Press Office

Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Press Release

BBC Learning announces three senior appointments

Abigail Appleton, Sinéad Rocks and Deborah Ward have been appointed to senior positions in BBC Learning with responsibility for implementing the new strategy for Learning at the BBC.

Abigail Appleton, currently Head of Speech Programmes and Presentation at BBC Radio 3, has been appointed as Head of Commissioning; Sinéad Rocks, Executive Producer for BBC Current Affairs, is the new Creative Director; and Deborah Ward, formerly Education Commissioner at Channel 4, will be Head of Operations and Public Affairs.

Saul Nassé, Controller of Learning, said: "I'm delighted to be able to welcome Abigail, Sinéad and Deborah to the team. These are critical appointments in enabling us to deliver the new strategy and put Learning right at the heart of the BBC."

As Head of Commissioning, Appleton will be responsible for co-commissioning television programmes with Knowledge. She will also commission the new Learning Fund, announced in September; co-commission new Learning output with Daytime and BBC Three; and commission face-to-face activity to run alongside BBC output.

Rocks, as Creative Director, will head Learning's in-house production team, taking the creative lead on all learning projects online, on television and radio and face to face.

Ward, as Head of Operations and Public Affairs, will be responsible for production management, talent, the move to Salford and all policy and public affairs issues, including the relationship with the wider industry.

Saul added: "By bringing the production team together under one head, we will be able to create projects that capitalise on the best of TV, radio, online and face to face. A commissioner will give us a real focus on the next big idea coming down the learning track.

"And our Head of Operations and Public Affairs will be a key role within the department, and also for our connections with the wider world of education. Abigail has commissioned a wonderful range of programmes, Sinéad's a first-rate creative leader of big teams and Deborah's got experience of learning and the commercial world – together they're the dream team."

Abigail Appleton has been a member of the senior management team of Radio 3 since 2001 and has been responsible for commissioning the station's speech programmes including a wide range of documentaries, talks, discussion programmes and dramas. She has overseen many seasons and events and was the driving force behind the launch of Radio 3's acclaimed annual festival of ideas, Free Thinking.

She commented: "I am passionate about the power of BBC programmes to inspire learning and enrich the lives of all our audiences and am thrilled to be taking on this role to help develop this potential even further.

"At Radio 3 I was instrumental in developing partnerships with other cultural organisations and have just launched the talent scheme New Generation Thinkers with the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I'm looking forward to see how we can continue to work in partnership with others to help audiences go on lifelong learning journeys."

Sinéad Rocks has worked as a journalist at the BBC since 1996 and is currently responsible for all of BBC Manchester's network current affairs content. She started her career working in News and Current Affairs in Northern Ireland and was editor of Newsround for a number of years.

She said: "The BBC is one of the few broadcasters that actively seeks to help its audience learn new things and I'm looking forward to working with the team to excite all audiences about the possibility of learning with the BBC."

"It's going to be a busy year with the move to Salford but I'm excited by the possibilities offered by BBC North to develop new opportunities for collaboration both within and outside the BBC."

Deborah Ward was previously Education Commissioner at Channel 4 and Director of Programming for ONdigital. She was Director of, responsible for launching, and most recently working with RDF factual entertainment.

Ward said: "I share the passion of BBC Learning to provide ambitious, top quality content to connect with and inspire the wide range of BBC Learning audiences. I'm delighted to be part of the team."

BBC Learning plays a central part in meeting the BBC's purpose of promoting education and learning. Utilising the power of the BBC's big brands and key talent, the department puts learning right at the heart of the BBC and provides a variety of resources and learning opportunities for children, teachers, parents and adult learners.

Working with partners and in local communities, BBC Learning aims to stimulate interests and encourage engagement through a variety of campaigns across all BBC genres and platforms.

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