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Our Board of Trustees is responsible for promoting the vision and objectives of Signature. They provide firm strategic direction to the organisation, setting overall policy, defining goals and setting targets and evaluating performance against those agreed targets. They ensure that agreed plans and budgets are monitored, delivered and evaluated by the executive team.
Members of the Board work alongside the Signature team at functions, meetings or other events. They act as representatives of Signature and promote and enhance our reputation and values.
Jonathan Farnhill became a Trustee of Signature in 2010 and Chair from September 2015. His current post is as the Generous Giving Adviser, working for the Diocese of Oxford, which he took up in May 2017. Prior to that Jonathan was Chief Executive of Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education for over ten years, a charity which runs a day and residential school and college for deaf students, an assessment centre for deaf children, a children’s home, a housing project for deaf adults, a counselling service and a family support project.
He was previously the Chair of the Social Enterprise ‘Chime’ which delivers audiology services for NHS Devon, and Vice-Chair of Governors of Clyst Vale Community College. Jonathan holds the Open University’s Certificate in Management and has an MA in Applied Theology. His book – “The Porcupine Principle (and other fundraising secrets)” – was published by the Directory of Social Change and this has led to him being a regular speaker at charity conferences in the UK and Europe”.
Dr Philida Schellekens has been a Trustee since 2011. She is a consultant, author, researcher and teacher trainer in the field of language learning and teaching. Her areas of interest include English, foreign languages, BSL, interpreting and translation, and the communication skills of first language English speakers. Philida is the author of CILT's National Occupational Standards for Interpreting and Translation. Internationally, Philida has worked in the Middle East, India and Vietnam. At the 'chalkface', she is an additional OFSTED inspector and she continues to teach part-time at her local college. Recent publications include The Oxford ESOL Handbook (2007) OUP.
Paul Keen joined the Board in March 2012. Now retired, Paul previously held senior positions at the Department for Work and Pensions, including as Field Director for Jobcentre Plus in the North West, and as head of the services Jobcentre Plus and the earlier Employment Service delivered to disabled people. That included Access to Work where Paul oversaw a significant expansion in support, not least for deaf and hearing impaired people.
Paul also Chairs the Yorkshire & Humberside Advisory Panel for Changing Faces, the charity supporting people with disfigurements; and leads their efforts to establish new services in partnership with the health service in the region.
Alan Blunt has been a Signature Board Member since March 2012 and is also part of the Commercial Board. He is an engineer and business consultant who has worked around the globe for a range of telecommunications and IT companies. From 2012 he has served as a committee member of the Digital Access Committee for UKCoD and has previously been a committee member of the Deaf Children's Society East of Scotland (2009-2014) and the Lothians Child Hearing Services Working Group (2011-2014). His vested interest is based around his second daughter who has been deaf since birth.
Liz has been a Signature Trustee since 2012 and Chair of NRCPD since November 2016. She originally trained as a teacher and youth worker and moved into deaf education in 1986. In 1990, Liz joined RNID as a development officer in East Kent working on post 16 provision for Deaf teenagers with additional support needs. In 1994 Liz moved to Sense to develop work in the field of acquired deafblindness. During her time with Sense, Liz was part of the team developing and delivering the Deafblind Studies programme and worked with a wide variety of organisations, both nationally and internationally. Liz has been part of the International Acquired Deafblindness Network since its early days and has chaired the Network since 2010.
Liz is severely deaf as a result of Menieres and uses a variety of modes of receptive communication, dependant on the situation (lip reading / SSE / BSL).
Ian Walton became a Board member in December 2013 and took up the role of Treasurer in March 2014. He is Deputy Chief Executive and Principal of New College Durham, a college of further and higher education. Prior to his 15 years in the education sector he worked in the Health Service for over eighteen years where, for the last four years, he was Finance Director for a Health Trust. Ian is also a Director of a multi academies trust covering the North Durham Academy and the Consett Academy and was a Trustee of St Cuthbert’s Hospice for six years. During his time with New College Durham he played a lead role in the development and delivery of a new campus facility at Framwellgate Moor which opened in 2004. Ian was born and raised in the North East and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
John Walker joined Signature as a Trustee in October 2015 and became Vice Chair in November 2016. He is a Teaching Fellow at University of Sussex and developing undergraduate programmes in British Sign Language and Deaf culture, as well as open courses. He is also a PhD student in Social Geography, which includes the mapping of Deaf spaces. His interest in working with Deaf and hard of hearing people began with 'Friends for Young Deaf people', where he worked as a development officer and latterly training manager, before setting up his own training company, Chereme Ltd. John formed the 'Our Space' project with University of Brighton to reimagine Deaf spaces and test these ideas within the community; including the Deaf Cultural Outreach Group (DeafCOG), a social enterprise, of which John is a director.
Ian Robinson has recently taken semi-retirement and is now a freelance Trainer and Consultant on Deaf issues. He was Coordinator for Leeds City Council’s Deaf START Post 16 team working with FE & HE Deaf students in and around Leeds for 10 years. He managed a large team of CSWs, English Support, Educational Support Workers and Educational Interpreter that covers colleges around Leeds, ensuring Deaf post 16 students receive quality communication support and develop independence.
Previously, he worked for 5 years as CACDP Standards Officer based at their Durham office. Ian was involved in monitoring, liaising with and training BSL examiners. From 1990, he worked mainly in the Deaf education sector as full time Senior Deaf Instructor for Humberside County Council supporting Deaf pupils, and later at Deaf Instructors in Leeds. He was employed as on-screen translator for Tyne Tees TV, SignPost team based at Newcastle for 2 years from 1999.
He has taught qualifications ranging from Deaf Awareness, Communication Tactics, BSL in Stage 1-3 / Level 1-4 and interpreter training, and was one of the first qualified external verifiers for CACDP’s BSL Level 3 and 4 NVQ.
Ian has been involved with Signature as an assessor, trainer, advisor, moderator, external verifier for NVQ, Qualification and Standards Committee member and customer since 1989. He believes in promoting and advancing communication between Deaf and hearing people.