Board Members - Register of Interests | NCFE | NCFE

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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 MBE DL 

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. 

In addition, she’s held other rules including: 

  • Chair of the Barnard Castle Vision Partnership 
  • Chair of the South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust 
  • Chair of the Northern Neonatal Network, which is an NHS Operational Delivery Network.
  • Chair of the Cultura 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  
  • Director of Trades4Care

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. 

Deborah Jenkins headshot

Michael Smith

Board Member

Michael is the Chair of RTC, the North East’s leading business support organization. RTC provides advice and assistance to businesses across the North of England in the areas of innovation support, technology adoption and business growth. His other interests include:

  • Treasurer of Back on the Map since its inception in 2010. The award-winning charity provides affordable homes and community action in Hendon, Sunderland
  • Non-Executive Director of the North East Property Fund – providing finance to housing developers
  • Advisory Board Member of Connor Solutions – a leading UK electronic manufacturing services provider
  • Advisory Board Member of Business Durham, the business support arm of Durham County Council.

Previously Michael has had a very successful career in Corporate Finance in the North East for over 30 years. This culminated in him setting up and leading Tait Walker’s multi-award winning Corporate Finance team for 20 years. Michael left the partnership in late 2019 to pursue a portfolio career as a Non-Executive Director and M&A Adviser.

Michael Smith

Robin Ghurbhurun

Board Member

An experienced C-Suite executive serving the Further Education and Skills sector for over four decades, Robin is responsible for Jisc’s Further Education and skills policy, member engagement and advice and training services for both further and higher education.

Robin leads on Jisc’s strategy for building the digital leadership capacity within FE, HE and Skills institutions, whilst also leading on the strategic engagement for FE and Skills with the Department for Education in England, the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland. He also leads on strategic engagement and collaboration with other relevant agencies and digital suppliers.

Robin is an experienced and former College CEO, trustee, and non-executive director, while also having held positions as Chair of educational establishments and technology associations. Currently a Board member and Chair of the Curriculum and Standards Committee at West London College, he is also a Board member of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals and Chair of the Welsh Government’s Anti-Racist FE Steering Group.

Robin Ghurbhurun

Heather Ashton

Board Member

Heather joined us in August 2023 in an interim capacity heading up the Finance Business Partnering team and took on the role of Interim CFO in November 2023. Before moving into the interim market she held the position of Executive Director of Business Change and Improvement at Thirteen Group having previously held the role of Executive Director of Resources for 10 years.

Heather is a Statutory Appointee on Auckland Home Solution CIC and is a Trustee for NCFE where she acts as Deputy Chair and chairs the Audit, Risk and Investment Committee. She has extensive experience in strategic and financial business planning, treasury, mergers and acquisitions, values-based transformational change and incremental performance and service improvement underpinned by solid financial accounting, governance and compliance experience.

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.

David Wilson headshot

Joanne Whitfield 

Board Member 

Joanne Whitfield is Fund Director at FW Capital in the North East. She leads a team of investment and portfolio executives across the North East and Yorkshire.

Joanne joined FW Capital in 2010. 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 since 2003. 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


Joanne Whitfield

2023 Register of Interests - Members and Directors (updated November 2023)
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.