WEA Board of Trustees

John Widdowson

Chair of Trustees

Pat Kynaston

President & National Officer

Cliff Allum

Treasurer & National Officer

Lindsay Pearson

Deputy President & National Officer

Marc Sherland

Deputy President & National Officer

Michael Crilly

WEA English Regional Representative

Robin Cook

WEA English Regional Representative

Peter Threadkell

WEA English Regional Representative

Marion Flett

WEA Scotland Representative

Narinder Uppal

Externally co-opted Trustee

Jon Gamble

Externally co-opted Trustee

Geoff Layer

Externally co-opted Trustee


WEA Scotland Board

The WEA Scotland Board promotes and ensures the sustainability, educational excellence and profile of the WEA in Scotland and its role as part of the wider Association.

Using its Scotland specific knowledge, expertise and presence to this end, it enables an effective balance between a focus on Scotland and support to the Board of Trustees and the other Trustee sub-committees, examining how key Association-wide matters may impact on Scotland.


Marion Flett, WEA Scotland Board Chair

Marion Flett, WEA Scotland representative

Following a postgraduate qualification in Adult Education and Community Development, Marion's professional career has focused on working with adults and children in a variety of settings in the areas of educational practice, policy development, research and innovation across a range of different agencies. These include local community projects; local authorities; Higher Education; voluntary organisations; and an international charitable foundation.
As well as being involved in teaching, research and community development programmes, Marion has led innovation in educational provision including a Widening Access Programme, a community links course for undergraduates and a distance learning postgraduate course in Adult Education.

In addition to her own professional development she hse always participated in adult learning programmes and served as a volunteer in third sector organisations. Voluntary commitments include being Convenor of various local, regional and national third sector committees and boards of directors. Marion has undertaken training and provided training in those roles.
Her participation in the WEA goes back many years and includes joint working in a community project developing a Women’s Studies Course; training for Committee members; developing course materials; and membership of local and national committees before becoming a WEA Trustee (Scotland Representative).

Trustee Reps

Michael Crilly WEA English Regional Representative

Michael Crilly, WEA English Regional Representative

Michael is a former teacher and he has had wide experience elsewhere in education. He has served on the national boards of a number of educational charities. He was a senior member of his professional association, and was, for several years, Finance Officer of the Northern TUC. He has also been a company director.
Michael's involvement with the WEA has stretched over thirty years, and has included substantial periods as Chair of North East Region, and as Chair of Conference Standing Orders Committee, prior to being nominated as a Trustee by WEA Council in 2013. He is currently Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee, and a member of the Scotland Board. He sees the WEA as a member-led organisation, the social purpose of which is education and the enhancement of the individual.


Les Watson Education Coordinator, Kilmarnock

Les Watson WEA Scotland

I currently work in two different roles for the WEA, (0.5 Employability Fund Project & 0.5 Personal Assistants Network Project).
Employability Fund - I organise, develop and deliver skills training and engage with employers to help find the right people for their vacancies.
Personal Assistants Network Project – Develop and evolve the Government funded PA Network Project throughout Scotland, I co-manage the project which requires us to work within budget and deliver excellent value for money. I also organise the delivery of skills training to Personal Assistants and develop good working relationships with Self Directed Support (SDS) organisations to arrange partnership working that helps spread the word about SDS and co-produce SDS events to ensure that we maximise our budget.
I have 9 years of experience of developing and delivering education, a qualified SVQ Assessor, with excellent customer service skills and experience, and a proven ability to get on well with people from all walks of life. All of the above are required to do my job to a high standard.
I love the variety that my job offers and I get great satisfaction from helping people improve their skill levels and/or find work.. Anyone who finds work, especially if they have been out of work for a long period, automatically improves their life for the better.

Paul Ballantyne

Paul Ballantyne WEA Scotland Trustee

Paul is a member of the WEA Scotland Board and a member of the WEA national Audit and Risk Committee.

His background is in community development and adult education and he has worked in a variety of settings across the public and third sector in Scotland, including local government and Scottish Government.

His interests centre round how adult learning in its broadest sense can help individuals, groups and local communities tackle poverty and discrimination in their own right. He is also a keen advocate of adult learning as a means of increasing civic participation and community involvement in co-production approaches to community regeneration.

His experience includes leading some large scale initiatives, including a 10 year multi-agency regeneration partnership and developing a Health Board’s strategy and programmes to support patient and public involvement, He has also managed national third sector training and employment initiatives and set up national regeneration learning networks for those working in housing and regeneration sectors. 

He is currently the Trustee for Scotland with the People’s Health Trust. 

In his spare time he enjoys running, cooking and takes an active interest in German language, politics and culture.

Simon Parkinson CEO and General Secretary of the WEA, the leading adult education charity.

Simon Parkinson WEA

Simon joined the WEA from Co-operative College where he was Principle and CEO for 4 years and previously worked for 19 years at the Royal Mencap Society, including as Director of Education, Learning and Work. 

Passionate about education and its ability to empower and inspire, Simon believes that through working together, individuals can have a hugely positive impact on their own lives and the wider community.

Simon is involved in a range of external networks including Co-operative Council Innovation Network, where he is vice chair of the Values & Principles Committee and an advisor to the Executive Oversight Committee.  He is currently a commissioner on the Greater Manchester Co-operative Commission and is a trustee of Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice

Growing up in Salford, Simon attended both Salford University and Warwick University where he gained a Masters degree in Public Administration.

Ray McCowan Director of WEA Scotland and a member of the WEA’s Leadership Team.

Ray McCowan WEA

Ray leads the WEA Scotland Management Team, Education Coordinators and staff and is responsible for the delivery of WEA Scotland’s strategic and operational objectives. Alongside the WEA’s Chief Executive: Simon Parkinson, and WEA’s Head of Governance: Kathleen Formosa, Ray provides Leadership Team support to the WEA Scotland Board.

In addition to his role with the WEA, Ray is a member of the Education Scotland Board and the Adult Learning Strategic Forum for Scotland. He joined the WEA from Edinburgh College where he was Vice Principal for Curriculum Learning and Teaching having previously held Vice Principal and Assistant Principal roles at Adam Smith College and Perth College UHI  

Angie Ainslie WEA Scotland Board Member. Formerly Head of Membership and Volunteering 

Angie Ainslie WEA Scotland Board Member. Formerly Head of Membership and Volunteering

I have spent most of my career in the financial sector working my way up from branch work to completing my Black Belt Lean Sigma qualification and specialising in continuous improvement projects with Royal Bank of Scotland and latterly Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) Insurance division. In 2014 I took the role of Responsible Business Manager for the division and part of my remit was to look after the partnership with the WEA. This was my first introduction to WEA and I soon became passionate about its ethos and dedication to  adult learning.  In 2018 I moved out of finance for the first time to take on the Head of Volunteering and Membership at the WEA.  I loved the role and worked hard to re- engage volunteers, revamp the membership to include the weekly lectures and set up the Connect calls for volunteers when we went into lockdown.   I left the role in 2020 but have stayed involved in the WEA with my Scotland Board membership 

Ms Pam Simpson Vice-Convenor Scotland Volunteer Member of the Scotland Board and the North East Local Association

Pam Simpson WEA Scotland Vice-Convenor

My background is in community work and I have always had an interest in adult education, particularly education as a means of promoting social justice.  The WEA was a frequent and welcome partner in this work.  Over the 30 years that I was involved in this work I welcomed the versatility in approach and innovative work that the WEA could support.
When I took early retirement I was pleased to join the WEA as a tutor and volunteer.  My areas of interest were literacies (particularly workplace literacies) and confidence building.  I was fortunate that my involvement in this work allowed me to participate in the PGDE Adult Literacies course run by Aberdeen University.  .
I was impressed with the commitment to involving members in the organisation through the structure of Local Associations and the Scottish Committee. I became involved with the North East Local Association, serving as Chair, then secretary and through this became involved in the Scottish Committee which allowed sharing of information and opinions from members throughout Scotland
As Vice-Convenor Scotland, a post elected by members, I see my role as helping to represent the voice of members to the Board.  

Sheila Dunn (Trustee or Volunteer Committee Member)

Sheila Dunn WEA Scotland Board Member

I am currently Head of Quality and International Development at the SCQF Partnership.  I am responsible for activities relating to the quality and integrity of the national qualifications framework in Scotland – the SCQF.  I am also responsible for a range of related capacity building activities including activities around the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).  In addition, I also lead on work relating to the SCQF and its links to other national qualifications frameworks (NQFs) around the world and was previously a member of the European Qualifications Framework Advisory group prior to the UK’s exit from the EU.  I am currently a member of the Apprenticeship Approval group in Scotland.
I have worked in education in Scotland for around 30 years starting my career as a researcher in higher education before moving into a range of quality assurance and management roles across further and higher education before joining the SCQF Partnership in 2012.  At the Partnership my role focuses very much on the importance of lifelong learning and parity of esteem of different types of learning and qualifications.  The role involves working in partnership with a range of organisations from across the Scottish Education landscape.
I hope that I am able to use my range of knowledge and experience to effectively contribute to the discussions at the Scotland Board and the Education Strategy Committee.  This experience brings with it a passion for lifelong learning and its value to individuals and to society. I have witnessed first-hand during my time in colleges, the positive effect that education can bring to an individual’s life and particularly the impact it can have on those who access through a less traditional route as an adult. As a result, I think that I can understand and champion the role that WEA plays in this context. I believe that it is very important that there continues to be chances for everyone to access appropriate educational opportunities at all stages in their life and for them to be supported in their learning journey whatever that may look like.
I welcome the opportunity to be able to contribute to the vision, mission and approach of the WEA through its committees.

Simon Hewitt Principal, Dundee & Angus College

Simon Hewitt Principal, Dundee & Angus College

Born in Portadown, Northern Ireland, Simon was educated at Portadown College and left Northern Ireland in 2001 to attend the University of Abertay Dundee, where he obtained a BSc (Hons) in Business Computing. Following a number of IT related roles, Simon moved into lecturing at Dundee College in 2008, specialising in Computer Network Management and Cisco Administration.
In November 2010 Simon was promoted to the role of Curriculum Manager in Computing at Dundee College and has remained in Academic Management since, becoming Vice Principal Curriculum & Attainment in 2016 within the now merged Dundee & Angus College and more recently securing the role of Principal in August 2020. 
Simon is the Lead Principal for both the Climate Emergency & Digital within the College Sector and, over and above his role with the WEA, is involved in a number of national groups and boards including Chairing the Energy Skills Partnership board and board membership roles within Dundee Science Centre and Students Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).  

Simon is also a member of the SQA Advisory Council, Data Lab skills advisory board, SDS Digital Skills advisory board and ScotlandIS Digital Skills advisory board.  

Ruby Lawrence Trustee or Volunteer Committee Member

Ruby Lawrence WEA Trustee

Ruby has extensive experience in the third sector, working with Care Experienced people, refugees and other groups who face discrimination. Her focus on employability has led her to collaborate with and advise a large range of employers on diversity and inclusion. Working from an employability context, Ruby has project managed arts participation, frontline holistic services, reverse/peer mentoring programmes and policy/practice change initiatives. 

In October 2021 she will join Glasgow Caledonian University’s School for Business and Society as Employability Manager. 

Ruby joined the WEA Scotland board in 2019, and she believes that non-formal adult education is an undervalued yet vital ingredient of a healthy society. She is aligned with the WEA’s longstanding commitment to civic participation and inclusivity. 

Philip McGuinness

Philip McGuinness WEA Board Member

Philip McGuinness grew up in the North East of England and has worked across Further and Higher Education as well as in Fair Work. Starting his career at Edinburgh University Students' Association working in student representation, Philip has also spent time working with employers to increase the wages of their lowest paid staff with Living Wage Scotland before moving to become an Outcome Agreement Manager at the Scottish Funding Council. Philip works closely with Colleges and Universities across Scotland to ensure students have the best experience possible in Colleges and Universities that deliver for their communities and Scotland as a whole. A long-suffering Newcastle United fan, Phil is glad to have finally found a winning team with WEA Scotland.

Kathleen Formosa, Company Secretary & Head of Corporate Governance

Kathleen Formosa WEA

Kathleen joined WEA in September 2019, following a thirteen year career in the UK where she was successively company secretary to the Architectural Association, the Conservatoire for Dance & Drama, and a governance professional in private practice, advising multi-academy trusts and independent schools having non-standard structures and unique governance challenges.
Originally from the United States, Kathleen holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Rutgers University and trained as a university lecturer.  After several years in teaching and programme leadership roles at universities in and around New York City, Kathleen joined a small team of academics and administrators reporting to Senator Bob Kerrey, then President of The New School, to assist with the reorganisation of the institution’s confederal system of formerly independent small colleges into a unitary structure.  During this time, she served as Director for Undergraduate Liberal Studies, one of the several interdisciplinary programmes launched by The New School as part of the reorganisation.  
Kathleen is part of WEA’s Leadership Team and leads on work relating to the governance review now in progress.  With the Director of WEA Scotland, she ensures sound administrative support for the Scotland Board.  She also tracks and facilitates WEA’s corporate policy development, maintains its statutory registers, liaises with regulators on matters of compliance, and serves as the point of contact for legal and professional advice taken on behalf of WEA.  

Karen McArdle 

Karen McArdle WEA

Professor Karen McArdle FRSA has more than 30 years’ experience of adult learning, working in Australia and Scotland.  In this time she has come to value highly the work of the third sector in general and the WEA, in particular.   She is a member and Convenor of WEA Scotland.  When not working, she spends her time with her pony Pepper.

Alison Morrison, Voluntary member of the Scottish Board and Highland Local Association

WEA Scotland Board Member Alison Morrison

Alison was born in York and attended Hull University where she qualified as a teacher and worked in London.  She then married and moved to Aberdeen where she became involved with developing the WEA organization and delivery.

As one of the original tutors in the North East Reach Out Programme she was introduced to the WEA’s inclusive ethos and this shaped her career as an educationalist and lifelong adult learner. A Master of Education in Special Educational Needs developed advanced pedagogical skills in theory and practice for marginalised young people, their families and communities.  This led to her taking up key roles to develop support provision in schools to engage, with children and families at risk of exclusion from mainstream learning in Aberdeen.

Throughout her career she remained an active member of the North East Local Association. After being Chair for two years she became the Area Educational Manager of the North East of Scotland. During her time as AEM she worked with her team to engage with marginalised groups and embed Family Learning into the curriculum.

After retiring in 2012 she moved to Germany where she once again became an Adult Learner; learning German through the EU funded ESOL programme and then volunteering with the German YMCA and the Volkeshohschule, where she worked in integration and basic language programmes with many of the million refugees who came to Germany in 2014 . 

Alison has benefitted from, and contributed to Adult Education for many years. She believes self development for everyone is a means of achieving more out of life and gives learners a sense of fulfillment of personal potential and in turn self respect and happiness.