Ben Smith, Chair

Ben Smith, Chair

In addition to being Chair of the AO-Forum, Ben is the Business Development Manager for Gordon Associates. His wide-ranging role includes strategic partnerships, liaison with regulators and fostering good business practice across vocational qualifications and apprenticeships.

Gordon Associates is the market-leading provider of Parnassus (AO management system), Talus (EPAO management system) and Monarch (compliance and governance). For further information please see:

Elaine Carlile

Elaine Carlile, Strategic Engagement Manager, Qualifications Wales

Elaine recently joined Qualifications Wales as strategic engagement manager for the higher and further education as well as the work-based learning sectors, following 15 years working at WJEC.  At WJEC Elaine initially progressed from her role as Subject Officer to Assistant Director before being appointed as the Director of Qualifications, Assessment, and Responsible Officer, overseeing qualification design, assessment development and the delivery of each examination series. Originally from Ireland, Elaine is an award-winning teacher having worked in schools teaching music and performing arts and taking strategic responsibility for assessment and reporting. Since commencing her role at Qualifications Wales, Elaine has enjoyed meeting and collaborating with professionals across the UK who share a passion for post-16 education and training.

Jenny Patrickson

Jenny Patrickson, Managing Director, Active IQ

Jenny has over 30 years of experience within the awarding and active leisure sectors, leading the development of specialist health and fitness sector awarding organisations to drive growth and excellence in service provision. Whilst developing an in-depth understanding of regulatory frameworks and their requirements, Jenny has been responsible for strategic planning, business development, business process improvement and international development. Having also worked within the training provider environment, Jenny has a clear understanding of the need for flexible and responsive awarding organisation provision, in line with Active IQ’s values.  On an international level, Jenny was involved in the development and implementation of occupational standards, accreditation systems and quality assurance processes for the European Health and Fitness Association (now Europe Active), the Register of Professionals (REPs) Ireland and for the International Confederation of Registers of Exercise Professionals (ICREPs).

John McNamara

John McNamara

John McNamara is the Chair of Innovate Awarding Ltd. Formerly he was founding Chair of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) and led the organisation from 2001 to 2009. He has gained considerable strategic leadership experience in the Skills Sector and the financial services industry. He was also the Director of the Hospitality awarding Body (HAB), Chief Executive of BIIAB, and Innovate Awarding. He has recently been acting as the interim CEO of FAB & handed over to the new permanent CEO this year.

Steve Besley

Steve Besley, Education Eye

Steve currently runs Education Eye, a policy briefing service that provides a weekly summary of what’s going on in UK education and goes out on the EdCentral site. Before that he spent 20 years as Head of Education Policy at Pearson and prior to that he worked in BTEC, FE and schools. Steve is a member of the Leadership Institute, a previous Reader of the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for FE and HE and a Fellow of a London College. Find out more or sign up to the weekly policy newsletter, at