Poverty Commission: meet the board

We are calling on organisations, students' unions and the public to help us identify the barriers that working class people face in order to access and succeed in post-16 education.

Central to this ambitious piece of work are our commissioners, ten experts, selected not only for their knowledge but passion that education is a public good and belief that it belongs to all of society.

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Shakira Martin (Chair) - NUS President

Poverty Commission Board

Shakira Martin is the President of the National Union Students. After serving as Vice President (Further Education) for two years, Shakira was elected President in April 2017. She successfully completed a Diploma in Education and Training while sitting on the NUS Black Students’ Campaign Committee as the FE representative. Shakira is the second President in NUS history to not have gone to university before taking up the post.

Courtney Boateng - Student University of Cambridge

Poverty Commission board

Courtney is a student from North London. Despite her background she was able to secure a place at Robinson College, University of Cambridge to study Human, Social and Political Sciences. Courtney is extremely passionate about encouraging young people to reach their full potential and she uses her YouTube channel to promote this vision. Her channel now has over 30,000 subscribers.

Iain Murray - TUC Senior Policy officer

Poverty Commission Board

Iain is a Senior Policy Officer at the TUC and leads on education and skills policy. Before joining the TUC he worked as a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion and before that as an Information Officer at the National Children’s Bureau.

Sam Budd - CEO Bristol Students’ Union

Poverty Commission Board

Sam is Chief Executive of Bristol SU. She is currently a trustee of NUS Charitable Services and the Bristol Museum Development Trust. Her professional life has largely been education focused with a particular emphasis on creating fair access to education for all. She is passionate about EDI issues and has won many awards with her teams.

Debbie Weekes-Bernard - JRF Policy and Research Manager

Poverty Commission Board

Debbie is Policy and Research Manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. She manages JRF work on ethnicity and poverty and child poverty with additional expertise in labour markets, education, lone parents and young people.  Debbie was previously Head of Research for the Runnymede Trust where she was responsible for research on racial inequalities in education, the criminal justice system and the labour market, working closely with teachers, trade unions and academics. 

Wanda Wyporska - Executive Director, The Equality Trust

Poverty Commission Board

Dr Wanda Wyporska, FRSA is Executive Director at The Equality Trust, which campaigns to improve the quality of life in the UK by reducing social and economic inequality. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the University of York, a trustee of LGBT History Month and the Equality and Diversity Forum and an author. 

Carmen Smith - NUS Wales Deputy President

Poverty Commission board

Carmen Smith is the current NUS Wales Deputy President, and was recently re-elected to a second term. She was previously President of Grŵp Llandrillo-Menai Students’ Union and a General Senator at Bangor University Students’ Union. Carmen is particularly involved with the development of the National Society of Apprentices Wales, learner voice development in Further Education Colleges and is a Board Member representing the UK at the European Students’ Union.

Jeremiah Emmanual – Campaigner

Poverty Commission Board

Jeremiah Emmanuel (BEM) is a youth activist and entrepreneur from London, UK. He started working within his local community at the age of four, campaigning around several issues that affected young people. After years of youth work he now runs his own creative consultancy enterprise EMNL Consultancy.  

Andy Forbes - Principle, Haringay, Enfield and NE London College

Poverty Commission board

Andy is Principal of the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London. He began as a secondary school English teacher before switching to Further Education. Since then his career has seen him take on the role of; Principal of Hertford Regional College, VP at Blackpool and the Fylde College and Director of Widening Participation at Oldham College.

Andrew Sumner - CEO, Monster

Poverty Commission board

Andy graduated with a degree in Chemistry and has worked in sales and leadership roles with Xerox, Cable and Wireless and Reliance Globalcom. Andy has been the Managing Director for Monster UK and Ireland since 2013. Monster is committed to helping people “find better” in their careers, and Andy and his team play a very active role in promoting diversity and equal opportunity.

Dr Faiza Shaheen - Director, CLASS

Poverty Commission Board

Faiza was born and raised in East London and is an economist, writer, activist and commentator. Faiza is a regular contributor to debates on popular news programmes including Newsnight and Channel 4 News, and has worked with Channel 4 and the BBC to develop documentaries on inequality. Her PhD from the University of Manchester charted the changing geography of poverty between 1971 and 2001 in the UK, and modelled the economic, demographic and societal factors driving these trends.

Sophia Cannon - Barrister and social justice commentator

Poverty Commission Board

Sophia is an all-round broadcaster, commentator, barrister and superwoman! She is currently working with American tech companies and the British Government, to increase diversity in technology, design and venture capitalism, and is writing a non-fiction book, UndercoverMutha, about a new legal and social orthodoxy to address increasing sexual inequality, as well as an accompanying television dramatisation.