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Claire Cookson to step down as CEO of DFN Project SEARCH in June and join the Board as a Trustee 

Claire Cookson to step down as CEO of DFN Project SEARCH in June and join the Board as a Trustee 

Claire Cookson has announced that she will leave her role as CEO of DFN Project SEARCH after four incredibly successful years, but will continue to be connected to the charity taking a position on the Board of Trustees.

Claire has led DFN Project Search as CEO since 2020, during which time she has guided the charity through unprecedented growth, increasing its impact year on year. A true pioneer in the SEND sector, Claire’s innovative approach and unwavering commitment has helped change thousands of young lives across the UK. In this period DFN Project SEARCH has grown to work with more than 140 sites around the UK and has supported over 2,200 interns into employment with 60% of DFN Project SEARCH graduates achieving full-time permanent roles.

During her tenure, Claire oversaw the charity being awarded an NHS and Health Education Commission as well as a Department of Education contract as part of the Internship Works consortium to help dramatically increase the number of supported internships in England. She also helped launched several new initiatives, including the DFN Project Search Employer Champion programme, our Youth Advisory Group, an Alumni Network, and a Parent and Carer Champions programme.

Claire is leaving her post to take a new role as CEO of Pathways Education Ltd, an organisation committed to reengineering SEND education though the development of pioneering technology, education settings and national policy. This work provides the most marginalised groups in society the support, tools, and education to thrive into their adulthood.

Claire Cookson said: “It has been a true honour to lead the most amazing and dedicated team at DFN Project SEARCH, as well as the incredible partnerships across the UK and Iberia. I am enormously grateful to everyone I have worked closely alongside over the last four years. I am leaving with a huge amount of pride for what we have achieved together and for helping change the national conversation around supported internships and supported employment more widely. Our collective efforts have had a tremendous impact on thousands of young adults and their families. We have always set out to partner, inspire, break boundaries and prove that the whole of society benefits when we get this work right. I am, and always will be, passionate about inclusivity and as I step into my next chapter, I will take with me the values, spirit and inspiration from everyone involved with DFN Project SEARCH. As I join the Board of Trustees, I look forward to continuing to support this wonderful charity to grow and thrive.”

David Forbes-Nixon, Founder and Chair of DFN Project SEARCH said: “Claire has been central to our success in advancing DFN Project Search’s mission and reputation as a leader in the field of supported employment. Claire is one of the most talented leaders I have been fortunate enough to work with. I’m tremendously grateful for everything that she has done for DFN Project SEARCH, from building our wonderful team, to helping improve the curriculum and influence local and national government policy decisions. As a Trustee Claire will continue to be a huge asset to the charity. I wish Claire every success as she embarks on her next steps and I am delighted that she will continue to use her background in education in her new role.”

We pleased to announce that Carmel McKeough, Director of Operations, will be taking over in June as interim CEO whilst we secure Claire’s successor.