ACT Strategy Board Members

We are extremely passionate about the work we do, and we are  committed to making a lasting and positive change to making a positive difference to people’s lives by providing excellent learning programmes.

To help us achieve this, whilst also ensuring we act in the best interest of our learners and the communities in which we and they live and work, we have a very talented Strategic board.

Their role is to scrutinise, challenge and support the work of ACT’s Board of Directors whilst examining the use of public funds and considering whether the best possible outcomes for learners are being achieved.

Our Strategy Board members include:

Heather Ferguson ACT Strategy Board Heather Ferguson

Heather is the Community Board representative who currently works for Age Cymru and heads up a number of sector-leading projects. Prior to this role, she was a Student Partnership Consultant for National Union of Students Wales as part of the Wise Wales project.  Wise Wales is a collaboration of sector organisations working to develop meaningful partnership between educators, students’ unions and students across Wales.

Heather also previously worked at Cardiff and Vale College as the Learner Involvement and Inclusivity Coordinator, during which time she was the founding chair of the Learner Voice Practitioner Network in Wales.  She also served as the sabbatical President of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Students’ Union.

In addition to her experience within the education sector in Wales, Heather is a qualified cognitive behavioural therapy counsellor.  She also recently completed a Masters research project at University of South Wales which focussed on clinical perfectionism and performance anxiety.


David Reeves ACT Strategy boardDavid Reeves

David has worked for companies such as Ford, Black and Decker and GEC Hotpoint and also managed three manufacturing companies. David is a past-president of Cardiff Bay Rotary Club, has been a Parent Governor in Primary and Secondary Education, and a Governor in Coleg Glan Hafren for five years.  David has also most recently chaired the CAVC/Cardiff Council Joint Committee for the newly established Eastern High School. 


Danny Saunders ACT Strategy Board Professor Danny Saunders, OBE (Chair)

Over the last 38 years Danny Saunders has developed educational development and lifelong learning partnerships with universities, colleges, schools, employers and community groups throughout the UK. He has engaged in Government advisory work, and his work has been featured extensively in peer reviewed journals and books. Publications include The Complete Student Handbook (Blackwell), Key Concepts in Communication Studies (Methuen), Communication and Simulation (Multilingual Matters), and The Learning Coaches of Wales (Welsh Government). He has an international reputation for developing innovation through curriculum design and student centred learning. Specialisms include widening participation in higher education, quality enhancement, and the advancement of peer tutoring where undergraduates help students in schools plan their learning journeys into universities. His recent academic activity has involved writing case studies, work based learning, coaching, and designing new progression pathways into higher education. Danny is an Emeritus Professor at the University of South Wales and a visiting Professor at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. He is a governor of Cardiff and Vale College, and continues his involvement in higher education through quality assurance reviews for the QAA, impact studies, external examining, and conference organising.

Danny is a Chartered Psychologist and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In 2010 he received the OBE for Services to Higher Education in Wales.


Silviana Rizea ACT Strategy Board Silviana Rizea

Silviana is the Sabbatical Officer for the Cardiff and Vale College Group and is currently studying towards a BTEC Science Level 2. Silviana first came to the UK from Romania when she was 13 years old and speaks 3 languages. Silviana is an IT specialist, and has used her skills to set up a club in The Parade to help her peers to develop their IT skills. This year, Silviana became a Student Digital Leader and, because of this opportunity, has to date passed two out of three Microsoft Office Specialist Exams. 


Margaret Foster, OBE

Margaret joined the NHS in 1974 as a Graduate Management Trainee, and worked in a number of Health Authorities and trusts in South Wales for 38 years. Margaret was appointed Chief Executive of the East Glamorgan Trust in 1995 and led the organisation through three mergers until her retirement from her role as Chief Executive of Cwm Taf Health Board, a provider of integrated health services to the local population.

Currently, Margaret chairs the NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership, which provides an extensive portfolio of back office functions for NHS Wales on a collaborative basis, including education commissioning for NHS Wales.

Margaret previously held the role of NHS Equality Commissioner for Wales. She has held a number of non-executive roles on boards including Skills for Health, Career Choices Wales, University of South Wales and the Principality Building Society.

Stephen Murphy ACT Strategy Board Stephen Murphy

Stephen is a chartered accountant who qualified in 1987. After 2 years working in corporate finance for a “big 4” firm, including a 9 month secondment to the Welsh Development Agency, Stephen has spent most of his working life in various manufacturing industries as diverse as industrial thread, metal castings and semiconductors. His career has included experience as the group controller in a highly acquisitive public company, CFO of a start-up (which then listed on AIM), and restructuring and divestment of a large private company facing funding challenges. Currently, Stephen lives in his hometown of Barry, and is a CEO of a private foundry business in the UK.


Julian Baker ACT Strategy Board Julian Baker

Julian has worked in a number of  high profile Learning & Development and coaching roles, notably more recently for the John Lewis Partnership. He has a passion and commitment to helping leaders develop their own coaching style, supporting and seeing the success of them bringing a coaching culture into their areas of responsibility.

Having worked as a Senior Leader, Julian is empathetic to the demands placed upon modern day leaders. With the experience and skills he brings to his coaching and facilitation relationships, he is able to use a number of development interventions including 1-1 coaching, team, holistic and action learning to support development.

Julian has worked in a variety of sectors and has a passion in supporting people to become their very best; having initiated and demonstrated successful outcomes in  a number of ILM, City & Guilds and Apprenticeship qualifications in a variety of Public and Private bodies, as well as being a qualified assessor. 


John Taylor ACT Strategy BoardJohn Taylor CBE DLit CCMI

John was appointed to the Electrotechnical Joint Industry Board in 2016 where he serves as the Chair of their Major Contractors’ Committee. He had been the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ACAS for 12 years. His previous posts include CEO of the South Wales Training and Enterprise Council, the Development Board for Rural Wales, and the Rural Development Commission. He also worked for the former Department of Employment and its agencies in several roles, including Director for the Midlands Employment Service and Private Secretary to the Minister of State for Employment. A former German Marshall Fellowship Scholar to the USA, his previous Non-Executive appointments include a Legacy Adviser to the Rio Olympics, Chair of the Careers Service for Wales, Chair of the Workers’ Educational Association for England and Scotland, Deputy Chair of the University of West London, and independent member of the NHS Partnership Board.


Leah Howell

Leah is currently ACT’s Learner Representative, responsible for making the voice of learners across the ACT network be heard. This goes beyond undertaking surveys of learners’ views to give them a key role in making decisions which will affect their whole learner experience. Leah gathers, interprets and evaluates feedback through a variety of methods including learner forums, and feeds back improvement suggestions to the management team.

Leah has a wealth of experience and a real passion for working with individuals with additional learning needs and barriers to learning to support them achieve their qualifications.

Leah has an interest in continuous learning, having graduated in 2017 and achieving her PCET (Post Certificate in Education and Training) from Cardiff Metropolitan University. She is also in the process of completing her Level 3 Learning and Development Apprenticeship.


Rhian Huws Williams

Rhian Huws Williams has spent the last 30 years in leadership  roles within the Care Sector, most recently as the Chief Executive of the Care Council for Wales.

Rhian has had a long-term commitment to learning and development across the whole of the social care sector. She was instrumental in introducing vocational qualifications and the value of work-based learning in social care across the private and voluntary sector and local authorities. The focus was on collaboration, inclusion and partnership working .

Rhian's greatest achievement was to develop a national approach to workforce planning and a development strategy for the whole of the social work and social care sector in partnership with the Government and employers.  This was underpinned by occupational standards and qualifications; commissioned training;  practice guidance;  resources to support recruitment, retention, supervision, knowledge and skills; and, using the evidence to influence policy and strategy in skills, education and learning.

She is passionate about ensuring workforces are supported in becoming ‘the best they can be’ and proud of their role and achievements.

Rhian has sat on several Ministerial Task Groups for Welsh Government and is currently a member of the Ministerial Partnership Board on the Welsh Language. She is passionate about increasing the use of the Welsh Language in all aspects of life. Her time is also dedicated to her portfolio of prestigious Board roles at organisations such as City & Guilds, Menter Caerdydd, the Living Room and National Eisteddfod, to name but a few!

In her spare time, Rhian is very much into active pursuits such as running and climbing and also sings in a local choir.

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