The Steering Committee

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Elected by our network of members, the Steering Committee directs and governs the work of the Prisoner Learning Alliance.

The Steering Committee represents our diverse network of PLA members. Uniting a range of voices with expertise in prison education, the Steering Committee includes prison staff, academics, charity executives and individuals with lived experience of prison.

Secretariat is provided to the PLA by Francesca Cooney.

Meet the Steering Committee

Professor Tom Schuller

Chair of the PLA Steering Committee

Professor Tom Schuller

Chair of the PLA Steering Committee

In his role as Chair, Professor Tom Schuller (MA, PGCE, DrPhil) oversees every aspect of the PLA Steering Committee, chairing quarterly Committee meetings, and ensuring that PLA functions with a valuable independent voice at its heart.

Tom brings to the PLA significant academic expertise in adult education, alongside a long-standing interest in prison education. In the last decade, he has directed the UK national inquiry into the future of lifelong learning (IFLL) and co-authored its final report, Learning Through Life (NIACE – now Learning and Work Institute, 2009); been the principal editor of UNESCO’s 3rd Global Report on Adult Learning (2016); and published a book on how and why women’s competences are under-rewarded (The Paula Principle). He has chaired the governing board of the Working Men’s College in Camden for eleven years and is a visiting professor at the UCL Institute of Education and the University of Wolverhampton. Tom also served as a member of Prisoners’ Education Trust (PET)’s Learning Matters Advisory Group from 2012.

Marianne Quick

Bargaining and Negotiations Official (Prisons and Sustainability) at UCU

Marianne Quick

Bargaining and Negotiations Official (Prisons and Sustainability) at UCU

Marianne Quick is a Bargaining & Negotiations Official for UCU (University & College Union) responsible for their Prison Education and Climate & Sustainability work.
Marianne has over 12 years-experience of representing prison educators at a regional and national level. This includes representing members in prison exclusion cases, negotiating with education providers over the terms and working conditions of prison educators and liaising with HMPPS/MoJ in relation to health and safety and prison education policy.
Marianne is also co-chair of JUPA (Joint Unions in Prisons Alliance), an alliance of trade unions who represent a range of workers across the prison estate.
Prior to working for UCU, Marianne was a Senior Lecturer in Psychology having previously worked in both Adult & Community Education and FE.

Mitch Albutt

Deputy Governor at Cardiff Prison

Mitch Albutt

Deputy Governor at Cardiff Prison

Mitch joined the prison service in 1987 as a prison officer at HMP Chelmsford working with long term young offenders.

After specialising in physical education, Mitch began teaching PE at HMP Bedford. He then moved to HMP Bristol, where he worked as a Senior Officer, before working as Head of Residence at HMP Eastwood Park. Mitch was promoted to Principal Officer (Custodial Manager) and transferred to HMP Bullingdon.

Mitch moved to Cardiff prison, where he set up the new Offender Management Unit. He was then promoted and performed other roles including Head of Reducing re-offending, Head of Residential, Business change lead and Head of Security. Mitch then went to Swansea prison, to take up the role of Deputy Governor.

Following a promotion, Mitch took up post as Deputy Governor at Cardiff prison.

Mitch is a bit of a foodie and loves exploring the great outdoors with Andrea and “Frog” (who is a dog rescued by the RSPCA).

Lily Staunton Howe

Programme Manager: Adult Reading at The Reading Agency

Lily Staunton Howe

Programme Manager: Adult Reading at The Reading Agency

Lily joined The Reading Agency in 2019 and is now programme manager for the charity’s adult reading programmes, Reading Ahead and Quick Reads. She works closely with prison libraries across the UK (as well as public libraries, learning providers and workplaces) to support young people and adults, particularly less confident readers, to discover the joy, skills, confidence and opportunities that reading can bring.

Lily holds an MSc in Environment, Politics and Development from SOAS. Prior to joining The Reading Agency she worked on a range of projects with young people and refugees and asylum seekers in Bristol and North London.

Ian Merrill

CEO of the Shannon Trust

Ian Merrill

CEO of the Shannon Trust

Ian is CEO of the Shannon Trust, a charity that works across prisons in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, enabling people in prison who can read, to mentor those that cant. Ian has an operational background in substance misuse services, criminal justice, homelessness and mental health, and a track record in business development through competitive tendering, fundraising and corporate partnerships. Ian has held senior roles at national charities and joined Shannon Trust from Tempo, where as CEO he led the development of a social currency used to increase volunteering and social action across England & Wales.

Nnamdi Efobi

Sector Expert

Nnamdi Efobi

Sector Expert

Nnamdi is a Sector Expert

Jess Mullen

Director of Influence and Communications at Clinks

Jess Mullen

Director of Influence and Communications at Clinks

Jess is Director of Influence and Communications at Clinks, where she promotes the role of the voluntary sector working criminal justice. Jess is also Clinks’ strategic lead on tackling race inequality in the criminal justice system.

Since joining Clinks in 2012, Jess has worked in a range of roles at the organisation, including creating the Young Review on improving outcomes for young black and Muslim men in the criminal justice system, leading the area development team and facilitating engagement between the sector and police and crime commissioners.

Maria McNicholl

St Giles Trust

Maria McNicholl

St Giles Trust

Maria McNicholl, BA, PGCE, MA is Development Manager at St Giles Trust.

She has been involved in the Prisoner Learning Alliance since its inception because she sees first-hand the powerful and positive change education can make in prisons. She has worked for St Giles Trust developing their prison based projects for 17 years and started their first flagship “Peer Advice Project” at HMP Wandsworth in 2002 training prisoners to NVQ Level 3 in Advice & Guidance and supporting them to provide advice and guidance to their peers. This programme is now delivered in 30 prisons in England and Wales and has been developed in the community to provide opportunities for people with lived experience to work in our sector. She has also contributed to pan-European projects transferring the peer model into different settings such as training peer mentors in the Roma Community in Budapest.

She has a PGCE and MA, with distinction, in prisoner education from the Institute of Education, UCL. Her work with the PLA enables her to be part of the “bigger picture” and contribute to overall strategy and development in prisoner education which is an invaluable opportunity.

Marie-Claire O’Brien

CEO at New Leaf CIC

Marie-Claire O’Brien

CEO at New Leaf CIC

Marie-Claire is CEO of New Leaf CIC.

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