Change in Leadership at ReachOut

Update from Ed Lehmann – Chair of Trustees

I’d like to introduce you to Bejal Shah, who will be taking over the day to day leadership of ReachOut in the newly created role of Chief Operating Officer. Bejal is an outstanding leader who has successfully overseen our programme delivery for the last three years. Before that she spent 7 years at Explore Learning Ltd. leading teams to manage an after-school education provision for young people aged 4 to 16.

Most recently, Bejal has led the creation of ReachOut’s new digital mentoring service, ReachOut Home, which will run in over 30 schools this academic year.  

This change in leadership comes as Peter Blackwell has decided to move on to pursue other projects, from his new base in Barcelona.

In his five years as Chief Executive, and 16 years altogether in the organisation, Pete has been instrumental in ReachOut’s transformation into the professional and effective organisation it is today. His dedicated leadership and passion for mentoring has helped to transform the lives of the thousands of young people who have come through our programmes. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Pete for his hard work and wish him every success for the future.

Bejal will be leading the organisation from 1st December as we deliver mentoring to schools across England in a COVID safe way, facilitated by ReachOut Home. The Board has been extremely engaged in the leadership transition and has every confidence in the success of ReachOut, so much so that we are taking our time to carefully consider the right management structure for the organisation in the future.   

To further support the organisation, James Williams has been appointed as Head of Business Development and will be working with Bejal, the team and the Board on the development of ReachOut’s income strategy. James has over 18 years’ experience working in fundraising, partnerships and voluntary sector leadership roles. Anand Shukla also joins the team as a senior advisor to the board, with a focus on strategy and leadership development. Anand joins us part time, as he’s also doing a Master’s at Kings College London. He was previously CEO at Brightside, a large UK mentoring charity, and has held other senior management and board positions across the voluntary sector.

Our work supporting young people has never been more important as we battle the challenges presented by COVID-19. The Board & I look forward to working closely with Bejal and the team over the coming months to help ReachOut rise to those challenges. 

Thank you for all your ongoing support and collaboration. 

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“At first, I was really hesitant to take on the Project Leader role, despite having mentored with ReachOut. However, with the support of the team I’ve really developed my skills. For example, at the Mentee Graduation, I stood up in front of 200 people and presented an award which is something I would never ever have been able to have done before, and isn’t an opportunity I could gain in my other situations.”

Amy McCutcheon, Project Leader at ReachOut Academy, Dean Trust Ardwick, Manchester.


“Being able to spend the summer working at Rede Partners, was an amazing experience. Whether it was working in HR or Finance, I learned so much about the world of private equity, made great connections with fantastic people and I got to learn first-hand what it would be like to work there! I really believe that I can go onto build the career I want now I’ve been a part for a workplace for real”

Victor Adekunle, 18 years old, ReachOut Ambassador, London


“When I first my mentee, she was very reluctant to participate in the sessions. Now, I see a completely different person! Her confidence has grown and she is happy to join in! She still has some self-doubt when it comes to academic work, but that’s what I hope to help her overcome, because she is a very bright person!

Through mentoring, I’ve learnt I’m a lot more patient than I realised. There will be days where she refuses to participate and those are the days that I really see the importance of the character strengths, for both the mentees and the mentors. It also makes it easier for the mentee to understand the character strengths, when I use them myself”

Myrtle, ReachOut Club mentor at Tufnell Primary School, London


“There are more distractions than ever outside of school, and the commitment of our students to attend ReachOut sessions is testament to the value they place on the relationships they foster there, and the challenge and enjoyment they provide.

ReachOut’s focus on communication skills and character development has become an important aspect of our provision of support for these students. The opportunity to relate to a positive role- model other than their usual teachers is key to the programme’s impact, and the evidence of this has been seen in the students’ attendance, resilience and to their overall progress across all the subjects in the school.”

Thomas Janvrin, Assistant Vice Principal at the Petchey Academy London