Governance for Adult Community Learning is provided by the ACL Strategic Advisory Board.  With a diverse range of knowledge and experience it’s members ensure ACL is held to account for its educational performance, the safety of learners, financial sustainability, and best use of funding and resources to improve learner’s outcomes.

Cllr Tony Ball is chair for the board. He has been a county councillor at Essex County Council since 2017, and is a former Leader of Basildon Council, a post he held until May 2014.  He is currently Cabinet Member for Education Excellence, Lifelong Learning and Employability at County Hall. Tony believes that education and lifelong learning are the key to better outcomes for Essex residents.  He works with partners, schools, colleges, universities, local authorities and businesses across the region to promote Essex as a place to live, work, invest and study.

Cllr Andrew Sheldon is Deputy Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning at Essex County Council.  In previous roles he has been Leader at Castle Point Council, and before this,  he worked as a Research and Development Manager for a consultancy that specialised in the economic revitalisation of town centres across the UK.  He is a big supporter of the Essex Fostering and Adoption Service and a volunteer in the Salvation Army’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery Programme.

Ruth Gilbert – Director Sustainable Growth. Ruth has 30 years of experience in professional services and education, previously holding 4 CEO positions, including Principal and CEO in Further and Higher Education, as well as working with blue chip companies, including Unilever, IBM and Goldman Sachs. Ruth previously set up and ran a national education charity, founded by Lord Kenneth Baker, now supporting a network of industry-led Career Colleges across the UK. Ruth has a passion for applying business principles and regional partnerships to educational and employment ventures, to ensure their long-term sustainability. Ruth is an Honorary Fellow of UCL Institute of Education and holds several national board positions, in support of skills and employment. These include Chair Career Colleges Trust and founding Trustee Cyber Hub Trust.

Brian Cairns has 38 years’ experience in the Further Education Sector with over 26 years managing apprenticeship delivery and business development; working in either operational management or directorship roles for colleges. Since 2015 Brian has operated his own management consultancy concentrating on supporting providers with their self-assessment, continuous improvement and subcontract management, writing RoATP bids and generally supporting a small group of regular customers in developing their apprenticeship offer and transitioning to the new standards.  Brian is an associate bid writer for Bidright UK and a senior associate with the Strategic Development Network.  Recent project work includes the successful applications to RoATP for a large NHS trust and a range of private providers, the external evaluation of an ESF apprenticeship project ran by a County Council and the development of T level assessments and curriculum for City and Guilds

Lisa Jarentowski, ACL Principal – I truly believe in the value of lifelong learning; it has made a real difference in my own life and supported my journey into leadership and management and I continue to study now. I feel very privileged to have joined ACL Essex and that I have come full circle to be back working for communities.

Teresa Ablewhite is Vice Principal, Quality and Compliance at Adult Community Learning Essex, working alongside colleagues to ensure a high-quality, and safe learning experience for all students.  She has held several roles within adult education, including teaching, business development, teacher training, and Information, Advice and Guidance services.  A proponent of lifelong learning and ensuring it is accessible to all.

Louise Aitken is Skills Lead for the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) which covers East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock. Louise has been working in the skills landscape for over 10 years, having produced a Skills Strategy for the south east which she is now overseeing. This led to a successful bid to be a Digital Skills Partnership (DSP) pilot area and the establishment of a Skills Advisory Panel (SAP) bringing together a range of employers and partners to drive forward action. Louise has led on European Social funding (ESF) and more recently a Covid-19 Skills Recovery programme and has been working with major projects to develop a shared action plan to ensure maximum benefits locally. More recently, Louise has been working with Essex County Council and local partners to develop an Essex Skills Plan.

Charlotte McHiggins I am an extremely conscientious and hardworking individual, I have been passionate about growing my career, dedicated to the beauty industry since leaving school.  In 2015 I progressed into the education sector. I play a vital role within Debut Training Academy as Head of Teaching and Learning where I am responsible for standardisation, quality, curriculum development, defining expectations, mentoring tutors and delivering outstanding education to learners of all ages, conducting tutor observations, producing comprehensive and bespoke workbooks are some of my main roles.  I am dedicated to ensuring the growth and empowerment of education and employment with the educational sector and providing opportunities to our community.

Chantal Lommel has been a teacher and manager in Adult Education for 20 years. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in assessing and teaching people with dyslexia and she is a trained therapeutic counsellor with a master’s degree as a therapist. Her whole career in education has been focused on creating and providing suitable skills and employment support opportunities to young people and adults with a variety of barriers to learning. Her work ethos is based on working in partnership with local organisations, charities and offering life chances to those who need help re-engaging with learning or with their communities.

Christian Norman is Vice Principal, Curriculum and Learning at Adult Community Learning, Essex. He has more than 30 years’ experience developing and leading curriculum and has a broad knowledge of the sector. Christian is passionate about the opportunities that adult education provides the residents of Essex and is particularly keen that all learners are inspired and progress to achieve their goals.

Mark Vinall is a former College Principal with a career of over 35 years in post-16 education. He has a master’s degree in education and his main areas of interest are leadership, curriculum, assessment, and quality. Since retiring he has enjoyed being a member of the ACL Strategic Advisory Board as well as learning Italian at ACL, Maldon.