The National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) (1)  is delighted to announce the appointment of three new trustees: Jon Wakeford; Shilla Shomai; and Sandhya Sabapathy.

Jon Wakeford joins NNECL as its new Co-Chair and Trustee.   From 2018-2023, he was Chair of the UPP Foundation – an independent charity offering grants to universities, charities and other higher education bodies.  During this time, the Foundation delivered several high impact projects including the development of the University Mental Health Charter, the Civic Universities Commission and Network, and the Student Futures Commission.

Jon has more than 25 years’ experience in the higher education sector and has held Board positions in a number of large-listed property and infrastructure businesses, including most recently leading strategy and communications at the University Partnerships Programme, the UK’s leading provider of campus accommodation and infrastructure, where he originated the Company’s approach to partnerships and played a key role in the establishment of the Group’s bond programme and the acquisition by its current shareholders. Prior roles include leading KPMG’s higher education advisory team and Head of Research at FTSE listed Jarvis PLC.

Jon has been a member of the cross-party Higher Education Commission since its inception in 2012 and is a regular contributor to key debates on higher education policy and the future of the sector across press and media.

Shilla Shomai is a PhD student whose research is examining the experiences of care leaver parents in Scotland compared to those in England.  Shilla has previously influenced governmental policies to advance educational and social outcomes for care-experienced young people. She has worked as an ambassador for Who Cares? Scotland, delivering corporate parenting and keynote speeches to audiences including the Scottish Parliament, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) members, Commission on Widening Access Board, Scottish Legal Aid Board, NHS, and colleges & universities across Scotland.

Sandhya Sabapathy is the Head of Social Innovation & Impact at Adecco Group, a Fortune500 recruitment and talent solutions company. She is responsible for all social impact programmes in the UK & Ireland and heads Adecco’s socially responsible business lines. As the head of the social impact Sandhya works closely with internal & external stakeholders to identify new ideas for partnership & investment. In the past three years, Adecco programmes have made a positive impact on 30,000 individuals  in 15 social mobility cold spots in UK & Ireland. Sandhya has been in multiple international roles previously in over 15 markets covering marketing, innovation, and public policy. She was selected to join Adecco Group via the prestigious CEOfor1month leadership program that chooses top young leaders from over 250,000 global applicants. Sandhya specializes in innovation and entrepreneurship and is an active alum from HEC Paris & McGill..

Patricia Ambrose Director NNECL said:

“We are delighted to welcome three such talented and committed individuals to the NNECL Board.  Their range of skills and experience will further enhance the work we do to improve educational experiences and progression for care experienced students.”

Jon Wakeford said:
“I am thrilled to be appointed Co-Chair of NNECL, a charity that is making a real impact in improving the life chances of care experienced people.
Alongside my fellow Co-Chair, Director and Board of Trustees, I am excited to playing my part in NNECL’s future journey as it continues its important work following the establishment of its Quality Mark.,

I am a passionate advocate for social mobility, being a first-in-family student, and understand first-hand the vital role played by education in removing the multiple disadvantages faced by those from a care background.”


Notes to Editors:

(1) About NNECL

The National Network for the Education of Care Leavers is a charity committed to the progression and support of care experienced students in further and higher education. Originally established in June 2013 as a volunteer network of higher education institutions and national organisations, NNECL became a registered charity in 2018.  Led by its Director and Board of Trustees, NNECL has worked to transform the opportunities available for care experienced people by championing the continuous improvement of local practice, multi-agency partnerships and national collaboration.

With over 100 member organisations supporting more than 280 practitioners and a network of national and regional groups, the vision of NNECL is a world in which care experienced people are empowered and supported to thrive and achieve their full educational potential.  Since it became a registered charity in 2018, NNECL has worked with the Office for Students (OfS) on developing a more consistent support offer for those from a care background, with HESA and OfS to improve the collection of data on care experienced students, and has launched a new Quality Mark for universities and colleges to demonstrate their support for the inclusion and success of care experienced students. You can find out more about our work at 


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