Board of Governors Biography

Governor Biographies

Mary Curnock Cook OBE – Chair of Corporation

Mary Curnock Cook is an independent educationalist, with expertise in participation and progression in the different stages of education, and with a particular focus on those who are disadvantaged in education.

From 2010 to 2017, Mary was Chief Executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, UCAS, overseeing a transformation of the organisation’s operations, communications and data services. Prior to 2010, she was Director of Qualifications and Skills at the QCDA.  Earlier in her career she held a number of senior executive and non-executive posts in private, public and not-for-profit organisations in the biotechnology, food, hospitality and education sectors.

She is Chair of Governors at Kensington and Chelsea College, a Trustee of the Access Project and the National Star College, and Vice-Chair of Governors at Swindon Academy.

Mary has an MSc from London Business School. She was awarded an OBE in 2000 for services to training in the hospitality industry, and is an honorary Fellow of Birkbeck College, University of London.

Dr Elaine McMahon CBE – Interim Principal & CEO

Elaine has worked for over thirty years in the dynamic sector of further education.  For the last sixteen years she has worked as a College CEO and Principal for Salford College and the Hull College Group and since 2013 has been an Interim Principal/CEO in colleges going through transformational change.  

She develops teams and works in partnerships with industry and education to maximise the potential of the further education sector to meet education and skill needs; improve the student experience and deliver financial sustainability.

Peter Hay – Governor

Peter Hay has a background in senior public sector management, including 10 years as a Director in a general hospital and mental health NHS Trust leading on strategic and annual planning, marketing and business development. He originally worked and qualified in HRM in manufacturing industry and is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development. Before joining Kensington and Chelsea College, he was a Governor of City Lit for eight years taking an active role in marketing, governance and audit. His first degree was in English Literature from Sussex University.


Phil Wilson ACMA CPA – Governor

Phil Wilson qualified as an Accountant in 1988, and then used this qualification to obtain Australian citizenship. He then spent 8 years in Sydney, taking further exams to gain Australian qualifications and working in the Arts & Media sector before returning to the UK in 1999.

Continuing the Arts theme in the UK, Phil worked for Universal Pictures for a year before consciously moving into the not-for–profit sector; initially for Circle Anglia Housing Association, then Business Link for London. He then moved to International Students House where he has been the Finance Director since 2007.

Phil is passionate about helping young people to achieve their potential and believes finance professionals can gain more leverage from their qualifications by using their skills to benefit the educational sector. He was privileged to be a Treasurer, then Chair, for a Westminster charity called Pursuing Independents Paths (PIP) which supports young people with Learning Difficulties.

David Adams – Governor

David Adams is a business and leadership coach and mentor. A chartered accountant, he has been a stockbroker and corporate financier and ultimately chief executive of a major firm. He has acted as a consultant to professional practices and The London Stock Exchange and interim managed a medical technology company leading to its sale to a listed company. He has held a number of non-executive directorships inter alia in property, publishing, retail, recruitment and hedge funds.

David has spent the last decade providing executive and business coaching to both individuals and groups. He runs groups for Vistage International, the world’s leading chief executive membership organisation.

He is an accredited member of the Association for Coaching and a director of the Hampstead Theatre, London. He is a governor of the Kensington & Chelsea College of Further Education and a former president of the London Society of Chartered Accountants. He is a trustee of the Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association.

As an international performance poet he has brought poetry to coaching as a means of unlocking creativity and driving innovation in teams and individuals.

QUOTE: ‘Being a governor enables me to bring my business skills and knowledge to help younger people advance in the world.’


Michael Doolan – Staff Governor

Michael is the College’s Curriculum Manager for English and Maths, as well as staff union representative for UCU.



Ian Valvona – Governor

Ian Valvona is a civil servant at the Department for Education with experience of qualifications and curriculum policy, 14-19 education reform, youth engagement and participation and – most recently – children’s social care where he has led interventions in several Local Authorities judged by Ofsted to be inadequate for children’s social care services. He led on  establishing independent children’s social care Trusts in Doncaster – the first of its kind in England – Slough and Sunderland. Ian is a trained broadcast journalist‎.


Thomas Woolf – Governor

Thomas Woolf, born and raised in London, is an entrepreneur and former professional athlete. His pioneering approach to frontier markets and technology has seen him build successful businesses in the UK, Middle East & Africa.

Thomas’s commercial grounding was delivering innovative solutions for some of the UK’s leading banks as part of Accenture’s financial services strategy team in London.

After launching JustGiving across the Middle East in 2011 (the world’s largest fundraising platform for charities), Tom founded EdAid in 2016 as a crowdfunding platform for students to finance their higher education, interest-free. EdAid’s sister company QardHasan is also the world’s first Islamic student funding platform and has worked with over 1000 students since 2017.

In his spare time, for fun, Thomas remains a competitive athlete and is dedicated to expanding community sport in his capacity as Head Coach for Nike in the Middle East.

Suzanna Rennie – Governor

Suzanna is a Chartered Investment Manager who works for Santander Bank. She lives in North Kensington and has worked in the Borough for a number of years.  As well as a local perspective, she brings to the Board of Governors her understanding of finance, her analytical skills and a real commitment to helping other young people extract the maximum benefit from their education.

Alison McArthur – Governor

Alison has lived and worked in North Kensington for 25 years, including 8 years as an ESOL teacher at KCC. She is mother to a large and extended family, is a non-practising barrister, has been on boards of local charities and schools, and volunteers at Rugby Portobello Trust and The Clement James Centre.

She believes in inspiration and aspiration for all students, the communities in Kensington and Chelsea, and the college. She also believes in accountability and is happy for you to contact her about the college:


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