Our Governors

Charlotte Mannion

Chair of Governors

Charlotte Mannion is a director of Quick Learn Limited, a Swindon based communications consultancy. She designs and delivers communication skills events covering leadership, coaching, assessment, performance management, customer service, effective meetings and presentation skills for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) and for teams within national and international companies.  Charlotte has lived in the Swindon area for the past 23 years and previously set up and ran the Centre for Professional Development for Great Western Enterprise for 11 years. 

Charlotte is a CIPD Council member and the chair of CIPD Swindon and North Wiltshire branch.  She is also chair of the Self Employed Network for HR professionals, a member of Rotary and hosts a monthly Business Women’s club.   Charlotte the author of several Useful Guides covering Mentoring, Public Speaking, Report Writing and Communicating Effectively all published by Pansophix as well as author of the popular ‘How to Give the Perfect Wedding Speech’.
Charlotte is currently the Chair of the Corporation

Jim Webster

Vice-Chair of Governors

Jim has lived in the Swindon area since graduating from Leeds University in 1972 and has lived in Highworth since 1980 with his wife and family. He served as a Governor of Highworth Warneford School for 8 years and is presently Chairman of the Highworth Festival.
Jim recently retired from Spectris plc, the London Stock Exchange listed instrumentation and controls company where he was a main board director for 21 years. He was responsible for six of the largest companies in the Spectris Group as well as the Asia Pacific and Latin America corporate teams. Prior to joining Spectris, Jim held a number of senior management positions in the Electronics Division of Raychem Corporation, the California-based materials science company whose European HQ was in Swindon. During his career, Jim has been responsible for the functions of international sales and marketing, product management, manufacturing operations, finance and general management. 

Graham Taylor

Principal and Chief Executive

Graham is Principal and Chief Executive at New College Swindon. He has a background in market research and corporate planning in 3 multinational companies and over 25 years experience in further and higher education across 6 Colleges. Graham worked his way up the lecturing ranks, teaching business studies, accounting and Information Technology and served as Head of Business Studies and Assistant Principal, Marketing and Enterprise. He is also the author of 10 best- selling books. His other interests include football, running and guitar.

John Dernie

John has lived in north Wiltshire for 12 years with his wife and three children.  A graduate of Bristol University, he works as a Finance Director for small and medium businesses and over years of financial management experience, gathered from small, medium and large businesses. These include major international blue chip companies Whitbread and Sony Music, where he held a variety of roles over a near ten year period, including European Finance Director. This was followed by CFO roles at two early stage technology businesses.  John is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Les Durrant

Les has worked in the fields of town and country planning and development since 1967. In April 1985 he established Development Planning and Design Services, a multi-disciplinary planning and development consultancy that now forms part of the DPDS Consulting Group with offices throughout the UK. Les is the Group Chairman and Managing Director, retaining an active day to day interest in all aspects of the Consulting Group's work, which includes planning, development, architectural, urban design, environmental and landscape consultancy. 

Les is actively involved in the local business community in the Swindon area and is a regular speaker at seminars and conferences and a contributor to professional journals.

Peter Foskett

After serving in the Royal Navy on a short service commission Peter Foskett returned to the law. He is a commercial lawyer who has been working in Swindon for the past 22 years and specialises in property development work.

He is married and loves to spend time in his garden along with his wife, cats and chickens.
He is the treasurer of the Charitable Foundation for the Education of Nepalese Children, a charity set up by his wife and himself.

Nick Gurney-Sharpe

Nick is a Chief Investment Officer with Innvotec - one of the UK’s largest sources of risk capital; in parallel Nick fulfils the role of Development Director at Heritage Motor Centre. Most recently Nick was with CDC Capital Partners where he ran the FMCG/Retail/Pharma investment teams, and worked for a number of years on the denationalisation of the Dutch produce sector. Previously Nick was partner -- Corporate Finance - at Haines Watts chartered accountants, with 3i PLC in Yorkshire, and held commercial roles at Kraft General Foods/Proctor & Gamble.

Nicks other current and recent positions have included Chair of Innovation and Enterprise Task Group - Hampshire Economic Partnership, Deputy Chair Finance, M3 Enterprise LEP, and a member of the Financial Services Authorisation Committee within the ICAEW. Finally, for a number of years Nick was a Magistrate within Trafford ward of Greater Manchester.

Nick holds an M.B.A. and attended Harvard Business School; Nick is authorised by the Financial Services Authority to conduct investment.

Sam McCurdy

Sam graduated from the University of Surrey in 1999 and went on to study for an Further Education PGCE in 2003 at The University of the West of England. During this time, Sam was placed for training at New College Swindon working in the Humanities Department as a history teacher. The following year, he took up the post as a history lecturer at New College and has subsequently become a Course Leader. He has also been involved in mentoring student teachers in the department. Sam is married, lives in Swindon and has a young family. In his spare time, Sam enjoys fitness and in particular cycle racing.

Peter O’Brien

Peter has lived in Highworth since 1970. Peter originally became a Business Governor of New College representing Burmah-Castrol. Peter's wide experiences within the Burmah-Castrol organisation ranged from the coordination of overseas Castrol companies in the Indian Sub-Continent, Asia and the Far East, to marketing and visiting on a regular basis Castrol agents in over 40 countries including Central and East Africa, Eastern Europe, Middle East and the Indian Sub-Continent. 

Peter is married with a son and a daughter, both of whom were students at New College. He is now retired but is an active member of Highworth Running Club and is a long-standing season ticket holder at Swindon Town Football Club.

Alexey Smirnov

Alexey is Chair of the Audit committee.  Alexey received his Master's degree in Information Technology from one of the leading Russian universities and his MBA from the University of Bath School of Management, graduating with Merit in 2012. Throughout his work career Alexey has held many varying positions, primarily in Procurement and Internal Audit. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (MCIPS) and the Institute of Internal Auditors (CIA, CRMA).   His current position is Senior Auditor at Intel Corporation, based in its Swindon office.  He is married and has a teenage daughter.  In his spare time, he likes running, listening to classical music and reading.

Ben Sonoiki

Ben graduated with a geography degree, and went on to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Information Technology and PGCE in ICT for secondary school level in Liverpool. He then had teaching time in Liverpool and Essex, but left teaching to go back to focus in IT as he was previously a Microsoft Certified Professional on the old Windows NT and did various IT roles (such as Computer engineer, Database Administrator, Data Analyst). 

He  joined New College in October 2008 as Learner Data Manager. Ben has a keen interest and passion for education and for giving people the opportunity to maximise their potential. While teaching Ben was involved in projects focused on “Engaging the Learner” and believes in “seeing the ability and not the disability”, “Every Child Matters”; tailoring teaching and learning to meet the various needs of learners. Ben, while teaching, was one of the key contacts in ICT for Special Education Needs (SEN) learners. Ben has volunteered in various education areas such as helping out with learners in “Alternative to Education” in Liverpool by teaching learners various interesting ICT skills, where learners are not able to stay in mainstream education and are being taught in a different way to fit their style and situation. 

Ben regularly plays badminton and is a Chelsea supporter.