Ian Hick – Chair of Local Advisory Board

Ian has an Engineering degree and is a qualified Chartered Accountant, working in London for accounting firm Ernst & Young for 11 years on clients such as British Airways. Ian joined Sellafield in 1995 when it was part of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL). He worked on the Finance side of the business for 22 years, from dealing with monthly management accounting through to being Chief Accountant, responsible for the statutory financial reporting of the business. Along the way he project managed a major Finance and Procurement system implementation, and was on the project board of the subsequent implementation of HR functionality. From 2017 Ian had the role of Business Relationship Manager within the Sellafield Information Communications Technology (ICT) function, but then retired in 2021 to focus on personal opportunities and local support in the West Cumbria community – he is currently a volunteer driver for the Cockermouth social car scheme.

Sellafield continues to have a strong interest in supporting the education of the potential future workforce in West Cumbria. Ian is keen to maintain strong links between the Whitehaven Local Advisory Board and the company (as well as other local agencies and employers), through both Board membership and ongoing co-operation in the interests of school pupils.
Whilst Ian’s background is not in Education, he believes he can bring directly relevant skills and experience to the Local Advisory Board. He has experience of working with Government departments over many years. Sellafield operates in a highly regulated environment with a strong focus on health and safety, and his understanding of these governance disciplines will help frame his approach to the activity of the Local Advisory Board.

Whilst Ian’s background is not in Education, he believes he can bring directly relevant skills and experience to the Local Advisory Board. He has experience of working with Government departments over many years. Sellafield operates in a highly regulated environment with a strong focus on health and safety, and his understanding of these governance disciplines will help frame his approach to the activity of the Local Advisory Board.

Stephen Wilkinson – Vice Chair

Stephen was CEO of The Queen Katherine School Multi Academy Trust and had responsibility through the MAT Board and Governors of MAT schools for the success of The Queen Katherine School, Walney School and George Hastwell School. He also headed up the MAT Management Team which provided back office services to Trust schools and others.

Stephen was Governor of the Local Governing Body of George Hastwell School, The Queen Katherine School, Walney School and the Virtual Headteacher Board for Looked after Children. He is still on the Management Committee of Newbridge House Pupil referral Unit in barrow.

He is also Senior Lead for the North West Maths Hub and Local Representation for the Association of School and College Leaders in Cumbria
Stephen was Headteacher of two schools between 1995 and 2013, most recently of The Queen Katherine School. Until April 2017 he was seconded to the post of Chair of Local Alliance of System Leaders (LASL) in the south of Cumbria and the Board of the Cumbria Alliance of System Leaders (CASL). He was also the voluntary Chair of the Cumbria Partnership for Emotional Resilience and Mental Health.

Stephen’s three children attended The Queen Katherine School and his wife taught at Sandgate Special School until her well-earned retirement.
In his spare time, he is a keen photographer, wildlife admirer, hill walker, glider pilot and official family dog walker. Most recently he has become a keeper of bees and chickens.

Lorrayne Hughes – Chief Executive

Lorrayne is the Chief Executive Officer of Cumbria Education Trust, the county’s largest multi-academy school trust.

Lorrayne took up her first Headship at William Howard School in Brampton in 2007 and in 2014 was commissioned by the Local Authority to bring about rapid improvement in two special measures schools in Workington. One of the schools was removed from Special Measures within 20 weeks.

She has led CET since inception to its current position where it is responsible for the education of more than 4,000 children across three secondary schools, eight primaries and West Coast Sixth Form.

Lorrayne passionately believes in inclusion and that all young people deserve a high-quality education. Children are firmly at the heart of all her strategic decision-making.
All schools work closely together following Lorrayne’s lead that collaboration can make a difference to all involved, from pupils and students to staff and their communities.

Lorrayne is a board member of the Confederation of School Trusts, the sector body for school trusts.

Des Bird – Director of Secondary Education

Des has been Headteacher of Workington Academy since 2018. Workington is his second headship, and he has over 13 years senior leadership experience across 4 schools in Cumbria and in Greater Manchester.

Des has chaired a local Headteacher’s association, and is a Member of Ofsted’s Headteacher’s reference group

Nigel Youngman – Headteacher

Nigel grew up in King’s Lynn and spent his school days in the west of the county. He went on to Bristol University to read English and French Literature and then chose to spend time teaching in Pakistan. He returned to the UK to complete his PGCE at Nottingham University before teaching in Birmingham and Bristol.


A Head of English department role saw Nigel returning to his Norfolk roots, where he spent 7 years at Thorpe St Andrew High School. He then moved to be Deputy Headteacher at Alderman Peel High School before becoming Vice Principal at City Academy Norwich. He became Headteacher at Beccles Free School from the Open Academy where he was Director of Sixth Form and Director of Strategic ICT. Nigel now joins Cumbria Education Trust as the Headteacher of The Whitehaven Academy.


Nigel is married and has two children; and the whole family are very much relishing the opportunity of living and working in the Western Lakes.

Judy Davidson – LAB member, Joint Safeguarding lead

Judy originates from South Yorkshire and was educated at Doncaster High School for Girls. After teacher training in Birmingham, Judy’s first teaching role was at Doncaster Grammar School.

Judy moved to West Cumbria in 1979 where she taught at both Whitehaven and Cockermouth Grammar Schools prior to holding both academic and pastoral positions at Whitehaven School until her retirement in 2011. Subsequently, she became both a teacher and then, a community governor at the school.

In addition to teaching, Judy in the 1990s trained with Relate and became a counsellor for them in the local area.

Now that she has retired from teaching Judy is part-owner of a local counselling centre. Some years ago she trained to be a family consultant and continues now to use her experience and skills to help people suffering from family conflict or relationship difficulties.

Judy is passionate about building a better future for the people of the local area and, as a member of the Whitehaven Academy LAB, is committed to providing the best possible education for its students.

Outside of work Judy enjoyed a number of sporting activities and at one time was Cumbria tennis captain. Today, she can often be found on the golf course.

Julie Pennington – LAB member, Joint Safeguarding lead

Julie is a NEBOSH qualified Health & Safety Practitioner & ROSPA Instructor & Assessor.

After 2 years working in the Chemical Industry, she spent 23 years in the Nuclear Sector providing consultation, training & development to Nuclear Sites throughout the UK.

Her career began as a Personal Assistant. When British Nuclear Fuels introduced a new financial accountability system, Julie became Cost-Engineer, reporting on Decommissioning projects. She developed a knack of training others & then joined the Safety Management Team where she was a Behavioural Lead Trainer for UK Nuclear Sites & an Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH) Lead Trainer at Sellafield.

With responsibility for strategic planning, implementation & development of safety recommendations required by regulators, she then became Culture Change Manager with specific emphasis on behavioural change.

It’s her knowledge of legislation, safety/risk management & extensive background in training, mentoring & development, that Julie hopes will assist in the continued development of The Whitehaven Academy & its fantastic students.

Julie is married & has one daughter.

In a voluntary role, Julie is Secretary of an NHS Surgery development team.

Amanda Lightfoot – LAB member

Nigel Woodcock – LAB member

Nigel read Politics & Economics at Queen Mary, University of London before undertaking senior executive leadership programmes at both the London Business School and JF Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Subsequently, he was awarded a MBA in public policy & governance from Warwick University Business School.

He has over 35 years Board level experience locally and nationally in the NHS, education, social enterprise and charity sectors in both Chief Executive and Chair roles.
Currently, he is Vice Chair at Carlisle FE College ,Chair of the Independent Remuneration Panel at Carlisle City Council , and a Trustee of the Cumbria Cerebral Palsy Society.

Previously, he was Independent Member and Chair of the Standards Committee at Copeland Borough Council and Chief Executive at: West Cumbria Healthcare NHS Trust, North Cumbria Mental Health & Learning Disabilities NHS Trust and West Cumbria PCT.

In London, he was Managing Director at Barts Health NHS Trust, Chair of Accelerate CIC and Lay Member on the Individual Funding Panel at NHS Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group.

Within education he has been a Parent Governor, Governor and Chair of the Audit Committee at St. Martin’s FE College (Lancaster & Ambleside) and Governor at the West Lakes FE College, Lillyhall.

He passionately believes that all young people should have the best opportunity of accessing an excellent education to enable them to realise their full potential and make a positive contribution to their local community and wider society.

Will Hatton – Parent LAB member

Will was born and bred in Barnard Castle, Co. Durham, and attended the local comprehensive school before attaining a BSc in Management Science & Computer Science at Keele University.  After graduation, he moved to Warrington and started working for BNFL as a software developer before moving to West Cumbria in 1999 to take up an IT role on the Sellafield site.

Will has acquired a range of valuable skills and experience from his 17 years of working for both BNFL and Computer Sciences Corporation.  He has held roles in software development, project management, change management and problem management, and has a strong work ethic, high standards and a healthy dose of pragmatism.

Following voluntary redundancy, Will dedicated himself to caring for his family whilst also studying to attain a qualification as an AAT Level 4 Bookkeeper.  He is passionate about learning, believing it to be a life-long venture, and wishes to pass this enthusiasm for education onto his two children.

Will believes in the best possible education, coupled with the best possible educational experience.  His aim is to give all children cherished memories of their time at Whitehaven Academy and to help them develop into well-rounded adults.  Consequently, Will believes strongly in children learning both practical life skills and obtaining academic qualifications.

In his spare time, Will enjoys reading, drawing, photography, gardening, relaxing with his family and is a keen motorsport fan.

Abi Skillen – Staff LAB member

Abi Skillen is the Curriculum Leader for Expressive Arts at the Whitehaven Academy and teaches Dance, Drama and Musical Theatre.

Originally from Cockermouth, Abi completed her BA (Hons) in Dance at Teesside University, followed by PGCE training and completing a Masters in professional dance practice through Teesside University and Dance City Newcastle during her first year of teaching in Redcar Academy, North Yorkshire, followed Teacher of Dance at Queen Katherine School in Kendal. Abi has since returned to West Cumbria and has been working at the Whitehaven Academy for the past few years teaching Performing Arts and providing extra-curricular opportunities for the students.

Abi has interests in all areas of Performing Arts, enjoys live music and visits to the theatre as well as taking care of her pets and a keen interest in skincare and wellbeing.

LAB members in the previous 12 months:

  • Phil Cook – 04/05/2023

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