Led by John Connolly, Chief Executive, our senior team has a passion for seeing learners, our communities and the businesses we work with succeed. They combine this drive with expertise, skills, knowledge and experience, from both the public and private sectors, to lead with ambition, care and professionalism.
John Connolly is Chief Executive of the RNN Group. He represents RNN on a number of stakeholder, business and public sector groups within the Sheffield City Region and D2N2 (Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire) Local Enterprise Partnership areas and is a Board member of the Nottinghamshire Children and Families Partnership. Prior to this, John was Principal and Chief Executive of North Notts College, one of the constituent members of RNN Group, for eight years, having originally joined the College as Director of Finance after fulfilling this role in the construction, property and other industry sectors. John is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA).
Phil Sayles is Deputy Principal of the RNN Group. He is strongly focused on developing our Colleges and the contribution they make to our region, including the development of our Higher Education and skills offer and our new university centre. He leads on projects and opportunities with employers, stakeholders and funders, and works with our employer-serving ‘RNN Training’ operation.
As Deputy Principal at Rotherham College from 2011 to 2016, Phil led significant improvements to quality, student experience and success, reflected in the College attaining its best ever Ofsted grade. Prior to that, he was a Director at Lincoln College, successfully leading all types of curriculum, including commercial and international activity. Before that, Phil was the Director of a department rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted at Grimsby College, having joined initially as a tutor, following roles in the construction supplies and retail sectors.
Jason Austin is Vice Principal Curriculum and Quality with responsibility for Curriculum and Student Services at our three Colleges in Worksop, Rotherham and Dearne Valley, which serve over 12,000 students each year. Jason has worked in Further Education for 25 years having worked in four colleges, undertaking various teaching and management roles. Jason’s teaching career began as a lecturer in Sport and Leisure and since then has taught and managed across a variety of curriculum areas. He has been in College management for the past 18 years and Deputy Principal for three years at Dearne Valley College with strategic responsibility for Curriculum and Quality across the College. In his three years at Dearne Valley Jason led significant improvements to achievement rates and the student experience. Jason is on the Board of trustees with a National Awarding Organisation as a representative from the Further Education sector.
Kate Noble is the Director of Finance for RNN Group. She has overall responsibility for financial leadership, management and expertise for RNN Group and to ensure long term financial health and viability. Before joining RNN Group, Kate held senior finance positions in different sectors including construction and the steel industry. Kate is a Chartered Accountant (ACA) and has a PhD in Chemistry and Materials Engineering from the University of Sheffield.
Tony De’Ath is the Clerk to the Governors and Director of Estates and IT at the RNN Group. Prior to this he was the Clerk to the Governors at Dearne Valley College for 25 years alongside his role at the College having responsibility for Estates, Health and Safety, IT and Human Resources Leadership and Management. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
Claire Godfrey is the Assistant Principal at the RNN Group, leading a diverse range of curriculum including the areas of the Arts, Creative Digital, Business Services, Engineering, Construction, Health, Care and has strategic responsibility for English and maths, in our three further and Higher Education colleges. Claire was a Director at North Notts College from 2007 onwards, leading on curriculum delivery and planning, and learner experience. Claire joined the education sector at Vision West Notts College as a tutor, after running her own business alongside study at Nottingham Trent University.
Natalie James is Director of Funding and Contracts of the RNN Group. She leads on funding and is responsible for management information, bids and contracting. Natalie also manages the commercial business the Boathouse Café and the Sports Centre at Dearne Valley College. Natalie is a CIMA qualified accountant and has an MBA. Natalie previously worked at Barnsley and Doncaster TEC, Barnsley Health Authority and in the manufacturing, hotels and electrical retail sectors before joining Dearne Valley College in October 2001 as Financial Controller. Prior to merger, Natalie was the Executive Director: Finance.
As Director of Quality, Cheryl Martin is responsible for maintaining and improving all aspects of quality assurance and improvement. After a career working in a variety of roles within the private sector, Cheryl joined the education sector in 1999 as a Marketing and Events Manager for the online learning provider Ufi/learndirect. She joined Dearne Valley College in 2007 and has gained extensive experience since then in curriculum and quality management. Cheryl’s qualifications include a Master’s Degree in Learning and Development Management and a Certificate in Education. She is passionate about improving the life chances of children and young adults and has recently been appointed as Governor for one of the UK’s best performing group of academies.
Jana Checkley is the Director of Higher Education and Skills for RNN Group and leads on the Higher Education degrees and Apprenticeships across our three Colleges. She began her career teaching English Literature and Information Technology at Royal Holloway, before moving into education management. She became Resident Director, then the Director of Academic and Student Services before joining RNN Group; overseeing the curriculum and strategic planning of Higher Education programs. Jana’s qualifications include a Master’s Degree in English and Master’s Degree in Education, and a PGCE. She has also developed online training courses in English, maths, and study skills. Jana is also a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.