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Women Leaders and Aspiring Women Leaders came together at the University to take part in a conference jointly hosted by the University of Sunderland, WomenEd and Women Leading in Education.  The theme of the conference was: 'New Challenges 2019: Preparing for a Leadership Role.'

Delegates were able to find out about the ways in which WomenEd and Women Leading in Education can support them at all points on their leadership journey.  

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The Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society, Dr Lynne McKenna, is a regional leader of WomenEd, supporting their “10% Braver” motto and encouraging women to pursue leadership opportunities.  She conceptualised the conference, recognising the regional importance of hosting it at the University of Sunderland – an organisation which prides itself on supporting women leaders and aspiring women leaders.

The conference was opened by Melanie Bear (WomenEd North East Leader) and Nikki Smith (from DfE Women Leading in Education) who gave excellent presentations on the work of their organisations and the ways in which leaders and aspiring leaders can become involved and get support – including through being linked with experienced leadership coaches to support their journey.  

Delegates were very enthused by inspiring presentations given by Sarah Dixon- Jones (Executive Head of Mill Hill and Houghton Community nursery Schools), Helen Mather (Assistant Principal of Southmoor Multi Academy Trust) and Monica Shepherd (Principal of St Anthony’s Catholic Academy for Girls and director of Schools North East).  

Sarah talked passionately about her route into leadership and the ways in which her leadership roles have progressed.  She shared the challenges she had faced along the way and how she was able to overcome them in order to reach her goals.  

Helen talked about her leadership journey and future aspirations.  She discussed finding paths into leadership and knowing what she wanted from her career.  In giving delegates a flavour of her own work since she qualified, Helen (a former University of Sunderland trainee) was able to demonstrate a very different leadership path to Sarah and show how it is possible to progress in one MAT if you have a passion for it.

Monica gave some invaluable advice to delegates about how to identify and apply for suitable leadership roles and the ways in which aspiring leaders can plot their career aspirations and follow them.  She identified where challenges may lie, but also the ways they can be overcome if you are passionate about what you want to achieve for yourself. 

Closing the event, Dr. Lynne McKenna drew the inspiring messages of the other speakers together and re-emphasised the “10% Braver” message.  She spoke about her own passion to develop leaders within the Faculty of Education and Society and the importance of supporting her staff in their own career and academic development.

The conference was exceptionally well received and opportunties for delegates to network led to them being able to make new connections to support them in their future goals.  Comments about the inspirational nature of the event were received through feedback and via the WomenEd hashtag (#WomenEd), such as:

“…congratulations on a great event. I certainly left feeling inspired by the speakers.”

“Such a great event this evening!  Thank you to the wonderful speakers…”

WomenEd NE and Women Leading in Education run a range of events regionally and nationally which can be booked free of charge via EventBrite.  



10 young artists have been announced as the finalist for the 2019 Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor (GDNEYS) award - including two Sunderland graduates and a current undergraduate.

Each young sculptors has been awarded £300 to develop their ideas for an installation or sculpture. Our winning three are: 

Amelia Gray, BA (Hons) Fine Art (2018), Kelsey Lynn Mayo, MA Glass and Ceramics (2018) and Rayanne Noble, who is the final year of BA (Hons) Fine Art.

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In 2018 Sienna Giffin Shaw, who graduated BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics, 2017, and Jonny Michie who graduated BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics last summer, were finalists to create a work for Cheeseburn Sculpture based in Northumberland.

Graduate Dan Gough (BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics, 2016) won the first Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor Award in 2016, creating his ambitious sculpture ‘Scurry’ comprising 2,000 red and grey squirrels.

Matthew Jarratt, curator and mentor at Cheeseburn said, “We are delighted to have received a record number of applications to this year’s Gillian Dickinson North East Young Sculptor competition. We present a diverse selection of proposals from ten young artists, who come from a range of backgrounds, courses and institutions across the North East. What is particularly of note is that, this year, 70% of our shortlisted proposals are from female artists.”

With funding from the Gillian Dickinson Trust confirmed until 2021, the GDNEYS award provides opportunities to artists aged between 18 and 25 years old, who work or study in the region. The shortlisted artists for 2019 will present their proposals at Cheeseburn this spring, and the winner will receive £6,500 to develop their proposal into an installation or sculpture to be sited within the grounds of Cheeseburn.

The ten finalists are:

Jamie Hammill, who graduated from Newcastle University’s Fine Art course and is based at NewBridge Studios; Susannah Curran, a fellow Newcastle University Fine Art graduate based at Cobalt Studios; Northumbria University graduate, Bethan Williams; Sunderland University graduate, Amelia Gray; Sunderland Master of Glass and Ceramics graduate, Kelsey Lynn Mayo; Northumbria University graduate, Amy Matthews; Sunderland University graduate, Rayanne NobleMatthew Dowell, who is from Sunderland, but who studied at both Kingston University and the Royal College of Art; Newcastle University Master of Fine Art graduate, Ella Jones, and Teesside University graduate, Cameron Lings.