve ways of working and reach beneficiaries and supporters.

"I am so proud to be a trustee of Children’s University as I strongly believe that children and young people should have access to opportunities that help develop a love of learning leading them to thrive and fulfil their potential"


Tania is Regulatory Policy Manager at the Legal Services Board, having previously worked as a regulator at the Advertising Standards Authority. She has a legal background, having worked in Human Rights and Immigration law for two years, before applying her legal experience in a regulatory setting.


Outside of her day job, Tania is the founder, producer and host of Brown Don’t Frown podcast, which spotlights the experiences of a diverse range of women and brings new perspectives. As a self-taught podcaster, she brings with her a broad skill-set in digital technology and marketing. She also writes in her blog and in the HuffPost, covering topics such as social mobility, cultural identity and intersectional feminism.


The positive impact of social mobility and education on her own life has driven Tania to volunteer for causes which empower young and vulnerable groups.


"As a Children’s University Trustee, I feel incredibly proud and honoured to be able to play a part in shaping strategies which provide greater opportunities for children and young people and I recognise the tangible impact Children’s University has in helping children realise their potential."


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!”

Louise is Director of Business Development and Partnerships at the Mayor's Fund for London, an independent, social mobility charity that champions the life chances of over 40,000 young Londoners every year. Louise has a wide range of experience across a range of disciplines having worked in marketing, run her own property business and set up fundraising operations in the independent schools' sector for both capital projects and bursary programmes. Her passion lies in ensuring that every young person has access to as many opportunities as possible. She lives in London with her family and Bahraini rescue dog, Sandy.

"I'm delighted to be a Children's University Trust Trustee. I've always been a believer in equal access for all, and feel proud to be associated with an organisation that offers such a wide range of extra-curricular activities to children right across the UK, whilst inspiring them to achieve and explore new opportunities at every turn."