Meet our Trustees

Sally Dicketts CBE

Chair of Activate Learning Education Trust

SallySally Dicketts chairs the Activate Learning Educational Board and has held senior posts in both secondary schools and further education.

She became Principal at Milton Keynes College in 1996, and in 2003 became the first Principal of Oxford & Cherwell Valley College. In 2010, Oxford and Cherwell Valley College took over the responsibility for running Reading College and in 2013 set up UTC Reading.

In 2013, Sally became the first Chief Executive of Activate Learning, bringing together in one group, three FE Colleges (Banbury and Bicester College, City of Oxford College and Reading College), three UTCs (UTC Reading, UTC Oxfordshire and UTC Swindon), an 11-18 secondary school, a studio school, and a training provider delivering apprenticeships, training and consultancy in the workplace.

Sally is a tireless campaigner and advocate for the learning and skills sector. She is a member of City & Guilds Learning and Assessment Policy Committee. She is a board member of AMiE, and was the chair of the Employment committee of the AoC. She is a member of the Oxfordshire Management Club, All Souls Group and is a leading thinker for the National Education Trust. She sits on the Oxfordshire LEP. Sally was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Honours list in July 2013.

Her main area of interest is in how people learn, mindfulness and how to develop more entrepreneurial innovative individuals. She enjoys travel, cycling, Zumba and spending time with her partner and daughter.

Lee Nicholls


Lee Nicholls is the CEO of Activate Learning Education Trust and, at Activate Learning is the Deputy CEO and Group Executive Director for Curriculum, Standards and Academies. Lee has held a number of senior posts in further education and higher education after starting out in education as a teacher of science. He has previously held the position of Pro Vice-Chancellor of Further Education at Thames Valley University and, as Executive Director of Further Education, was responsible for the Reading Campuses when part of the university, from 2004 to 2010.

In his roles in further and higher education, and at Activate Learning, Lee has experience of developing strategic projects and partnerships; strategic planning; curriculum design; quality assurance; raising standards; and improving the quality of education and student outcomes. Over the last 5 years, Lee has developed the role of Activate Learning as an academy sponsor and founded two very successful University Technical Colleges (UTCs) in Reading and South Oxfordshire and a Studio School in Bicester, as a means of raising the profile of high achieving technical education, linked to local economies and employment opportunities.

As CEO of the ALET Multi-Academy Trust Lee has increased the number of schools, UTCs and academies in the Trust from 1 to 7 – and has been instrumental in developing the strategic and operational structures and processes that have allowed the Trust to grow sustainably and with a central focus on school improvement. The enhancement of teaching, learning and assessment through the adoption of the Activate Learning group’s unique Learning Philosophy has been a central pillar to the growth of the Trust. Lee have previously been the Chair of the UTC Reading Board of Governors, Chair of UTC Oxfordshire and Chair of an Open College Network accreditation body. Prior to this, Lee has chaired the Economic Development committee for Reading and was a Governor of the Oxford Spires Academy secondary school in Oxford as it became an academy.

Lee is an alumnus of Henley Business School and throughout his career has enjoyed working in complex multi-sector education organisations. In his spare time, and having hung up his football boots after a long career in veteran’s football, Lee can be found road cycling in and around South Oxfordshire.

Placi Espejo

PlaciHeyford Park Management, Head of Commercial Sales and Marketing

Placi was involved in the running of the family business in Spain from a very early age. Always eager to learn, she came to Oxford where she studied Languages for Business Degree at Oxford Brookes University. After her degree, she set up and run a number of business incubators in Oxfordshire, nurturing these early stage technology businesses. Her strengths lay in assisting businesses get ready for investment, assisting companies in the life sciences, media and green tech sectors.

Placi has played a key role in a number of European Funded projects, always aiming to help high growth technology businesses realise their potential. She has developed a strong network of peers and business mentors, working with top level executive on leadership, strategy, planning and open innovation.

She is an experienced mentor and has been involved in preparing Oxford entrepreneurs finalists for the IDEA IDOL competition, as well as the finalists to the Venture Fund and other businesses that need to improve their pitching techniques.

Placi is also Deputy Chairman of Oxfordshire Business First, a not-for-profit organisation set up to address the need of enabling business people to learn from other business people. The organisation promotes entrepreneurship and innovation in Oxfordshire, by helping individual businesses to overcome obstacles to growth.

Beverley Ford

Beverley Ford picBeverley is Chair of the Board of Governors at UTC Swindon. She is a self-taught Chartered Accountant who has been working for Gericke Rotaval, an engineering company producing industrial valves, since 2001. Originally an Accounting Technician, Beverley became Finance Director in 2007 and Managing Director in 2013.

Beverley sees the lack of skills in engineering on a daily basis. She strongly believes that industry has a key role to play in helping schools and colleges to fill this gap.



Paul Inman

Paul is Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of Technology, Design and Environment, at Oxford Brookes University.  Paul is a member of the senior management team at Oxford Brookes University, leading on International Student Recruitment, having led on Civic and Community Engagement since 2011.

In 2014, Paul led a £12M bid (with co-sponsors Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells) to establish a new University Technical College in Swindon. At Falmouth University, as Director of the School of Media, he led an ambitious growth agenda, introducing a new portfolio of disciplines and increasing student numbers by 300%.

Owain Johns

Owain has extensive experience in education. Having graduated from the University of West England, he went on to teach design and technology in Oxfordshire before moving into school leadership roles in Buckinghamshire.

He played a key role in a girls’ grammar school achieving an ‘outstanding’ rating by Ofsted and has led two successful school building projects.

Owain said: “I am excited about leading what will become a world class educational experience. It is a first for Oxfordshire and the challenge will be to ensure that young people are equipped with the key life skills for success in the world of work, in particular science and engineering.”

David Kilshaw

Dave is an Electronics Engineer by profession. He has been running an electronics company, On Systems Ltd, in Berkshire for the past 15 years.

He started his career working for the BBC Television News and trained as an Electronics Engineer. He moved onto the recording industry where he built some of the top four recording studios.

After having a family, he started his first electronics company, On Systems, designing and manufacturing power supplies for the defence industry.

Dave teamed up with UTC Reading as a business partner when the UTC first opened. He helps provide tailored courses to fully immerse students in electronics principles and concepts.

He has been a governor at UTC Reading since 2014 and took on the role as Chair in July 2017.

Nick Evans

Studied Engineering and Management Systems at Brunel University and subsequently completed an MSc in Manufacturing Systems Engineering at the University of Warwick

Spent working career in the automotive industry; experience in a variety of roles including production management, production process planning, business planning, project management, quality systems and finance. Have worked predominantly in engine and vehicle manufacturing divisions, at times in some of the oldest plants in Europe, but also part of the project team that built one of the newest. Have experienced a variety of cultures and styles while the industry has undergone substantial change. This included spending 3 years living and working in Germany.

Currently responsible for financial controlling for the MINI plant in Oxford, press shop in Swindon and the engine plant in Hams Hall, near Birmingham.

As the world develops at an extraordinary pace, keen that the experiences across sectors are used to prepare young people in the best possible way for the changes that lie ahead and be in the best possible position to grasp the opportunities that will undoubtedly arise.

Enjoy cycling (have participated in some of the largest sportives in Europe), skiing, hill walking when family commitments allow

Helen Pike

Helen Pike is Master of Magdalen College School, Oxford.  She was educated in the state sector and holds degrees from Oxford, the University of Michigan and Birkbeck, and a PGCE from the Open University. From 2013-16 she was Headmistress of South Hampstead High School.  She is also a novelist and editor.



Contacting the Board of Trustees

Please contact or telephone on: 01865 551 025.

The Chairman of the Trustees is Sally Dicketts, Group Chief Executive for Activate Learning. She can be contacted via the Clerk to the Corporation, City of Oxford College, Oxpens Road, Oxford OX1 1SA.