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Our board 

Here you’ll find a list of our board members and information about their background, career and perspective.


Deborah Jenkins headshot

Deborah Jenkins

Chair of the Board of Trustees

Deborah joined NCFE as Chair in December 2017. 

Deborah runs her own consultancy (Kindling Ltd) which delivers project creation, consultancy and facilitation to explore better collaborative work methods.  

Since its creation in 1991, Deborah has run the Derwent Initiative (TDI). Deborah acted as Chair until 2006, when she became CEO. TDI is a small, independent charity based in Newcastle upon Tyne which aims to reduce the risk of sexual offending. It provides a pragmatic, partnership approach to risk reduction, and creates and operates public protection schemes. 

Deborah’s also the Visiting Professor on Leadership to the University of Newcastle. In addition, she’s held other rules including: 

  • Chair of the Barnard Castle Vision Partnership 
  • Chair of the South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust 
  • Independent Chair of the Northern Neonatal Network 
  • Vice Chair of the Mental Health Act Commission 
  • Chaired the AllTalk FM Northeast bid for North East commercial radio franchise The Wireless Group
  • Board member of the Northern Community of Interest and Decision-Making  

Deborah received an MBE in 1995 for services to urban regeneration and was named the North East Alternative Business Person of the Year in 2011. 

Deborah co-founded and held various director roles at Common Purpose, the national charity that runs leadership programmes for city decision-makers to improve active citizenship and strategic direction, based on the US model. Deborah developed and ran programmes for senior urban leaders throughout Europe and the UK. While at Common Purpose, Deborah wrote an impact study commissioned by Baring Foundation in 2000. 
Deborah lives in County Durham with her husband, but also spends time in Newcastle and Nice, where she and her husband are honorary
Niçois and acquire ideas that they can use in their work. 

Deborah has a lifelong interest in domesticity, which she tries to find time for and greatly enjoys spending time with her family. 

Deborah joined us as Chair of our board following eight years as Chair at South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust. 


Roz Cuschieri headshot

Roz Cuschieri

Board Member

Roz is a CEO and Non-Executive Director with a passion for developing brands, human talent, people and businesses. She operates at board level with PLC, family and private companies.

Roz’s experience spans three decades in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry. After graduating from Aberdeen University with a Pure Science degree, Roz embarked on a commercial career with United Biscuits. Roz then spent five years with Scottish and Newcastle PLC, progressing to the role of Trade Marketing Director, and then 12 years with Warburtons in marketing and commercial board positions.

More recently, Roz spent five years at Genius Gluten Free as CEO; growing the brand to be a leading gluten free player in the UK, overseeing the acquisition of three bakeries and undertaking rapid international expansion.

Roz has held a number of non-exec positions including at Marston’s PLC. She currently sits on the board of Scottish Golf, Worldwide Cancer Research Charity, Social Bite, Lightbody Ventures and is Chairwoman of Emily Crisps.

Roz joined the NCFE board in October 2017.



Heather Ashton headshot

Heather Ashton

Board Member

Heather has worked as a director and non-executive director in the quasi-public sector for housing and higher education for 10 years. She has many years of experience in retail and manufacturing.

Heather’s currently the Executive Director of Resources at Thirteen Housing Group, formed from a merger of Fabrick and Vela in April 2014 to create a 33,000 unit social housing provider with a £160m turnover and over 1,400 employees. In this position, Heather has gained vast experience in organisational transformation and change.

As a qualified accountant, Heather holds a Diploma in Company Direction from the Institute of Directors and is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

Heather holds a number of non-exec roles including Chair of the National Housing Federation Finance and Policy Advisory Group, Founding Member of the Teesside Learning Trust (Multi Academy), member of the CBI NE Regional Council and Trustee of Teesside University Student Union.

Heather joined the NCFE board in October 2017.


Chris Peel headshot

Chris Peel

Board Member

Chris is the current CEO of the Training Room, a digitally driven vocational education and career services business. He has a strong track record of leading businesses in vocational education and employment services. Chris is passionate about technological innovation and business transformation.

Before his current role, Chris launched and led Interserve Learning and Employment, a training and education company operating in the UK and the Middle East. Chris brings to NCFE extensive board-level experience, both as an exec and non-exec, as well as expertise in vocational education, business transformation, growth strategies and operating within government-funded markets.

In his spare time, Chris enjoys spending time with his family along with sports such as cricket, rugby and golf.

Chris joined the NCFE board in October 2017.


David Wilson headshot

David Wilson

Board Member

David joined the NCFE board with a demonstrable track record of improving shareholder value across diverse industries including financial services, manufacturing, and service sectors. David’s experience unites a strong operational background with commercial and entrepreneurial acumen. He focuses on how companies can leverage digital, data, and cultural innovation to address the challenges and opportunities in the near term.

David brings significant international experience. He worked in the United States for three years for subsidiary manufacturing firm Courtaulds, as part of an advanced development programme, after joining Courtaulds on its graduate entry programme. David spent a total of nine years developing from production management through to operations director.

David continued his international experience as a Director of International Operations for NYSE Company Nautilus (NLS) where he defined and delivered operational strategy across a USD 100m international division.

Most recently, David was Head of Global Payments, Infrastructure, and Innovation before his current appointment of Director of Strategic Transformation at Barclays Bank, one of the top four UK clearing banks with a revenue of £30bn and 130,000 employees.

David joined the NCFE board in October 2017.


Joanne Whitfield

Joanne Whitfield 

Board Member 

Joanne Whitfield is a Director of FW Capital and is Fund Manager in the North East. She leads a team of investment and portfolio executives across offices in Newcastle and the Tees Valley. 

Joanne joined FW Capital in 2010 from NEL Fund Managers. She has a strong track record of making debt, mezzanine and equity investments in growing businesses. Joanne is an experienced investment professional who has worked in venture capital for 15 years. During that time, she’s led investments into companies at all stages of development, across a broad range of sectors, and has backed many of the successful businesses based in the North East. She studied Mathematical Engineering at the University of Leeds and is a qualified Chartered Accountant, having completed her training with Deloitte and Touche in Newcastle. She also holds the ICAEW Corporate Finance qualification. 

** 2019 Register of Interests - Member and Director 

Pay policy for senior staff 

We undertake annual, independent benchmarking of remuneration for executives and the senior leadership team. Salaries for executives are agreed by trustees, with salaries for the senior leadership team being set by the executive team within parameters defined by the budgets approved by trustees.