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), two UTCs (UTC Reading and UTC Oxfordshire), 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

LeeLee Nicholls is the Activate Learning Group Executive Director – 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, up until 2010.

In 2010, Lee joined Activate Learning (formerly Oxford and Cherwell Valley College) as an Executive Director. He has been responsible for the development of strategic projects and partnerships, curriculum design and raising standards. Most notably, over the past three years, Lee has conceived and implemented two 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.

Lee is Chair of the UTC Reading Board of Governors, Chair of UTC Oxfordshire and Chair of an Open College Network accreditation body. Previously, 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 gained considerable experience of change in complex multi-sector organisations, and in the delivery of ‘more than the sum of the parts’ through the power of partnership.

Richard Brown

brown-r-editRichard is Headteacher of Bicester Technology Studio and gained ample industry experience, embracing exciting graduate engineering opportunities in the UK and overseas, before moving into the education sector. This helped him understand the importance of real-world contact and relevant learning content.

He has been working in a variety of roles in the education sector since 2002, including leadership of pastoral and faculty teams, as well as a variety of school senior leadership roles. Across all stages of his career, he has worked with some inspiring people who have reinforced a consistent message to him: ‘People who are relentless and focused in their efforts but remain resilient and refuse to allow their ambitions to be lowered will have unmatched opportunities.’

Richard holds the view that far too many of our young people have lowered horizons and don’t realise the benefit of dedication and hard work. He is passionate about the need for schools to help provide quality experiences to student. Richard is honoured to lead Bicester Technology Studio, a school that has unparalleled ambition for its future.

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.

Grae Laws MBA (Chair of Bicester Technology Studio)

Staff Portraits and ProductIn 1985, Grae started working life as a letterpress print apprentice in the Yorkshire Dales. He spent over 20 years in media and publishing. His career in print took him across the world, before moving into the technology sector to utilise his knowledge of Six Sigma lean manufacturing and Prince2 project management.

Grae fast became the industries subject matter expert on customer engagement technologies and put this knowledge to use whilst undertaking an Executive MBA. He graduated from Oxford Brookes University in 2013 and started his own consultancy, which he continues to run to this day.

When not helping businesses in the Bicester area to grow stronger and more resilient, you may find Grae behind the lens of a camera; he is a keen photographer and videographer.

Rob Pearson

Chair of the Bicester School.

Rob PearsonRob has taught in schools for over forty-one years. For twenty-seven years, this
has been as Headteacher in three different settings, one within an international

Rob feels it is important that learning is enjoyable and develops the
whole. He is totally committed to every student being given every realistic opportunity to succeed and fulfil their potential.


Tony Rushworth

tony-rushworth-editTony is Headteacher of Bicester School and has extensive experience in secondary education. He qualified as a teacher in 1992 in Avery Hill College, London, and completed an MA at Kings College, London University.

Tony spent the first 10 years of his career in London schools, teaching Economics and Mathematics. In 2013, he was seconded as Interim Headteacher to The Bicester School from The Cooper School, Bicester, where he had been Deputy Headteacher and then Head of School. Tony was appointed Headteacher at the Bicester School in 2014 after a successful Ofsted inspection, where the school was graded ‘Good’ in all categories.

In 2015, the Bicester School received an award from PiXL for being one of the most improved schools in England.

Tony is married and has a daughter. He is a keen Brompton enthusiast (a type of cycling) and enjoys the writing of CS Lewis.


Phil Shadbolt OBE

PhilPhil is co-founder and CEO of Zeta, has managed the company since its inception in January 1989. He is a highly competent entrepreneur and innovator, with the ability to identify customer requirements and match this to a commercially viable solution. Phil has grown the team to enable Zeta’s planned growth and is determined to drive the business to meet the high development aspirations.

Phil is committed to pushing the boundaries of R&D by continually developing new innovative solutions within the lighting industry. He is part of several local enterprises including Bicester Vision and the LEP, and is also a Governor at Oxford Brookes University.


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.