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Leading change
on the inside

Gaby, 2017 cohort

Leading change
on the inside

About us Back to top

Unlocked Graduates is working to break cycles of reoffending by identifying brilliant people and supporting them to spend two years working as frontline prison officers. We challenge them to come up with new ideas to improve the way prisons work across the country.

The Unlocked Graduates programme was one of the key recommendations of the Coates’ Review of prison education. The report argued that education needs to be put at the heart of the prison service if Government is serious about the rehabilitation of prisoners. It also called for the creation of a new scheme to encourage graduates from top universities to work as prison officers for an initial period of two years.

Unlocked Graduates was launched in 2016 to answer this challenge. Our programme has now been running for over three years across London, the South East, West Midlands and North West of the UK.

Named Graduate Scheme of the Year at the 2018 Personnel Today Awards, ranked 37th in the Escape 100 awards in 2019, and rose to 36th place in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers in 2020, Unlocked has transformed the way the prison officer job is seen on campus.

Diversity, equality, inclusion in the prison system is a high priority for Unlocked. We celebrate the diversity of our participants, and put the full weight of our support behind campaigns and initiatives promoting equality and inclusion.

Our prison officers have received numerous accolades and early promotions – two of our participants recently received High Sheriff Awards for their excellent key-working and some of first cohort now manage our more recent recruits and other officers on the landings.

Unlocked Graduates was supported to success in its incubation state by Catch22, the social business and charity. Since 2020 we have operated independently as a registered charity.

We work in partnership with the Leeds Trinity University to deliver our Master’s degree. Find out more about how our partnerships and how you can support us.

#Read more about our executive team and board.

Natasha Porter

Chief Executive and Founder

Photo of Natasha Porter

Natasha developed the concept of Unlocked Graduates while working with Dame Sally Coates on her review into prison education, and has led the organisation from its inception in 2016. Since then, Unlocked Graduates has recruited hundreds of graduates to be prison officers, working with over 10,000 prisoners across the country.

Natasha has a background in public sector start up, and was previously a teacher and senior leader in inner city schools. This included co-founding King Solomon Academy and leading their frontier cohort to groundbreaking GCSE results in 2014. Natasha has also worked as a government adviser and in the Westminster think tank Policy Exchange. In her spare time, she is a school governor and charity trustee.

Maria Donovan

Recruitment Director

Photo of Maria Donovan

Maria is an experienced graduate recruiter. As part of the start-up team for Think Ahead, a scheme to recruit graduates to be mental health social workers, she successfully recruited the first cohort of 100 to this new programme and built their brand so successfully that they appeared on the Times Top 100 graduate recruiters in their second year of recruitment. Before this, she was a recruiter for Teach First where she attracted 1 in 10 Oxford finalists to apply to the programme. Maria is also a Teach First Ambassador, having completed their Leadership Development Programme while teaching for two years in Birmingham.

Bodil Isaksen

Chief Operating Officer

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Bodil joined Unlocked Graduates as an experienced leading adult trainer who has a passion for researching and applying the best teaching and learning techniques. She has spoken widely on these issues and been a course tutor for BPP’s PGCE (post-graduate certificate in education) as well as contributing to two books on initial training and continuing professional development. Bodil was a founding teacher and Head of Department at Michaela Community School, a free school in Brent. She is a Teach First Ambassador and spent two years as a Maths teacher in a Lee Valley school.

Sarah Pearson

External Relations Director

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Sarah joined Unlocked from the New Schools Network where she built the campaigns function and acted as interim director. Prior to this she was Associate Director at public affairs and corporate communications agency Hanover where she led a range of projects, specialising in health and education campaigns that involved partnerships between the public, third and private sectors for clients both in the UK and across Europe. She is also a school governor at Frith Manor Primary School.

Libby Gray

Programme Director

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Libby joined Unlocked in 2017, heading up the south region before moving into her current role as Programme Director. Libby brings experience of education, teacher training and leadership development.  She trained as a teacher in 2009 before moving to work at charity, Teach First, where she designed and delivered teacher training. The travel bug kicked in 2014, and Libby moved to Hong Kong where she took up the post of Head of English, and later, Vice Principal in an international school.

Rt Hon David Laws

Chair and Executive Chair of EPI

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David is the executive chairman of the Education Policy Institute, and the Education Partnerships Group – the international arm of the Ark education charity. Alongside this, David is a senior adviser to GK Strategy, a Trustee for the Teacher Development Trust, an advisory council member for Future First, and Chairman of the UPP Advisory Board. Following roles at J.P. Morgan and Barclays, David left the City to work in politics. David was elected MP for Yeovil in 2001, and served in this capacity until 2015. From 2012 to 2015 David was Schools Minister and Minister of State in the Cabinet Office.

Dame Sally Coates

Board member and Director of Academies United Learning

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Sally is Director of all United Learning Secondary Academies. She also chaired The Dame Sally Coates’ Review of Prison Education. She joined United Learning in September 2014. Her previous role was as Principal of Burlington Danes Academy, which she turned around from one of the lowest performing to one of the highest performing schools in the country. She was acting as Executive Principal at Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton until July 2012 and Executive Principal of Ark Putney and West London Free School until July 2014. Prior to that, Sally was Head of Sacred Heart School an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ VA school in Camberwell, London Borough of Southwark. Sally chaired The Review of the Teaching Standards and most recently chaired the Skills Test Review. She also served as a member of the Key Stage 2 Test Review Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Bew. Sally was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2013 New Year’s Honours List.

Chris Wright

Board member and CEO of Catch22

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Chris is Chief Executive of Catch22. He leads the team of 1,800 staff and volunteers that in 2015/16 supported 30,000 people in over 100 locations. Chris originally trained as a probation officer and in 1999 established Nottingham’s first multi-agency Youth Offending Team. From there he moved to the Youth Justice Board as Head of Performance where he led on developing and implementing a performance management framework for the Youth Justice System. He joined Rainer, which became Catch22, in 2006. Chris is an advocate for the social enterprise sector playing a key role in the delivery of public services. As a result, Catch22 is known both for its innovative and collaborative approach to justice, education, employability and social care.

James Darley

Board member and CEO of Transformation Trust

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James has been working in Graduate Recruitment for over 20 years and in late 2018 he spotted an opportunity to build on nearly 15 years’ experience with Teach First to help address the wider public service leadership challenge the UK by setting up the charity ‘Transform Society’ an alliance of the five programmes recruiting top talent into the most needed roles in society (Teach First, Frontline, Police Now, Think Ahead and Unlocked). In addition, he supports Teach for All and their partners across the world with marketing, positioning, scale, partnerships and recruitment. James is a founding Trustee of Frontline, Police Now, Think Ahead and Unlocked, and an advisory board member of The Springboard Bursary Foundation. James also supports a number of university employer/career services including Birmingham, York and Leicester.

Robert Farquharson

Board member and Principal at Doughty Hanson

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Having started his career in Commercial Property Finance at Continental Bank and HSBC, Robert recently retired from a role as Head of European Real Estate and member of the Investment Committee at Doughty Hanson. For 12 years before this he was CEO of The Langham Estate. Robert has a longstanding commitment to social mobility, especially in the context of education. He served as Vice Chair of Governors at Cambridge School in Hammersmith, a special educational needs school, which led to him becoming a Founding Governor of Skinners’ Academy in Hackney and subsequently Chair of Governors, providing a critical link between the sponsoring livery company and the school.

Nicola Marfleet

Board Member and Governor, HMP Woodhill

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Nicola Marfleet has over 20 years of experience of working within the Prison Service. She started out on the frontline as a prison officer in 2000.  Since then, she has worked in a wide variety prisons across the country. Her roles have spanned institutions serving women and young people through to the high security male estates. These have included HMP East Sutton Park, HMP Swaleside, HMP Elmley, HMP Pentonville, and HMP Woodhill, where she currently leads in her role as Governor.

Nicola is passionate about developing potential in teams, growing leaders, and mentoring women in the workplace.  She speaks widely on team dynamics and shifting culture within the workplace, and is a guest lecturer for Leadership College London.

Karan Rai

Board member and Unlocked Ambassador

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Karan is a 2018 Unlocked Graduates Ambassador having spent two-years as a frontline Prison Officer at Her Majesty’s Youth Offender Institute Aylesbury and having worked on a group Policy Paper presented to the Secretary of State for Justice on prison reform.

He is a former Youth Ambassador for the anti-racism and discrimination in football charity Kick It Out, working on various projects for the organisation and advising them on how best to tackle racism and discrimination in football from a youth perspective.

In 2018, Karan was identified as one of twelve ‘Gamechangers’ by Kick It Out, an initiative supported by the UEFA Foundation, Premier League and UCFB aiming to identify and create the future leaders of football, inspiring them to bring positive change to the sport with regards to equality, inclusion and cohesion, and in turn help to address the under-representation of minority groups across the industry.

Karan also has extensive frontline experience of voluntary teaching, having worked on education projects in China, Hungary, Morocco, and Ghana. He is also a volunteer at the Longford Trust, where he is mentoring a former prisoner through their university degree.

Jack Anderson

Programme Officer

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Jack joined Unlocked as a member of the first cohort of Unlocked Graduates in 2017, where he worked as a Prison Officer at HMP Brixton. After completing the two-year programme, he worked as a Project Coordinator for a charity called User Voice; helping them mobilise two new service user council projects in the South West of England.

Following this role, Jack returned to Unlocked Graduates as a Programme Officer to assist in their recruitment of the 2021 cohort of Unlocked Graduates.

Danielle Dodd

Head of Region (South)

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Danielle started her career in the prison service in 2008 working with female prisoners, before moving to work across a range of establishments where she trained new staff and worked as a Custodial Manager.

Danielle initially joined Unlocked Graduates in 2017 as a Mentoring Prison Officer (MPO) on secondment, and now works as Head of Region (South) developing and training our MPO’s, overseeing participant progress and building relationships across our placement prisons in London and the South East. Danielle has a passion for developing staff and supporting mental health. She is a Mental Health First Aid Instructor for both the Adult and Youth qualifications.

Mhairi Drysdale

Recruitment Team

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Mhairi studied Human Physiology at the University of Leeds whilst working as a Brand Manager for Teach First. After graduating, she stayed in the North of England working as a Recruitment and Impact Coordinator for an educational charity, providing tuition for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Mhairi joined the Unlocked recruitment team in August 2019, working to attract graduates to the prison officer role, assessing potential candidates, and supporting offer holders until they start Summer Institute.

Samantha Farr

Programme and Events Manager

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Samantha works for Unlocked as the Programme and Events Manager. She is responsible for the smooth running of several events throughout the year, including our lecture days, the Unlocked conference, and our Summer Institute.

Samantha has a background in events within the higher education sector. She previously worked at University College London (UCL), and the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London (SOAS), where she helped lead the organisation of recruitment events and graduation ceremonies.

Laurence Jay

Head of Delivery

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Laurence works for Unlocked as the Head of Delivery. He previously worked for a social inclusion charity, Challenge, where he led the expansion of the National Citizen Service programme across London and was responsible for the procurement and partnerships teams. Prior to this, Laurence managed the training delivery of a national youth charity, developing several programmes around youth inclusion and widening participation.

Laurence’s training delivery experience ranges from corporate learning and development to outdoor education. In his spare time, he volunteers with MSSC (Marine Society and Sea Cadets) and Ocean Youth Trust as a sailing instructor and is a trustee of a local youth charity.

Elina Lam-Gall

Programme Manager

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Elina joined Unlocked Graduates as an experienced adult trainer and programme manager. She has a passion for holistically understanding how human beings learn, change, grow and develop. Elina is driven by her belief that every one of us should have the right to the best opportunities in life.

Elina has researched and written literacy acceleration programmes that have been rolled out nationally for early years and secondary school, aimed at closing the attainment gap, ensuring that every child is able to fulfil their potential. She has also worked as head of inclusion and special needs in secondary education and has taught in both primary and secondary schools.

Marsha Mattis

Regional Manager (North)

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Marsha joined Unlocked Graduates after working with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) as a Personnel Development Manager in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  She has strong experience working in the Learning and Development sector and in cross-cultural partnerships. She is passionate about supporting adult learning and providing others with the best training and L&D activities to reach their full potential.

Over the years, Marsha has worked and volunteered in several charities such as Victim Support, NCS the challenge, Street Child and Balloon ventures where she has provided mentoring, coaching and support to staff and clients, ensuring that they have the knowledge, skills and tools to enable them to develop both professionally and personally.

Rebecca Moss

Office Manager

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Rebecca has worked at Unlocked in the Operations team since 2017.  Alongside her current role as Office Manager,  she is completing the CIPD Level 5 qualification in HR.

Prior to joining Unlocked Graduates, Rebecca attended the University of Exeter where she gained a BA in English and French. As part of her degree, she spent a year in Nice, France, teaching English as a foreign language to French children. In her spare time, Rebecca volunteers with Girlguiding and is a keen runner.

Sophie Reynolds

Recruitment Team

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Sophie joined the Unlocked Recruitment Team in August 2020 with an aim of using her frontline experience to contribute to the design and delivery of the Unlocked Graduates assessment centres. She is an Unlocked ambassador and spent two years as a prison officer at HMP Wormwood Scrubs. During her time there, she worked on one of the largest prison wings in Europe housing mainly young males in prison for gang-related offences. She spent the final 6-months of the programme on the mental health unit and worked with a team of psychiatrists and occupational therapists to care for prisoners with serious mental illnesses.

Sophie was successful in gaining funds to initiate the first ever Parkrun at HMP Wormwood Scrubs as part of the Innovation Acceleration Fund. She also wrote a dissertation on the impacts of the prison officer role on prison officer’s mental wellbeing.

Mike Romano

Regional Manager (South)

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Mike joined the Prison Service in 2005, working at HMP Wandsworth as an Operational Support Grade before becoming a Prison Officer in 2007.  He has undertaken several roles, including that of a POELT Mentor for new staff where he was introduced to the Unlocked programme. In 2020, Mike joined Unlocked Graduates in the role of Regional Manager (South).

Hamzah Sheikh

Programme Intern

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Hamzah joined Unlocked in April 2021 as a Programme Intern helping to organise the Summer Institute at Leeds Trinity University. He has recently completed his MA in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response at the University of Manchester after graduating from the University of Birmingham with a BA in International Relations with Political Science.

Hamzah’s motivation for joining Unlocked is to learn how to support uniform services through training, logistics and communications, as well as gain a wider understanding of the criminal justice system. He has previously worked for the National Citizen Service as a Community Logistics Manager and a Senior Mentor.

Lesley Walsh

Midlands Regional Manager

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Lesley first joined Unlocked Graduates as a Summer Trainer for the 2019 cohort. In 2020, she took up the new post of Midlands Regional Manager, where she is responsible for developing prison relationships and supporting MPOs (Mentoring Prison Officers) and participants in the newly created Midlands region.

Prior to joining Unlocked, Lesley worked as a Prison Officer for 16 years specialising in Safer Custody and Early Days in Custody. In 2017, Lesley became a POELT TEA (Trainer Expert Advisor) for HMPPS Learning and Development.