Gary Foxcroft  BA (Hons), M(Res)

Gary Foxcroft BA (Hons), M(Res)

Chief Executive Officer

Gary has 10 years of experience of managing organisations and working with governments, donors and educationalists in West Africa to deliver improvements in reading and writing for children. His vision, drive and commitment to raising literacy levels in the region have seen thousands of teachers in Gambia and Nigeria receive high quality literacy training and support.

Gary has a particular passion for working with partners to enable less privileged children to access their right to a decent level of education. This has led to him co-founding charities and schools in Nigeria, presenting papers at international academic conferences and hosting government delegations at the Houses of Parliament in London.

Through his work with Universal Learning Solutions, Gary intends to build upon these successes and provide the support and leadership needed in order to enable millions more children around the world experience the wonder of being able to read and write.

Naomi Foxcroft BA (Hons) PGCE

Naomi Foxcroft BA (Hons) PGCE

Technical Director

After obtaining a First Class Degree in Primary Education and Geography, Naomi worked as a primary school teacher for ten years. She has worked extensively with Primary and Nursery children. Whilst working with young children, Naomi developed an interest in how best to teach them to read and write.

A range of options were made available to her, but she soon noticed that the synthetic phonics method lead to reading success for all children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and children who spoke English as a second language.

Excited by the impact of synthetic phonics in the UK, Naomi chose to travel to Nigeria to establish a school in Nigeria. The school was unique in that all teachers were trained in synthetic phonics,using the Jolly Phonics programme. The results speak for themselves. Pupils’ writing is so impressive that it can be confused with that of the teacher and their reading is clear and fluent.

Naomi has since facilitated the training of thousands of teachers in Nigeria and in the Gambia and she continues to advocate for synthetic phonics tuition within a rich literary environment in every classroom throughout the globe.

Louise Gittins LLB PGCE

Louise Gittins LLB PGCE

Projects Director

After graduating from Lancaster University with First Class Honours in International Law LLB, Louise undertook a graduate scheme with educational charity Teach First where she worked and qualified as a secondary school English teacher in a challenging inner-city school.

As almost all of the children Louise taught had English as an additional language, with many children starting the school being completely illiterate even in their first language, ensuring that the children gained essential basic literacy skills was of primary concern.

A synthetic phonics approach was introduced throughout the school and Louise was involved in teaching a number of schemes to whole classes as well as on a one-to-one basis. The results were fantastic and the school is now a model for others with similar issues. Having witnessed the potential of this method, Louise is now an advocate for synthetic phonics and has facilitated the training of thousands of teachers in Nigeria as well as advising State and Federal level government on how to successfully introduce it.

She has presented at the Reading Reform Foundation conference, attended a number of Jolly Phonics Trainers’ conferences and has completed the online Jolly Phonics course as well as having experience of adapting and using the Early Grade Reading Assessment. Louise is also undertaking PhD research on a rights-based approach to improving early grade literacy in Nigeria.

Katy Liundi BA (hons) PGCE MA

Katy Liundi BA (hons) PGCE MA

Chief Operating Officer

Katy originally trained as a secondary school teacher before starting her career in international development over 14 years ago. Since then she has managed health and education programmes across East Africa specialising in operations, logistics, organisational development and change management. Katy also has a Masters in International Development from Manchester University.

Working at grass roots level in East Africa for many years Katy has advocated for bottom up approaches to development. She continues to be driven by working in partnership with governments across Africa in order to enable children to access their right to education.

At Universal Learning Solutions Katy manages our rapidly expanding team along with our operations across the world.

Jessica Drury BA (hons) MA

Jessica Drury BA (hons) MA

Project Manager

Jessica is Zimbabwean, born and raised, with a passion for African education, having been both a student and a teacher on the continent.

After finishing her undergraduate studies at Rhodes University in South Africa, Jessica returned home to teach high school English in Harare. As well as teaching in a mainstream school, Jessica has also had experience teaching EFL to adults and children, and has been involved in teacher training. She completed an MA in Global Development and Education at the University of Leeds in 2013.

She is a firm believer in the transformative power of education for individuals and communities and is committed to working towards the delivery of quality, contextually relevant education for all.

Victor Poluektoff BSc MPH

Victor Poluektoff BSc MPH

Project Manager

Victor spent his early twenties volunteering for educational and health projects in Ghana and Nigeria where he also completed research projects for International Water Management Institute and WHO. Back in the UK he worked for Food Standards Agency Scotland and NHS absorbing unique lessons of managing large-scale projects.

His keen interest in education and synthetic phonics in particular brought him to Asia where he spent five years perfecting his teaching skills and researching the impact of Jolly Phonics on primary schools students.

Victor has since joined Universal Learning Solutions where he manages the Jolly Phonics programmes in his tireless pursuit of accessible literacy for disadvantaged children.

Keri Brown

Keri Brown

Finance Manager

Keri is a part qualified accountant, studying CIMA, who has over 10 years’ experience of working with not for profit organisations after making the career decision to leave Commercial accounting. Keri divides her time between managing the finances for Universal Learning Solutions along with our overseas finances. Keri prefers to work in the voluntary sector as the ethos of non-profit fits with her passion of working to help others.

Patrick Nkem-Uzu

Patrick Nkem-Uzu

Nigerian Co-ordinator

Patrick is an experienced educationalist with a great passion for improving the lives of young people in Nigeria and around the world.

Through his work with as the Founder/ Executive Director of Tomorrow Leaders Foundation, Patrick has been instrumental  in the increasing use of the synthetic phonics method across Nigeria. In addition to co-ordinating a number of state-wide pilot and implementation projects, Patrick has been at the forefront of the push for the Nigerian Federal Government to incorporate the synthetic phonics method in the national curriculum. This has recently seen him work closely with the Nigerian Education and Research Development Council to develop a draft curriculum for this method.

Patrick is also a motivational speaker, and a trained life coach and counsellor. He has written several books targeted at developing the youths, some of which includes Jackie Goes to School, Two Wrongs Do Not Make a Right, Amaka’s Dream, and The King’s Akpa. He also organizes workshops to empower and motivate youths and teachers.

He was born in Nigeria in 1965 and is married to his lovely wife, Stella. They are blessed with two children, Japheth Somtochukwu and Chiedu Victory. They live in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Sarah Shepherd  BA (Hons) PGCE MA

Sarah Shepherd BA (Hons) PGCE MA

Education Quality Manager

Sarah began her career in education as a qualified primary class teacher in Blackburn, UK where she taught Year 1, 5 & 6. It was during those years that she first taught Jolly Phonics. After five years of teaching, Sarah lived and worked in The Gambia, West Africa, as a VSO volunteer where she trained teachers and school administrators in early years literacy (with a particular focus on synthetic phonics), large class engagement and management, and whole school development.

Prior to joining the team at Universal Learning Solutions, Sarah was an assistant principal in a large inner city primary charter school in New York, U.S. that worked predominantly with low-income families. During her 7 years working in the charter school system Sarah coached and trained thousands of teachers in early years literacy, maths, formal assessments and behavior management.

Sarah also has a masters degree in Education and International Development from the Institute of Education, University of London.

At Universal Learning Solutions, Sarah is developing teaching and learning materials, supporting various pilot studies and keeping up to date with research on best practices in Literacy teaching. She is also ensuring that ULS’s collaboration with various development partners is strong and productive. In addition, Sarah supports two programmes in Abuja FCT and Nasarawa Nigeria that improve children’s literacy skills through the teaching of Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar. Sarah enjoys mentoring and advising various education partners at the Ministry of Education and local Nigerian universities on teacher training methods, teacher capacity building, project management, report writing, and student assessment.

Stuart Kean BA (Hons) CELTA MA

Stuart Kean BA (Hons) CELTA MA

Literacy Project Officer

Stuart worked as an educator with a focus on English Language training for over five years’ in South East Asia, where he taught both Primary and Secondary students. He worked for both government run state schools and private international schools and it was seeing the wide disparity in educational opportunity and social capital that redirected his focus to improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged children.

This experience led Stuart to study Educational Planning, Economics and International Development at University College London’s Institute of Education and then to work on education and health projects in Zambia and Cambodia before joining Universal Learning Solutions.

It is his belief that education is the key to pursuing a life in which an individual sees meaning and derives happiness from, and that English literacy is a vital part in enabling the pursuit of this in a 21st Century context.

Richard Turnbull BA (Hons)

Richard Turnbull BA (Hons)

Literacy Project Officer

Richard has spent most of the last decade organising volunteer development projects in Africa and Latin America. Working at a grass roots level in rural communities, he has endeavoured to provide access to basic human rights, especially within the fields of education and nutrition. In his previous job, Richard was the Operations Manager for Latin America of a social enterprise which provided vital learning experiences for young people from around the world.

Richard has an undergraduate degree in Arabic and Spanish from the University of Leeds and is passionate about learning languages and the opportunities this can create. He has joined the Universal Learning Solutions team hoping that his love for languages can be channelled into making a positive impact on literacy in the developing world.