Back to: About SHINE
In this section: TrusteesPatronsStaff

Introducing our staff

Our dedicated team is passionate about making a difference to the lives of the most disadvantaged children and young people across the North of England.

Helen Rafferty

Helen Rafferty

Interim Chief Executive

Helen has had a varied career in commercial consulting, engineering, and science. Her educational background is in science education, particularly physics, and this has included setting up and supporting national teacher and student networks for the Institute of Physics, and leading evaluation and research for the British Science Association. She has also taught maths and science to school and university students, and gained a PhD in Computational Quantum Electronics. Helen began working for SHINE in 2017, when her passion for giving disadvantaged children the best opportunities in life saw her return to her Northern roots. Helen is Interim Chief Executive during Fiona Spellman’s maternity leave, until May 2024.

In my role at SHINE I’m proud to be able to catalyse the very best that education has to offer across the North. I firmly believe in the children, teachers and people of the North, and I’m proud to be able to build better outcomes in school education for children and families across the region.

Leanne Marquis

Interim Senior Programme Manager

Leanne comes from a programme management background. She has worked in a range of roles across the charity sector focusing on her passion for youth development. This has included leading a team of volunteers in Nicaragua to deliver the International Citizen Service Entrepreneur project, and managing the National Citizen Service programme in North Yorkshire. Leanne currently leads on the development and implementation of our grant-making strategies for the North of England.

I believe in a world where everyone can thrive no matter what their start in life. I’ve been so inspired by the innovation of the projects SHINE has funded. I feel honoured to be working with schools, early years settings and academy trusts to boost school achievement across the North of England.

Ellie Bowden

Interim Programme Manager

Ellie previously worked in education, teaching at various primary schools around Yorkshire and Greater Manchester. This meant she was able to experience first-hand the challenges disadvantaged children and families face daily, as well having an appreciation for pressures teachers face in the current climate. Ellie is now working closely with the Senior Communications Manager to help with the website, social media and publications and the Senior Development Manager to deliver and manage events. Ellie currently manages our projects in the North of England.

I am extremely passionate about bettering education and supporting teachers to work in deprived communities with families, children and their schools to grow the aspirations and attainment of their pupils. SHINE’s values align with this, and the team does fantastic work in delivering these goals. I feel extremely privileged to be on this journey with them.

Eleanor Heathcote

Programme Manager

Eleanor taught at primary and secondary level in deprived areas of inner-city Leeds and Bradford for 15 years before joining SHINE in 2019. She manages the annual Let Teachers SHINE competition.

SHINE is a great organisation to work for. I’m proud to be part of a small, flexible team committed to making a difference to the lives of disadvantaged young people. The teachers and organisations delivering education projects are truly inspirational and I feel privileged to be able to support them.

Matthew Roberts

Senior Development Manager

Matthew has worked with the UK’s leading arts organisations, grantmakers and philanthropists to build support for transformational outreach and education projects. At SHINE, Matthew works with the CEO to deliver the fundraising strategy.

Throughout my career I have been privileged to see how entrepreneurial people can make such a positive change to children’s lives. At SHINE, I am proud to help support philanthropists on their giving journey and help organisations to invest in projects that are life changing for young people across the North.

Adrian Braddy

Senior Communications Manager

Before joining SHINE, Adrian spent 20 years as a journalist, including 15 as editor of regional newspapers and magazines in the North of England. Adrian heads up all aspects of SHINE’s communications, including the website, social media and publications.

As a son of two teachers and a dad of two children currently progressing through school, I am passionate about education provision in the North. It is a real honour to be able to share some of the inspirational stories behind the projects that SHINE supports.

Robbie Withers

Executive Assistant and Office Manager

Prior to joining SHINE, Robbie spent five years working in education in Greater Manchester. During his time at a teaching school serving disadvantaged communities in Salford, he held several roles, including PA to the Executive Principal and Training Coordinator. During this time, Robbie gained first-hand knowledge of working with pupils and teachers within underprivileged areas and a passion for creating equal opportunities for children from all backgrounds.

Having previously worked with SHINE during a transition to secondary school project focusing on disadvantaged pupils in Salford, I was amazed at the work they do and the support they give to teachers. I have a true passion for SHINE’s values and so I was thrilled to join the central team.

Sarah Burdett-Smith-Whitting

Grants Administrator

Sarah has a Master’s degree in Poverty and Development, and has worked for a number of different charities and higher education institutions, supporting both children and teachers to fulfil their potential. Sarah is now working as the Grants Administrator, supporting the wider Grants team with their work.

It is a privilege to be part of such a fantastic team here at SHINE; making a real difference to the lives of disadvantaged children in the North through all the amazing projects we fund and support.
Fiona Spellman

Fiona Spellman

Chief Executive (on maternity leave)

Fiona began her career as a maths teacher. She worked at two challenging secondary schools in Manchester and London, getting first-hand insight into the challenges facing young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Fiona left teaching in 2011 to join SHINE as a Programme Manager, focusing on improving school achievement mostly in London. In August 2017, Fiona was appointed as CEO to lead SHINE’s mission to tackle educational inequality in the North of England.

Improving education for the most disadvantaged children is my life’s passion. I love working amongst such committed people and I love that every day is different. If I won the lottery I’d still do the job I do. Not many people can say that.