About us

Welcome to ESS Assist (ESS)

ESS Assist is a multisector  on line learning and consultancy organisation offering solutions to through a range of integrated services that meet your needs, adds value, and for businesses drives bottom line impact.

Our mission is to “Empower our Partners” to achieve their business and personal objectives.

ESS Assist offers a wide range of services including:

  • Tendertracker- (Funding Opportunities)
  • On Line Learning Courses
  • Quality Assurance
  • Sourcing Funding
  • Strategy Development
  • Bid Writing
  • Recruitment
  • Partnership Management
  • Learner Find Service
  • Employer Engagement

ESS is a network of highly experienced professionals who understand the needs of employers and works with them to deliver the best and most cost effective quality solutions possible.

The founding directors Gavin Newbold and Ian Peacock have over 40 years of experience in the public and training and education sectors and have both previously successfully run, developed, and sold national training organisations.

During this time they have assisted hundreds of companies, and many thousands of learners to achieve their business and personal objectives.

Please contact us on 01977 705203 or Get In Touch using the online form if you wish to have a confidential discussion regarding our services and how we may be able to assist your organisation.

Meet the directors

Ian Peacock MBA, Managing Director

Ian has a track record of building, transforming and selling £multi-million training businesses. Key strengths include: assembling and leading high performing management teams / Boards of Directors and delivering performance through people; creating operational infrastructure across people, processes and systems; embedding performance management programmes to drive efficiencies and superior service delivery; engaging with blue chip clients at CEO level to achieve strategic level engagement; and strong management skills with multi-disciplinary teams of up to 320 people across the UK.

He has also led not for profit training organisations, is an IOD member, and has attained the certificate of strategic development from the IOD’s Chartered Directors Programme.

Gavin Newbold Funding Director, Tender Procurement

Gavin is a professional bid writer with over 25 years of industry experience. During this time he has assisted hundreds of clients helping secure funding for a wide range of activities with total project costs in excess of £1billion. Clients have ranged from micro training providers through to some of the world’s largest accountancy firms, colleges, universities, charities, Government Agencies, Local Government, Central Government and many more. Funding has been secured from sources including OJEU tenders, Trans-national EU programmes, DWP, ESFA/SFA, Lottery and the EU Structural funds etc.

He can assist in the full funding “life cycle”, from the initial identification of opportunity, through EOI, PQQ, ITT and then management and evaluation.

Stuart Atkinson (MSc; BSc (hons); P.G.C.E.; M.I.F.L), Development Director

Stuart has a wealth of experience within education across Private Training, Further Education and Higher Education. He has enabled several training companies to be founded and thrive, providing them with multi-skilled expertise to enable companies to launch, develop successful strategic partnerships that facilitate both academic achievement and vocational excellence.

Stuart also has significant experience in Awarding, as a lead external quality assurer; qualification author; sector qualification reviewer and within business development. Stuart has developed highly successful graduate programmes and led the implementation of innovative awarding and training solutions for large multinational companies and SME’s alike. This strength in curriculum and learning design demonstrates his understanding of provider and learner needs.
Stuart maintains current CPD and ensures currency, holding roles as University lecturer and National Trainer for a large Awarding Organisation. stuart.atkinson@essassist.co.uk

Jo McDonald, Development Director

Jo has over 25 years’ experience working with the education and training sector. She started her career in the sector as a Work Based Assessor for a large retail which lead to a role within an ITP. For seven years Jo worked for Manchester TEC supporting the launch, implementation and contract management of a diverse range of public funded programs. Jo relocated to London in 2000 where she was employed with Reed in Partnership as National Head of Skills Contracts for twelve years leading operational delivery of a wide range of ESFA and Local Authority programs for young people and adult learners. Jo acts in the “role of non-executive director” for several ITPS. Jo prides herself on keeping up to date with operational requirements to deliver outstanding public and commercially funded learning. Jo works in partnership with a range of specialist consultants to compliment her skill set and ensure her clients have access to the best person to support any business needs that she feels are outside of her knowledge remit. Jo.mcdonald@essassist.co.uk

Steve Dobson, Development Director

Steve is a highly experienced Operations Director and has a proven track record over 20 years of driving strategic, operational and commercial transformations. Working for large Third Sector providers delivering £multi-million Central Government contracts, he has led on major business change & improvement programmes to optimise operations and oversee risk management. As a National Operations Director for several years Steve led a team of 320+ staff located across the UK, with control of a £160m+ budget. In 2016/17, he led on business development across multiple industry sectors for a large Recruitment & Training company.

Steve offers a bespoke service to individuals, businesses and organisations who are looking to grow and thrive. Steve.dobson@essassist.co.uk

Maureen Deary, Director of Quality

Maureen is a current practising Further Education and Skills Inspector and lead Inspector for the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). She inspects and provides consultancy and coaching in leadership and management and strategic advisory support across all FE and Skills provision and sectors. She is also involved in the support for the sector for the new ETF funded Teaching Matters L5 Learning and Skills Teacher Apprenticeship programme and has worked for the DfE and LSIS/QIA across a wide range of development and improvement programmes in the 14-19 and post 16 adult sectors.

She works with a range of colleges, prime and partner contracting organisations, undertakes New Provider Monitoring visits and inspects private and residential schools and colleges for ISI. She is a consultant and adviser in quality development support and improvement work for all of the above organisations and has supported organisations for over thirty years in the state, private, schools, further and higher education sectors. Maureen is a qualified teacher in physical education and sports science attending one of the top six specialist P.E colleges of its time in the country. She is currently a Lead Director of Quality for ESS Assist, alongside other roles in quality improvement across the UK.

In the past Maureen has worked for a number of awarding bodies approving new centres, developing qualifications, acting as a Chief Verifier and Principal Examiner both in the UK and in Asia and as a consultant for Ofqual and is a governance board member of three national workplace grade 2 good providers.

She has been and still is invited to speak and national and regional conferences and continues to do so on behalf of the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Association of Education Learning Providers (AELP), speaking at national and regional conferences and events in partnership with Ofsted on the Education Inspection Framework for the post 16 sector. Maureen has lived and worked overseas in as an adviser for OCR Awarding Body supporting the English Secondary Schools Foundation, became the exercise physiology consultant working with the medical consultants in the Executive Healthcare Programme at the Matilda Hospital located on Hong Kong Island where she lived between 1996 and 2000 and has held representative sports coaching posts in hockey to national level.


Dan Hodgetts, Head of Apprenticeship Development

Dan has 15 years experience of working within the education, employment and skills sector. After graduating in 2005, he started training and coaching unemployed job seekers prior to working his way up through delivery, project and business management roles within the welfare to work sector before finally moving into Apprenticeship management in 2015. Since then Dan has worked as a Delivery Manager, Head of Apprenticeship and Apprenticeship & Skills Director alongside working with new Apprenticeship training providers to support their mobilisation and growth strategies within a variety of sectors, whilst always offering a learner-centric and quality focused approach.


Cat Barton, Tender Specialist

Cat has over 25 years’ experience of supporting business development and business growth with a wide range of private, public and third sector organisations. The last 20 years have been focussed on the employability, skills and health sectors with contract wins of over £150m in the last 10 years with DWP, ESFA/SFA and internationally. Cat firmly believes that business development isn’t just about bidding for everything and hoping that some tenders are successful. Effective business development takes a strategic approach, which includes developing the organisation so that it is in a stronger position to win new business, as well as to deliver it. Cat can help you, and your teams, to achieve this.


Gillian Sommers, Safeguarding Specialist

Gill has spent the last 20 years in further education and training and has a track record of supporting organisations with safeguarding compliance. Her former role as Director of Students at an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ Further Education College involved taking the senior lead for safeguarding and student support across a number of campuses, ensuring that staff and volunteers were fully trained and prepared for working with young people and vulnerable adults.

Gill has worked with many Independent Training Providers, national companies and charities and has supported them to develop robust safeguarding policies and procedures.  Her aim is to offer clients safeguarding support that is contextualised to focus on post 16 learners and adult learners whilst ensuring full compliance with guidance and legislation.

As a former police officer, Gill has a wealth of experience in investigation and case law and a keen interest in how serious case reviews inform legislation and good practice. Gill has a master’s degree in Leadership and Management, a degree in post-compulsory education and is qualified at Level 4 in Safeguarding.