Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Governance - Sandwell College

Sandwell College is governed by a Corporation (Board of Governors) under Statutory Instrument and Articles of Government.

The Board of Governors is an independent body but must always act within its powers as defined by statute.

Members of the Board of Governors

The Board comprises 17 Members as follows:

  • 12 Independent Members
  • 2 Staff Members
  • 2 Student Members
  • 1 Principal

The Staff Members and the Student Members are elected by the staff and students respectively. The Principal is a member ex officio. The remaining 12 Members are appointed from a variety of public and private sector backgrounds.

Current members are:

Graham Pennington. Ex officio. Principal of Sandwell College.

Graham Pennington Principal

Graham was appointed Principal and Chief Executive of Sandwell College in January 2014 and was appointed to serve on the Board of Governors from that date. Graham serves as a member of the Learners Quality and Curriculum Committee, the Finance and Strategy Committee and the Search and Governance Committee. Prior to joining Sandwell College, Graham was Deputy Chief Executive of Salford City College. Graham has significant experience of working in further education, particularly in relation to the development of skills, community and adult provision, employer engagement, financial and estates management.

Member of the Finance and Strategy Committee

Member of the Search and Governance Committee

Member of the Learners, Quality and Curriculum Committee

Nisha Anhu.
Staff Governor.

Headshot of Nisha

Nisha has been working in the education sector for 12 years and has a wide range of teaching experiences from A Level and GCSE to BTEC. She has been part of Sandwell College for eight years, where she started as a lecturer and has progressed to different management roles across sites, ensuring that we provide a high-quality education and inclusion for all learners. Nisha has made valuable contributions to the EDI group and plays an important role in the pastoral support of both staff and students as a trained Senior Mental Health Lead. Nisha’s experience has given her the opportunity to work closely with Student Council at Cadbury Sixth Form College, and to strengthen the curriculum through direct involvement with Employer Board engagement activities.

Mark Ashford.
Independent Member.

Governor Mark Ashford

Mark grew up in Yorkshire and came to the Midlands in the mid 80s to study at Aston University. He has lived here ever since.
After graduation Mark initially worked in the Automotive industry for Unipart – a company that believed in the powerful benefits that ongoing education can bring to its staff at all stages of their career, and something that made a big impression on him.
Mark studied for and gained his CIMA qualification whilst at Unipart, but after 6 happy years, he was tempted into the high technology world of IBM, where he stayed for the next 27 years!
Mark worked in IBM’s IT Services business, initially pursuing a financial career. Over the years Mark moved to other disciplines and found he had skills in Project Management and Commercial Leadership. Mark worked primarily in customer facing roles, looking after major IT outsourcing contracts, as well as working on a number of strategic international projects aimed at transforming the way the organisation did business. This included the creation of a Financial Centre of Excellence in Slovakia which leveraged the best practice across the corporation and where education and training was a key to success. The organisation’s constant re-invention over those years strengthened Mark’s belief in the value of continual personal development through access to the best education resources.
Having retired from IBM in 2022 Mark was delighted to accept a seat on the Board in March 2023. Mark is a member of the Audit Committee.

Richard Bearman.
Independent Member.

Governor Richard Bearman

Richard has 25 years’ experience in the banking sector and over that time has developed a real passion for working with and supporting entrepreneurs. Richard is Managing Director Small Business Lending at the British Business Bank and is responsible for a number of programmes including Start Up Loans. Working with a range of Delivery Partners across the UK to help start up businesses access funding, Richard is proud to play a part in helping people achieve their dream of being their own boss. Start Up Loans has just celebrated its 100,000th supported business. Richard also manages Bounce Back Loans, a scheme launched during Covid that ensured over 1.5m business received over £46b of funds.

Richard was previously UK Head of Small Business at HSBC, where he led and supported colleagues serving the UK SME market via face to face, telephony and digital channels. Richard set the strategic direction and led the business to evolve its channels and grow its customer base. Under Richard’s leadership, HSBC was voted Best Business Banking Provider in the Smart Money People British Bank Awards and Best Online Banking Provider in the Business Moneyfacts Awards.

Alison Cope.
Independent Member.

Natalie Edwards-Yesufu.
Independent Member.

Taranpreet Kaur.
Student Governor.

Shokat Lal.
Independent Member.

Governor Shokat Lal

Shokat is currently the Chief Executive of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council and has 34 years’ experience of working across the public sector, in local government and health at a senior level.
Prior to joining Sandwell Shokat was at Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council where he was Executive Director of Core Services, Deputy Returning Officer and Senior Information Risk Owner. Overseeing a directorate of nearly 900 people, he is responsible for IT, Customer Services, Human Resources and Organisational Development, Legal, Elections, Governance Services, Finance, Revenues and Benefits, Audit, Commercial, Communications and Marketing – in addition to overseeing the council’s transformation programme.

Prior to that Shokat was Assistant Chief Executive at Rotherham Council where he was part of the senior leadership team responsible for bringing the council out of intervention and being part of one of the fastest improving councils’ in the country. Shokat’s professional background is in Human Resources and Organisational Development and is a Chartered Companion of the CIPD. Shokat also has extensive experience of working in the voluntary sector.

Bilal Lok-Shun Hussain.
Student Governor.

Neil Makin.
Independent Member.

Governor Neil Makin

Neil’s career has progressed mainly in the food manufacturing sector, much of it at board level in human resources, public affairs and corporate responsibility. His early training was with Pilkington Glass; he then moved to Kellogg’s, becoming HR Director. Neil joined Cadbury as Personnel Director at Bournville (1988-97), then External Affairs Director at Cadbury Schweppes until 2008, leading the Group’s engagement at Westminster, Brussels and Washington. In more recent years he was Chair of the Cadbury Foundation, and has extensive experience of Education from a range of public, voluntary, consultancy and trustee positions, with an emphasis on education and business links, including the Birmingham and Solihull Education and Business Partnership; Business in the Community; Young Enterprise; Teach First; and the Adult Learning Inspectorate. Neil was awarded the OBE for services to adult learning in 2005. Most recently he became a trustee of the charity Employability UK in 2020.


Previous Governor positions include those at Bournville College of FE; Brooke House Sixth Form College, Hackney; and Chipping Campden School Academy Trust. He became a Governor of Cadbury Sixth Form College, and then on merger of Sandwell College in 2018. Neil is a member of the Learners, Quality and Curriculum Committee, and Chair of the Remuneration Committee. He is also Chair of the Cadbury Sixth Form College Advisory Forum.

Chair of the Remuneration Committee

Member of the Learners, Quality and Curriculum Committee

Sheridan Powell.
Staff Governor.

Tony Sharma.
Independent Member.

Governor Tony Sharma

Tony believes strongly in the transformational impact of education, and is proud to have become a member of the Sandwell College community. He settled in the Midlands over 22 years ago, and is married with a school aged child. He is a student of Wolverhampton Polytechnic and Hull University, and is the Chief Financial Officer at Newman University Birmingham.

Tony is a qualified accountant with around 30 years’ experience in the education sector (including further and higher education), and has been part of the Newman University leadership team for 18 years. In his current role Tony has responsibility for Planning & Systems Development, Finance, Estates & Campus Services, and Digital & IT Services.

In his leisure time he enjoys walking, watching too much TV, and being with his family.

Tony was appointed an Independent Member on the Board of Governors in March 2022.

Member of the Audit Committee

Harpinder Singh.
Independent Member.

Sonia Smalling.
Independent Member.

Alan Taylor.
Independent Member.

Alan Taylor Governor

Alan is the Owner and Managing Director of a Sandwell based manufacturing company specialising in decorated glass.

He has been Chair of Sandwell Business Ambassadors for five years working across Sandwell to support the local community and Council to help improve the Inclusive Wealth and success of the region.

For two years Alan has also been Chair of Smethwick Local Towns Fund, which has successfully attracted £23m of funding into the area in a number of projects in education, community building, transport and housing – each of which is important to the development of Smethwick and Sandwell as a whole.

Alan explains that his motivation for being a Governor is “being a local employer and actively involved in the area for a good number of years, I understand the benefits that you can get from working with a successful, high quality local College. It is important that our communities are well supported in their education at all ages, in order to be able to achieve ambitions and life goals. As a proud Governor I am pleased to be able offer my skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to help the College be the best it can and ensure excellent governance”.

Alan joined the Board in March 2020 and is Chair of the Finance & Strategy Committee.

Chair of the Finance and Strategy Committee

John Tew.
Independent Member.

Governor John Tew

John is a Fellow of the Chartered Insurance Institute and retired Managing Director of a West Bromwich based insurance brokers. He has extensive commercial and financial expertise gained over many years on boards of various organisations including education and charities.


A past President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce he now combines his outward facing time as a governor with work with a substantial local charity as a co-opted member focussing on governance and with Sandwell Local Authority as an Independent Person dealing with complaints.


John originally joined the Board of Governors in November 2007 and served as Chair from May 2008 until July 2017.


John rejoined the Board in March 2019 and is Chair of the Search & Governance Committee and a member of the Audit Committee and the Remuneration Committee.

Chair of the Search and Governance Committee

Member of the Audit Committee

Member of the Remuneration Committee

Jalal Uddin.
Independent Member.

Governor Jalal Uddin

Jalal was appointed to the Board of Governors with effect from July 2014, having previously served as an External Co-Opted Member of the Learners, Quality and Curriculum Committee. Jalal is a member of the Search and Governance Committee. He is currently employed as an Education, Health and Care Plan Officer (EHCP) within the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. He is also a governor of a local school and a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).

Member of the Search and Governance Committee

If you would like to apply to join the Board of Governors, please visit our Become a Governor section.
If you have any questions on Governance, please contact the Clerk to the Corporation, Elise Scotford,
who will be pleased to assist you further.

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