We have an experienced team of experts ready to support the delivery of your project.

Meet the team

Dr Lauren Bellaera – Chief Impact and Strategy Officer

Lauren leads The Brilliant Club’s research, quality assurance, and strategy work, and is a Lecturer at the Institute of Education, UCL. Her research focuses on the development and measurement of cognitive outcomes in education. In 2019, Lauren completed a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Massachusetts Lowell where she examined the role of critical thinking in higher education – for information about the research findings, see Bellaera et al..

Most recently, Lauren collaborated on a sector-wide research project to validate a set of measures for student access and success outcomes. These measures have since been published by the Centre for Transforming Access and Success in Higher Education.

Lauren sits on a number of boards where she advises on research and strategy, including the Editorial Board for the Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning journal, Career Connect’s Board of Trustees, and the Governance Group for the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT).

Dr Katie Jones – Research & Evaluation Manager

Katie has led The Brilliant Club’s research and evaluation consultancy service for the past five years, successfully delivering projects for a broad range of organisations including HE providers, third sector organisations, government bodies and schools. Katie has developed a wide-ranging set of knowledge and skills across the HE sector and the research landscape. Her expertise covers sector consultations, institution-wide research, evaluation strategy, programme evaluation, training and resource development.

Katie enjoys supporting teams to succeed through their projects and interventions, working closely with clients to understand the context of projects and always pushing for the best possible outcomes for beneficiaries.

The holder of a PhD in Psychology and Cognitive Science from the University of Warwick, Katie is also trained in advanced social science research methods, and works to apply these skills in qualitative and quantitative methods to real-world challenges.

Hannah Thomson – Senior Research & Evaluation Officer

Since joining the Brilliant Club, Hannah has worked with over fifteen higher education and third sector organisations to evaluate their higher education access and success work. Her experience ranges from full-scale evaluations of programmes, to creating evidence reviews to inform new programmes, to providing evaluation training and support. She has particular expertise in qualitative research methods and analysis and in designing and delivering bespoke workshops to upskill staff in theory of change and evaluation practices.

Hannah has authored a literature review of relevant outcomes for higher education access and success and multiple blogs for The Brilliant Club on topics related to education research and policy. Before joining The Brilliant Club, Hannah completed a BA in Education at the University of Cambridge (first class), an MA in Education (Psychology) at the Institute of Education, UCL (distinction), and worked in the outreach team at the University of Cambridge.

Anne-Marie Canning MBE – CEO

Anne-Marie has led the Brilliant Club since March 2020. She has developed the charity’s strategy, scaled existing programmes and led the establishment of new areas of work. She is widely acknowledged as a powerful voice in social mobility and education and has advised institutions, ministers and policy makers.

During her time as a Director at King’s College London Anne-Marie provided strategic, institution-wide leadership for social mobility and had significant successes in widening participation, student success, academic support, communication, evaluation and fundraising. Anne-Marie helped to establish the What Works Centre for Access and Student Outcomes and co-founded an award-winning parental engagement and community organising endeavour, Parent Power.

For over 6 years Anne-Marie held a public appointment as the Independent Chair of the Department for Education’s Bradford Opportunity Area and has significant expertise in place-based working.

Anne-Marie has a Masters with Distinction in Public Policy and Management from Birkbeck, University of London. She holds a University of Oxford Teaching Award and was awarded an MBE for services to higher education in 2018.

Nikki Labrum – Chief Digital Officer

Nikki leads The Brilliant Club’s IT team and is responsible for the digital transformation strategy at the charity. She brings two decades of expertise in the digital domain. Beginning her IT career in 2003 as a web developer, she went on to establish and lead digital and IT teams for organisations predominantly serving the public and third sectors.

Her career includes 9 years at a global research consultancy, where she worked with clients such as the UK government, the European Commission, and the World Bank, prior to transitioning to the nonprofit sector. While Nikki possesses a broad range of IT skills, her specific areas of proficiency are in digital transformation, agile delivery methodologies, and human-centred design.

Susie Whigham – Chief Programmes & Communities Officer

Susie leads the development and implementation of The Brilliant Club’s programmes which support underrepresented students to progress to the most competitive universities and succeed when they are there.

Prior to this, Susie was Executive Director of Services at School-Home Support where she led a range of programmes tackling the barriers to learning within the home, including the Parent Support Advisor and Troubled Families initiatives. Susie chaired the National Home School Development Group and led Unlocking Potential, an initiative to engage parents in their child’s learning, in partnership with the Mayor’s Fund for London.

Susie started her career on the first cohort of Teach First, where she taught English in a London secondary school and worked as a Literacy Consultant for the DfE’s National Strategies programme.

Dr Madison Kerr – Programmes Evaluation Manager

Madison leads the evaluation of The Brilliant Club’s university access and success programmes. Previously, Madison worked as an Economist at Pro Bono Economics helping third-sector organisations to understand the types of data and methods to enable them to articulate the monetary value of their impact.

She has worked with Speakers for Schools, Royal National Children’s Springboard and West London Zone to put a monetary value on their educational interventions. She has experience in cost-benefit analysis, SROI, breakeven analysis, quasi-experimental design, and wellbeing valuation.  Additionally, Madison has a PhD in Economics, with a focus on Microeconometrics, from the University of York.  

Jenny Paterson – Pedagogy & Curriculum Development Lead

Jenny has worked at The Brilliant Club since March 2018. Prior to her current role, she was the Director of Researchers in Schools, a bespoke teacher training route for those with a PhD.  She now leads on the pedagogy and curriculum development of the charity’s programmes with a focus on quality assurance and has implemented a strategy for this across all programmes.

Jenny’s background is in teaching.  Having taught for over 20 years in a range of non-selective state schools she has been head of department, head of 6th form and assistant head for teaching and learning.  She has experience in long term curriculum development, Ofsted preparation, UCAS applications and pedagogy and teaching quality at a whole school level.

Additionally, as well as a PGCE, Jenny holds a Masters with Distinction in Social Justice and Education from the University of York.

Dr Charlotte Hallahan – Senior Policy and Communications Officer

Charlotte leads The Brilliant Club’s policy strategy and engagement, and has particular expertise in educational inequality, and widening participation regulations and policy. In her role at the charity, she has authored several articles on educational inequality and higher education, and leads the charity’s engagement with political and educational organisations, such as the Office for Students and the Department for Education.

Previously, Charlotte worked for the Civil Service as a Senior Policy Advisor, advising ministers on housing and transport policy. She has also worked with other charities on their education policy positions, conducting research on access routes to translation for the National Centre for Writing. She holds a PhD in Literature and History from the University of East Anglia, and a Masters with Distinction and a First Class Bachelors in English from the University of Southampton.

Dr Natalie Day – Director of University Partnerships

Natalie leads on university stakeholder relationships across all The Brilliant Club’s programmes and projects. A priority of her role is ensuring alignment between our offering and universities’ strategic agenda, with a particular focus on expectations from the regulator. In recent months, Natalie has applied her extensive sector knowledge and research background to support the development of Access and Participation Plans at three UK Higher Education institutions.

Natalie holds a PhD in Sociology from Newcastle University, and is proficient in qualitative research methods.

Haider Abbas – Associate Consultant

Haider is an associate consultant to the Brilliant Consulting Unit supporting us with strategy development. Originally from Pakistan, Haider is the founder of The Kafalah Trust – a non-profit that helps underprivileged Pakistanis find safe and legal employment overseas. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from Princeton University and is currently pursuing his MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to his MBA, Haider was a Strategy Consultant at Bain & Company.

Our collaborators

We work with other researchers and academics to support the delivery of our projects. We do this by drawing upon our PhD community of over 400 PhD and post-doctoral researchers, who we can bring into projects to utilise specific skillsets and subject expertise. We also regularly collaborate with academics on research projects. Currently, we are working with Dr Sonia Ilie, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education University of Cambridge, and further information about our latest research project can be found here.