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Our People

Diane Betts, Chief Executive

A warm welcome to First Rung

We believe that good education and training can and do make a difference and that we owe it to our learners to do our very best by them. To this end we take very seriously to develop and provide high quality training, support and opportunities to young people to fulfil their potential within both the formal and informal curriculum that will prepare our learners for life in the widest sense.


Our expectations:

•  Firstly, highly qualified, caring and committed staff who enjoy their work and are good at it;

•  High expectations across the board;

•  Clear boundaries set so that learners know exactly where the lines are drawn;

•  A disciplined environment so that learners can get on and learn and a

•  commitment that we will do all we can to ensure that our learners are safe.


We are a training provider where every young person matters regardless of their ability and we value their learner’s voice to become a learner responsive organisation.

We believe at First Rung that learners are happiest, work hard and achieve most if relationships are right and they have trainers they like and respect, who encourage and challenge them to do their best.

Our reputation is based on our ability to produce self-confident, successful and ambitious young people ready for the next step into further training or the world of work which permeates through our motto of building future skills through innovation.


First Rung is a company limited by guarantee (Registered Number: 02171777 and a Registered Charity Number 800614).

Board of Trustees and Senior Management Team at First Rung
Board of Trustees and Senior Management Team at First Rung

Senior Management Team:

Diane Betts,

Denis Dillon, Deputy CEO and Operations Manager

Beverley Jones-Leka, Head of Independent School and Programmes

Donna Clark, Finance and Performance Manager

Rashmi Joshi, Development Manager


Our Board members are:

Amit Chitnis, Chair of the Board of Trustees. His career spans strategy, commercial and leadership roles in the private sector across eight countries. Amit currently works with Tesco and previously was a management consultant. A snapshot of his professional career is available at

He takes a keen interest in education and professional development of people around him. He lives in North London and takes a keen interest in hiking, travelling and martial arts.

Contact Address: Amit Chitnis, Chair of Trustees, First Rung, 197-205 High Road, Ponders End, London, EN3 4DZ

Frank Longsworth, Chair of Quality & Personnel Working Party - Frank has worked in customs for 37 years through its various stages of evolution from HM Customs and Excise to HM Revenue and Customs and now United Kingdom Border Agency; the majority of his time has been spent managing teams investigating customs, excise and VAT offences. He is currently working part time on various projects for UKBA. Prior to becoming a trustee at First Rung he was a mentor for the Prince's Trust, he regularly undertakes mock interviews for students in year 11 at a school in Leytonstone.

Suzanne Ralton, Board Member - after graduating with a BSc(Econ) from the LSE, Suzanne Ralton began her career working in a large London advertising agency before joining a City stockbroker where she worked as a researcher.  She then spent some years in her family’s textile business and in 1997 set up her own business specialising in providing technical fabrics to commercial customers, both in the UK and overseas.  Almost from the beginning, the company has regularly worked with First Rung, employing learners and helping them achieve qualifications.

Michael Kutner, Board Member Michael retired as a solicitor in 2013 after spending 40 years in practice specialising in commercial property development. Since retirement, in addition to joining the board of First Rung, Michael has become a governor in a new special needs primary school which he has helped to set up, he is a mentor at an academy school and assists another charity by sitting on its welfare committee which provides grants to impoverished university students.

Alan WarnerBoard Member. Treasurer of First Rung and Chair of the Finance and Premises Committee. After qualification as a Chartered Management Accountant and a financial career in industry with Unilever and Associated British Foods, Alan entered management education with Ashridge Business School, first as Director of Administration and later Director of Studies. He then formed his own management training business, designing and running courses in finance and business for managers from a range of international companies. Since his recent retirement he has taken Trustee positions at First Rung and two other charitable organisations.

Omar Ahmed, Board Member. After graduating as an engineer, Omar pursued a commercial career initially within the IT industry but quickly moving on to business strategy and change management. Over the years he has steadily completed more and more significant roles across blue chip energy companies, investment houses, information providers and media companies.  Along the way, picking up a CIMA qualification.  Omar now runs his own strategic change and business development consultancy where he balances the needs of a targeted client base with his ever increasing responsibilities as a trustee of a number of varied charities.

Nigel Hathway, Board Member. After graduating from UCL, Nigel worked at an advertising agency advising blue-chip companies on how to use data to make their marketing campaigns more cost-effective. This work led to him setting up a business which he sold in 2001. Since then he has combined some
consultancy work with a variety of other activities, including a spell of teaching numeracy to adults
at Barnet College.

Hilary Robinson, Board Member. After qualifying with a BSc at University College London, Hilary worked at Middlesex University as a lecturer and administrator, moving to the Further Education Sector as a lecturer and later in senior management positions at colleges across North London. After a career of over 30 years, Hilary left full time employment in 2010 and spent 2 years based in Tajikistan as a VSO volunteer working in the education sector returning to the UK and qualifying to work as a study skills support tutor for students with specific learning disabilities in the HE Sector.

Natasha Da Costa, Board Member. Natasha is an experienced educational and people resource professional and has been a First Rung trustee since February 2018. 

Having begun her career as an English teacher before transitioning into Human Resources, she not only offers an understanding of the national and international educational sector, but also provides a people-centric approach to her work as well as fresh insight into workplace best practice. Natasha currently forms part of our Quality and Personnel committee and is passionate about supporting the work undertaken at First Rung

NaySoe Naing, Board Member. Nay works as a Financial Planning & Analysis analyst at Equiniti. Previously, he spent 6 years at PwC in its Assurance line of service where he qualified as a Chartered Account (ACA). Before his professional career, Nay studied Chemical Engineering at University of Birmingham and went to College in Croydon. Nay is originally from Myanmar and have been in the UK for over 13 years, he came to the country for better education and highly values the life opportunities it brings. In his spare time, Nay follows and plays football and enjoys exploring the city.


Joseph Mintz, Board Member. After an initial career in information technology, Joseph worked as a primary teacher and Special Educational Needs Coordinator at schools in London. He then moved in to higher education and his present role is as Associate Professor of Education at UCL Institute of Education. He has a doctorate in special education from the University of East London and the Tavistock Centre, and has been involved in a range of national and international research and evaluation projects in schools. Joseph has held a number of leadership positions in Higher Education. He regularly speaks at national events on the topic of inclusion as well as advising government on policy development.

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