Next in our series of introductions here at Equal Education Partners is Owen Evans. After an exciting career working both in the education and charity sectors, Owen joined Equal in November 2022 as Managing Director for higher education, STEM, and international partnerships. Read on to learn more about Owen’s career journey!
Read about other members of our Senior Management Team – Liam Rahman, Neil Thomas, Carolyn Rahman.
Hi Owen! Can you start off by telling us about your career and academic journey so far?
Hi! I attended the Welsh medium school of Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni before eventually graduating with a degree in history from St Anne’s College at the University of Oxford. I then completed a graduate programme, training as a secondary school maths teacher at the University of Manchester whilst teaching in a school in Greater Manchester for two years. In 2013, I joined Teach First in Wales, spending my first year as a Leadership Development Officer, before being promoted to a School Partnerships Manager position where I primarily worked on promoting the programme to schools across Wales. I then spent three years as the Director of Teach First Cymru.
After my time at Teach First, I joined Children in Wales as Chief Executive Officer. Children in Wales is the representative organisation for the children and family sector in Wales, collaborating with partners who work across the public and private sectors, in areas such as social care and education. This involved a lot of policy development work, as well as programme delivery, working closely with the Welsh Government on areas such as children’s rights and on embedding the voice of young people in our decision-making processes.
I remained at Children in Wales throughout the pandemic, during which time we undertook a broader programme of change. This involved amending the organisation’s structure as well as more extensive changes encompassing a rebranding of the charity, with an updated vision and mission statement, whilst also overseeing a diversification in the charity’s income streams. From there, I came to Equal in my current role, working with the partnerships team to deliver initiatives across a number of sectors and with a range of national and international partners. I also work across Equal in supporting broader business development.
Outside of work I have been a non-executive director and trustee at TACT Fostering, the UK’s largest fostering charity, since 2019. I also spent around three years as a member of the British Council’s Wales Advisory Committee, and since September of last year, I have served on the National Advisory Board for Barnardo’s in Wales.
How do you think your past experiences across teaching and the charity sector have shaped the work that you do at Equal today?
More than anything, I think my work across the teaching and charity sectors has really instilled a desire to support young people to succeed. From a more day-to-day perspective, my experiences have undoubtedly offered a real empathetic dimension to my work here at Equal, ensuring that we always have students’ best interests at heart, whilst working across a range of partnership initiatives. At the end of the day, the work at Equal encompasses cross-sectoral and cross-industry cooperation, which involves collaborating with a range of perspectives and understandings of the challenges and opportunities facing the education sector, similar to that experienced in both charitable and frontline education roles.
Do you ever miss being in the classroom?
There’s no doubt that I enjoyed being a teacher very much: it’s a thoroughly rewarding job with constant feedback, allowing you to see and play a role in the students’ progression on a day to day basis. Seeing the learning take place and seeing the students have their lightbulb moments makes a teaching career incredibly fulfilling. In many professions, that element of instant feedback isn’t so present; projects tend to be more long-term in nature or the nature of your role may mean that you are one step removed from the direct results of your work. However, the immensely positive aspect about working at Equal is the opportunity to have a constructive impact on a very large number of students. Although the instantaneous feedback and reward may not be so visible, being able to work on projects and partnerships which will benefit learners across Wales truly makes my role here incredibly rewarding.
What’s the best part of your job here at Equal?
Above all, it’s the people that I get to work with. From the external partners with whom we collaborate – including the Welsh Government, local schools, universities and so many more – to the dedicated team working internally here at Equal, there is an incredible number of committed and truly inspiring people who all aim to deliver impactful and transformational change for students across Wales. Coupled with that is the fact that no two days are ever the same; the people we work for are really dynamic, and our unique position means that we always have exposure to different projects and people across our partnerships. This partnership-based structure, built on a team of people who have shared values and shared end goals in sight, is truly inspiring.
Can you tell us about some of the growth and development that you’ve witnessed at Equal in recent years?
Across the entire organisation, the team have done some fantastic work in terms of growing our brand and attracting dedicated partners to collaborate with us on a range of different projects and initiatives. From the growth of our recruitment work with schools, to the hugely exciting partnership we are forming through Taith with colleges across Wales and the University of Florida, which will bring world-leading learning resources to the education sector in Wales, we as a team are playing a role in a whole of range of different initiatives which will bring transformational learning and professional development opportunities to students and staff across Wales. This is coupled with a deepening of our links with the Welsh Government Seren programme which has evolved to include extensive partnerships on a number of really impactful summer schools during the past few months.
How do you see the future developing at Equal over the next few years?
This is undoubtedly a really exciting time for Equal; there is huge scope to further develop our partnerships both within Wales and on an international level. I’m hoping to see the partnership team grow and evolve to collaborate with a range of universities, schools, and so many more stakeholders over the coming years. There really is a huge amount of impact that we as an organisation can achieve across all of our sectors, and we’re looking at a really exciting growth trajectory across each of those areas, from partnerships and marketing to recruitment and tutoring!