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The Client

As many as 1.8 million school age children are at risk of hunger in the UK. Magic Breakfast’s charitable purpose is to alleviate child hunger and poverty as a barrier to education through the provision of healthy breakfasts to children across England and Scotland. Magic Breakfast had 480 partner schools when, in 2018, the charity won a £26m government contract, in partnership with the charity Family Action, to reach an additional 1,770 schools via the National School Breakfast Programme. Poised to grow to expand to other regions of the UK, and also to grow its advocacy to government on issues around family and child poverty, nutrition, education and health, Magic Breakfast was at a critical point in its development as a national charity when Oxford HR started to work with them, towards the end of 2018.

Key Objectives

At this time, Magic Breakfast required a new Chair to ensure the organisation was strategically and operationally equipped, that systems and processes were appropriate to their governance and grant requirements and able to support the recently appointed Chief Executive. Magic Breakfast’s founder, Carmel McConnell MBE FRSA, had equipped the charity with firm foundations from which to grow. The outgoing Chair’s background was in technology and business and her commitment and skill sets had ensured Magic Breakfast is digitally astute and benefits from a Board consisting of a range of individuals with skill sets across financial services, education and schools. Oxford HR established that what was required for this Chair position was a commercially minded individual, who had a strong grasp of charity governance and the experience and skills to help the charity grow efficiently.


  • Executive Search
  • Board & Advisory
Child smiling while eating cereal

Oxford HR specifically targeted candidates who held cross-sector experience. We worked on a search encompassing sectors including financial, digital, technical, education, NDPBs and commercial and culminated in placing Joanne Thompson in this role. She is currently a UK Crown Representative at the Cabinet Office and a Trustee of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. During her executive career she was a CEO of Penrillian, a divisional MD of Serco PLC and a board member of BT Europe.

Joanne was “attracted to both the simplicity of Magic Breakfast’s vision and to the opportunity to work with a charity that is able to make a real and practical difference, to the life chances of children who may be in difficult circumstances.”

Joanne was pleased with her experience with Oxford HR, finding us to be supportive and very informative throughout.  

They absolutely understood the brief that they were working to and were able to respond to queries in plenty of detail.

Joanne ThompsonChair, Magic Breakfast
Joanne Thompson headshot

Looking towards the future, Joanne notes:

“I’m really looking forward to building an effective governance framework in which our executive can feel empowered to achieve their objectives. This will involve further improvements to communication between the board and the SMT and to ensuring that we utilize the considerable skills of our charismatic founder to best effect.

In the short term this means me mentoring our CEO as he continues to develop into his role, obtaining continuation funding for our National School Breakfast Programme, strengthening our board and conducting governance training for all trustees and conducting a comprehensive strategy review as well as a board effectiveness survey.”

Studies have shown that children who have had a good breakfast can expect to make an average of two months additional progress in each academic year. It is an incredible privilege to be a part of a charity that is able to make such a tangible difference to supporting children in building stronger foundations for their future.

Joanne ThompsonChair, Magic Breakfast
Child making smiley face with bagel

During our search,  we were also able to identify a further individual whose skills and experience were a strong addition to the Trustee Board.  We were delighted to appoint Alison Inglis Jones as Trustee and Chair of the Policy & Campaigns Committee. Alison is an experienced trustee with a record of overseeing and running successful public affairs campaigns for the private, public and voluntary sectors.