National Conference 2023: Highlights and Speaker Presentations

Leaders in our industry and some well-known faces provided their insight and expertise into factors that impact our sector and shape the future of education, with a particular focus on developing the skills of the future. Please see below to find out more about our speakers and their presentations.

Phil Wilkinson

CEO, Ascentis 

Group CEO at The Ascentis Group and Chair of the Board of Corporation at Nelson and Colne College Group. A member of the Institute of Directors, Phil has an M.Ed in Educational Studies, M.Sc. in Human Biology and BSc (Hons) in Biology – and is a qualified teacher. Phil’s experience in FE includes previously being a lecturer, Head of Division, Head of Faculty and Assistant Principal at FE Colleges in the North West.

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Beej Kaczmarczyk

Director, e-Memoir

Beej is well-known in the education sector and has an excellent reputation for his skills as a consultant and trainer, and as an expert in education policy, management, teaching and learning, funding and finance. He has held senior management roles in schools, FE colleges and in the private sector with Network Training, Tribal Education, EDI and Pearson Education. 

In 2015, he became a director of the Learning Curve Group to establish and grow their professional development and improvement services. He is the chair of the Chesterfield College Group and also a director of e-Memoir, a web based CPD provider, and former chair of The White Rose College of Beauty and Complementary Therapies.

With experience of addressing large conferences, as well as delivering in-house staff development for education and training providers, he has developed a well-earned reputation for engaging with a wide range of audiences with energy and humour. As one attendee said recently of Beej, “He puts the FUN into FUNDING!

Andy Forbes

Head of development, Respublica

Andy is Head of Development at Respublica. He began his career as a secondary school English teacher, before moving into further education by joining Manchester College. He has over 20 years’ experience at senior level, and has served as Principal of four colleges: Hertford Regional College, the College of Haringey Enfield and North East London, City & Islington College, and most recently City of Bristol College. He is Chair of Governors of Barking & Dagenham College, a Board member of Manchester Metropolitan University, and a Trustee of the Ambitious About Autism educational charity. He is also an Apprenticeship Champion for UCAS. Andy has a degree in English from Cambridge University, and a PGCE and Diploma in Management Sciences from the University of Manchester.

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Ann Daniels 

Record-breaking Polar Explorer

Bonita Norris was the youngest British woman to reach the top of the world's highest peak, Mount Everest. Bonita's journey from a beginner on a climbing wall to reaching the top of Everest is both riveting and inspirational. Her story highlights the importance of perseverance, determination, and a willingness to overcome obstacles in pursuit of our goals. It also illustrates the value of learning new skills and pushing beyond our comfort zones to achieve our aspirations.

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Ann-Marie Soyinka 

Assistant Director of Skills and Employment – Policy, Greater London Authority (GLA)

Ann-Marie is responsible for providing leadership and management to City Hall’s Skills and Employment Unit, with specific responsibility for the Policy function. Ann-Marie leads on strategy, policy and analysis of the Mayor's skills and employment programmes and wider coordination of workforce development for London's economy.

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Alex Houghton

National Account Manager, Ascentis

Alex joined Ascentis in March 2021 and is the National Account Manager for Ascentis. Alex supports our centres nationally and leads the Account Management and the New Business team. He enjoys talking to the Ascentis centres throughout the UK, discussing our range of qualifications and seeing how best they can support the centres learners.

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James Pallister

Head of Sales, Metaverse Learning

James Pallister is a firm believer in the transformative power of education and technology for all learners, particularly in the realm of assessment. With a specialisation in immersive learning solutions, James has been instrumental in bringing together like-minded strategic partners to build a diverse range of virtual programs, in areas such as ESOL, Retrofit, Embalming and Health and Social Care. His ability to foster collaboration has resulted in the development of impactful projects that address the unique needs of learners in various sectors. 

With over a decade of experience in Education Publishing and EdTech, James has been a driving force behind the successful rollout of new educational learning solutions across the UK, Ireland, and Scandinavia. His deep understanding of the relationship between education and technology has enabled him to navigate the evolving landscape and stay ahead of trends, making him a trusted advisor for learning institutes seeking to enhance their educational and training offerings. 

James's unwavering dedication to the integration of technology in education, coupled with his collaborative spirit and extensive experience, positions him as a leading figure in the dynamic and ever-evolving field of EdTech and immersive learning. 

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James Peach

Business leader and adventurer 

Over the past 15 years, James has helped to build some of the most successful brands in the tech and consumer goods industries, from Uber, Vinted and Innocent drinks. He’s also cycled around the world on a bicycle, trekked across Argentina and Norway, and pioneered the first triathlon in Great Britain. His story highlights the importance of learning new skills and pushing beyond our comfort zones to achieve our aspirations.

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Sue Pember 

Policy Director, Holex

Sue started her career as a teacher and is one of the few people in the FE sector who has had senior leadership roles in colleges, local authorities and government. Sue is now the Policy Director for HOLEX, the professional body for adult education services, centres and institutions. Her work concentrates on ensuring the voice of adult learners is heard and she is a keen advocate of lifelong learning.

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Ascentis National Conference 2024 – Save the date!

We are delighted to host our annual National Conference on Wednesday 20th November at the Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury.

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Ascentis has a fantastic suite of English and Maths Stepping Stones qualifications which enable learners to focus on specific skills, build their confidence and progress onto further learning. This testimonial video features Leicester Adult Skills and Learning Service who outline the benefits to them and their learners of using these qualifications.

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“We are very pleased that we made the move to Ascentis for all our ESOL exams. The exams are appropriate for our learners, and lecturers find the marking manageable. As an organisation, Ascentis is a pleasure to work with. Our queries are always dealt with quickly and we are extremely well supported by our verifier.”

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“We have been delighted with the impact Ascentis Extended Awards in Mathematical Skills (Stepping Stones) have had on our student’s progression towards their functional skills mathematics as well as preparing them for the completion of their GCSE. It has taught them the essential skills in mathematics which enabled them to deal with the practical problems and challenges of life – at home, in education and at work. These skills are valued by employers and further education, and are a platform on which to build other employability skills. We are also very impressed with the level of service and commitment shown by the staff of Ascentis, they are always available to help whenever help is needed.”

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Kensington & Chelsea College

12th Jun 2024

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