National Strategy Group

The NSG is the central forum for communication with the Regional Groups. The NSG membership is made up of:

  • Regional Group representatives;
  • National organisations committed to the progression and support of care-experienced individuals through further and higher

The NSG’s efforts are focused on understanding and responding to the needs of professionals across the country in a systematic way. Its main purpose is to facilitate national collaboration to help Regional Groups do what they cannot do on their own.

NSG Chairs

Phil Bakstad
Phil Bakstad

Phil Bakstad, Student Support Coordinator, Liverpool John Moores University

Email: P.Bakstad@ljmu.ac.uk 

Phil has worked in higher education for fifteen years, with experience working across a variety of areas including Widening Participation, Learning and Teaching and Student Services. He has held his current role as Student Support Coordinator at Liverpool John Moores University for eight years. Phil has responsibility for supporting care-experienced students, along with students who are estranged from their families, Young Adult Carers and LGBT+ students through a range of both pre-entry and on-course advice, guidance and support activities.

Phil has been an active member of the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers and NorthCLASS for many years. He is committed to improving the opportunities for care-experienced young people to access and succeed in higher education and presents on the subject regularly both locally and nationally. He is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy and in addition holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

Anne-Marie Bird
Anne-Marie Bird

Anne-Marie Bird, Project Lead, Widening Participation, University of Sussex

Email: Anne-Marie Bird <A.Bird@sussex.ac.uk>

Anne-marie works as a Project Lead in the Widening Participation (WP) team at the University of Sussex. She has worked in the WP sector for over 12 years and is passionate about social mobility, and ensuring that children and young people are given the tools and support they need to access education and progress. Her role in the WP team includes responsibility for outreach work with children-in-care or care-experienced people, and she works closely with her colleagues at the university who support CEES on-course and beyond, to ensure a whole-journey approach to supporting care-experienced students. She is the South East regional rep, and became co-chair of the NSG group in 2020.

NSG Vice Chair (Conference)

Melissa Page
Melissa Page

Melissa Page, HE Guidance Officer, De Montfort University 

Email: mpage@dmu.ac.uk   

Regional rep for: East Midlands

Melissa Page is a Higher Education Guidance Officer in the Transitions Team at De Montfort University. She is the designated contact person for students coming from local authority care, as well as estranged students and student carers.  Melissa has worked as a Guidance Officer for a number of years and organises university experience days for young people in care and training for care professionals.  She works closely with local authorities to deliver events and develop opportunities for young people to engage in educational opportunities.  Care leavers at DMU are encouraged to take up the offer to work at these events to share their experiences and motivate other young people and professionals to regard higher education as an achievable aim for care leavers. 

Melissa is part of a team that provides advice and guidance to care leavers and their support workers on issues relating to finance, accommodation, support at university and moving on after graduation.

NNECL National Strategy Group Members


Beth Taswell
Beth Taswell

Beth Taswell, Access and Support Officer (KU Cares), Access, Participation and Inclusion

Email: B.Taswell@kingston.ac.uk

Regional rep for: London

Beth currently works at Kingston University as an Access and Support Officer. 

Until recently, Beth worked at City University as the single point of contact for care leavers, where, alongside supporting students, she worked on developing and implementing a scheme of comprehensive support for other vulnerable groups.

As a care leaver herself, she has worked in Widening Participation Outreach during her undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Kingston, and help to develop the provision of support for care leavers available there. She is passionate about advocating for accessible prospects for those who have come from a disadvantaged backgrounds, and is keen to use the opportunities that she’s been given to help those who have come from a similar background to her.

North West (NorthCLASS)

Jamie Bytheway
Jamie Bytheway

Jamie Bytheway, GM Higher Manager (Projects), Greater Manchester Higher

Email: J.Bytheway@mmu.ac.uk

Regional rep for: North West

Jamie has worked within widening participation in Greater Manchester for a number of years and is currently the operations manager for Greater Manchester Higher which is a collaborative outreach and widening participation project across all 17 HE providers in Greater Manchester. Greater Manchester Higher was formed in response to the HEFCE National Networks for Collaborative Outreach Project (NNCO) and are now leading on the delivery of the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP) in the region. Jamie also chairs the Greater Manchester Looked After Children Forum which brings together professionals from education and social care to support the educational attainment of looked after children and care leavers and sits on the board of trustees for Manchester Mind, a local mental health charity. Jamie was the first in her family to attend university and is passionate about diversifying entrants to Higher Education.

East Anglia

Liz Ferguson
Liz Ferguson

Liz Ferguson, Outreach Officer, University of East Anglia 

Email: e.ferguson@uea.ac.uk 

Regional rep for: East of England 

Liz has worked in the University of East Anglia’s Outreach team since 2008 and has experience of a variety of roles. Since 2015 Liz’s job has focused on widening participation activities for specific under-represented groups, including care experienced students. In her current role Liz has developed and hosted a series of collaborative residentials specifically for looked after children, and works closely with the Norfolk Virtual School to arrange activities, mentoring and tutoring for local students.

East Midlands

Lucy Judd, Outreach Coordinator, Nottingham Trent University 

Email: lucy.judd@ntu.ac.uk

Regional rep for: East Midlands

Lucy Judd
Lucy Judd

Lucy Judd is an Outreach Coordinator as part of the Schools, Colleges and Community Outreach team at Nottingham Trent University. She is responsible for designing and delivering targeted outreach programmes for groups under-represented in HE, with a specific interest in supporting those with care-experience or from other vulnerable groups.

Lucy has worked in widening participation since 2013, and has a background of working in local authority and alternative education roles.

Yorkshire & Humber

Ruth Lomas
Ruth Lomas

Ruth Lomas, Schools and Colleges Liaison Officer, University of Huddersfield

Email: r.lomas@hud.ac.uk

Regional rep for: Yorkshire and Humber 

Ruth has worked within Higher education for 18 years and currently works within the Schools and College liaison team at University of Huddersfield.

Ruth is the single point of contact for care leavers, who are applying to the University. Ruth works alongside our care contact within the wellbeing department supporting students who are already at the University and together they have developed a comprehensive support package for care leavers and other vulnerable groups.

In addition, Ruth manages a 10-year research project looking at raising aspirations with pupils from year 5-year 11. Looking to work with some of the most disadvantaged children within the Kirklees area.

Ruth also facilitates the University Applicant Visit Days and ensure that potential students receive the best possible experience.

Ruth has young children herself and therefore is keen to ensure that all young people have access to education and the information required to make informed choices within their lives.

Ruth is an active member of Northclass regional group and has been for many years.

Central region

Trudy Ing
Trudy Ing

Trudy Ing, Widening Participation Project Manager, Oxford Brookes University

Email: ting@brookes.ac.uk

Regional rep for: Central Region

Trudy started working for Aimhigher in 2004, joining the Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire (MKOB) core project team.   Working in partnership with a variety of organisations, she delivered structured programmes of events and activities to raise awareness of, and aspirations to, higher education, including delivering summer schools for care experienced students.

Through her current role as Widening Participation Project Manager at Oxford Brookes University,Trudy works with particular target groups including care leavers and students with disabilities. Trudy leads the NEON working group for the Disabled Learners in the south.

Trudy has always been committed to ensuring care experienced students in the region have access to appropriate advice about future options and are aware of the educational options available. One of her future goals is to embed the continuation of support for care leavers within her institution by writing a care leaver policy. Trudy is a member of the NNECL central region working group.

North East

Wendy Price
Wendy Price

Wendy Price, Head of Widening Access and Participation, University of Sunderland

Email: wendy.price@sunderland.ac.uk

Regional rep for: North East

Wendy has over 20 years experience of working in higher education, including 12 years supporting care experienced young people at the University of Sunderland. In her current role Wendy is the institutional contact for care experienced students which also involves providing advice and guidance for applicants, carers, local authorities and designated teachers. She works closely with a range of teams across the institution to ensure a holistic support network for all care experienced and estranged students.

Wendy has close relationships with a number of Local Authorities and Virtual Schools in the north east region. She is an active member of a number of collaborative partnerships; Wendy is the North East Representative for Northern England Care Leaver Activities & Student Support (North CLASS) and a member of the Management Group for North East Raising Aspirations Partnership (NERAP). Throughout her career Wendy has acquired a wide range of knowledge and experience related to working with care experienced young people. She is committed to raising the educational aspirations of care experienced young people and ensuring that they each have the opportunity to achieve their potential.

As part of her wider role at the University of Sunderland, Wendy leads the Widening Access and Participation Team which includes pre-16 educational outreach and scholarships and bursaries. She is also the institutional contact for estranged students and a senior safeguarding officer.

South West

Natalie Bracher
Natalie Bracher

Natalie Bracher, Outreach Officer, University of Exeter 

Email: N.Bracher@exeter.ac.uk

Regional rep for: South West

Natalie Bracher is an Outreach Officer as part of the Student Recruitment Office at the University of Exeter. Natalie has over 14 years’ experience working in higher education. She is responsible for designing and delivering targeted outreach programmes for groups under-represented in HE, including care experienced students. For example offering taster days for a range of ages from years 6 to 13. Natalie has a close relationship with a number of local authorities and virtual schools in the south west region and has been an active member of the South West Looked After Children Network Meetings for several years.

Natalie also works very closely with various support teams across the university to ensure that students that are less represented in higher education are supported during their studies at university and that they are aware of the opportunities and support that is available to them.

National organisations

The following organisations are represented on the NNECL National Strategy Group:

Non voting co-opted members: