Weston College Business Services

Tag: Dr Paul Phillips OBE

Dr Paul Phillips’ education column – growing your own

Dr Paul Phillips

Dr Paul Phillips OBE is the Principal of Weston College. Here he discusses the task of creating the ideal management team.

Creating the ideal management team is a difficult task for even the seasoned professional.

The main reason is that while we can draw up the most elaborate of structures, it is the people who fit into those structures that create the impact.

So how does one go about achieving the “dream team”?

The mixed economy approach

Generally I would advise the mixed economy approach, take some good established managers and join them with people who have great promise but need to realise their dreams through major exposure to the real world of FE.

At Weston College we did just that some two years ago and the results have been dramatic, as indeed were the teething problems.

My experience was to actually identify more colleagues than you actually need and to sub divide roles so that particular expertise can be developed quickly and robustly.

It is through this micro analysis that skills and competence rapidly develop but actually the real skills are the ability of people to act individually and as part of a team, to learn to delegate but at the same time retain oversight and most importantly to take calculated risk.

In taking that risk, they do need to prove that the risk is at least balanced and identify stepping off points if it becomes evident that the plan is not going to deliver the original goals.

Did it work?

So did the exercise work? The answer is yes, but not in isolation. My role as Principal, for the first twelve months, actually became more complicated as initially colleagues needed significant hand-holding or approval of the direction they were taking.

The situation did improve however and now nearly two years later much greater autonomy is being achieved but equally as Senior Managers moved into corporate positions, there was the need to advance the skills sets of the middle management team.

The approach with the middle management team was very different. In recognition of the need for the College to become even more commercial in operation it was decided to bring in a team of business people from commerce and industry to work with these staff on a series of projects that were pertinent to the forward development of the College.

The results here over a twelve month period were dramatic; not only were difficult real scenarios tackled, but the solutions were both entrepreneurial and in many cases cost effective.

I was impressed – and it takes a lot these days! The most obvious difference after the commercial exposure was the level of confidence of the middle managers after training and the business leaders certainly put them on their mettle.

The success of the development was so great that now the NHS and other organisations are looking to follow suit.

Grow your own

I suppose the one thing that has emerged from the whole exercise for me is that if you want to “grow your own” managers then you will have to devote significant time to the process. It has most definitely worked but it is not a quick fix process, rather one that requires integrity, perseverance and attention to detail.

Neither does this process stand in isolation, you will still need to go out to the market to ensure you have the very best staff for the future – my team stood up very well against the external competition in the main but I have occasionally still had to use locum agencies when up against it.

A definite yes

So should your college or business be growing its own? I think it is a most definite ‘yes’ but once you create the ideal team they are of course liable to be poached and there has been no shortage of attempts to draw the team away.

This brings me to my last point – the dream team need to be well remunerated and need to have clear targets which are challenging but achievable. I think my team would say that they are very stressed at present with the significant demands of a changing FE world.

I would be surprised if they weren’t to be honest – I do expect results from every one of them.

Weston College

So here at Weston College we are getting ready for the next academic year. The GCSE and A Level result days in August will be very important days for existing and future students of the college.

The long term vision is very challenging and exciting and we need to keep our feet firmly in the ground to avoid distraction. I still get incensed at the levels of bureaucracy the college faces in terms of creating the best opportunities for our learners but equally as long as we remember what we are here for, we all have a real chance.

Dr Paul Phillips OBE is the Principal of Weston College. To find out more about Weston College please visit: www.weston.ac.uk

The Dr Paul Phillips education column

Dr Paul Phillips

Dr Paul Phillips OBE

The end of the term is rapidly approaching and I spent a few minutes looking at the various demands and dictates arriving on my desk. They range from details of how short notice Ofsted inspections will operate to funding changes and the new adult loans scheme.

On top of that and let’s just say we push all of this to one side, there is the bread and butter – actually ensuring that the learners in front of us are taught properly by inspirational teachers who will give them the skills to progress to further study and eventually employment.

Ofsted agenda

The Ofsted agenda is an interesting one because the first thing the inspectorate needs to do is to examine the mix of provision between long, short and very short categories. One might inevitably expect the ratio to vary slightly between inspections, but if it has changed dramatically then it is time to dig around to see if curriculum is being manipulated for inspector rather than curriculum being for the purpose for the learner.

It is also worth looking at Colleges that reduce in size considerably because that in itself may signify inappropriate strategy. Generally allowing for such analysis there is an almost straight forward focus on the learner journey of experience complete with associated success.

We shouldn’t moan about that, it is the purpose of our roles today. Every college is different but we all need to focus upon producing the best possible learning experience for everyone who crosses our doorstep.

Staff within colleges generally deliver way above the statutory requirements of their role. I am writing this article at 6.30pm on a Wednesday evening in my college, yet most of the secretarial staff are still present, as are many lecturers completing moderation of coursework, providing individual support to students’ etc. etc.

Market forces

I was amazed therefore to read in an article from another source that our staff in Further Education (FE) colleges are overpaid with generous perks and holidays – my experience of FE staff, and I have worked in five different FE Colleges in my career, is that staff are dedicated, conscientious, entrepreneurial and highly professional.

That isn’t to say that there are a few who play the clock waiting game with minimal interaction, but market forces dictate and they won’t be with us for long.

Adult loans

I am not going to spend any time this month on funding changes because it is inevitable that they will occur and even more inevitable that they will continue to re-occur.

The use of the adult loans however is a concern – I can accept to a certain extent that people must pay for training, but since the loans in the main will not be huge in comparison to Higher Education loans, how will the process be managed?

In my own college we have been highly successful in engaging hard to reach learners and getting them over the threshold where the majority then vastly increase their confidence and succeed.

Now however, we have the double whammy do all that and get them to sign up for the loan. Ok we’ve got to do it but is the loan application quick or are the forms a bureaucratic nightmare? I don’t know the answer but it will be a novel process dealing with adults who need key support in foundation learning and who may have to fill in a loan application synonymous with a detailed mortgage application!

My understanding from the Skills Funding Agency is that we will be able to suggest positive suggestions for possible change. If that’s the case make sure you pilot the ability for these forms to be filled in correctly in the first place.

Poachers turned gamekeepers

Finally, it is that time of year when we say goodbye to some colleagues who have decided to escape the rat race, have got their retirement sorted and have just managed to beat the latest austerity measures from the Government regarding pensions and annual allowance and lifetime allowance etc.

Good luck to you all, certainly some key leaders are leaving the patch in the South West where I work, brilliant because they have inspiration, and successful because they are poachers turned gamekeepers. The world of Further Education continues to be a magnet for the entrepreneur, the commercial manager and those who seek knowledge.

So I will close now but not before wishing all of you a successful start to the next academic year, but preferably a well-deserved break at some point in the next few weeks. Look after your new entrants to the teaching profession in September in particular because to date they are untainted by bureaucracy, idiosyncrasies and plain daft decisions.

New academy for North Somerset

For those readers in North Somerset we are witnessing significant change for both the town of Weston-super-Mare and the whole authority area. Plans are coming to fruition from a number of perspectives and these include a new Academy for learners with Autism and Asperger’s, significant success at the end of year shows for both Weston College and local schools, plus continued changes with regard to NHS re-organisation and the new developments on the seafront of Weston-super-Mare.

I watched a programme on the economy of Greece last night and against this benchmark, the area is pretty outstanding!

To find out more about Weston College please visit: www.weston.ac.uk

Dr Paul Phillips’ latest education column

Dr Paul Phillips

Dr Paul Phillips OBE

The summer looms and with it the usual strategic changes for Further Education (FE) colleges. This year is particularly fraught for FE because we have changes in funding rates, the impact of Higher Eduction (HE)  in FE – or more likely the impact of HE on FE.

In fairness the picture is improved compared to a few months ago, but when you create your 2012/13 academic year budget don’t forget to consider 14-16 enrolments, the planned DFE funding reforms, the distinct lack of initial advice and guidance to young people in schools, the pensions debate and Ofsted.

Is it all too much? It doesn’t matter because this is the pace of change and nothing is going to slow it down!

What to do?
So what should managers in the FE sector do or not do? I would sincerely suggest that we should not put all of our eggs in one basket but instead look at new models of learning, and ensuring a diversity of opportunity. To succeed therefore, obtain a mix of provision, make sure it covers the 14-25 year age range and concentrate on building up the success rate. Once you have achieved this menu add some calculated risk so that your business plans are spiced up to maintain interest and ingenuity!

In my column this month, I must make mention of the abolition of the requirement for Colleges and training providers to employ professionally qualified teachers. I can remember my own training at Cardiff University back in 1982 where I and colleagues spent some sixteen weeks spread over two years learning how to become good teachers.

In those days the pre-requisite for success was some innate ability in teaching coupled with the ability to create good acetates for the overhead projector (OHP). I enjoyed those weeks, the feeling of camaraderie, those long lunches in the Woodville Public House and the outrageous personalities of some of my tutors.

I was focused in my approach but equally I felt that I was a good teacher before and after my training period. The new proposals which would appear to leave the discretion to the employer are to my mind full of risk.

Why? Well, it comes down to professionalism. The FE sector fought long and hard to gain parity with the school sector. It would be interesting to know the level of debate behind such decisions. I ask because there is just a nagging doubt here as to the extent to which Ofsted and other bodies have been consulted about this.

What is clear is that as a minimum, colleges will have to run their own teaching schemes. The review does put forward justification for abolishing the qualification by comparing the situation to ‘voluntary’ training in Higher Education! Once again you have to ask about the involvement of Further Education in these decisions – I think many of us were seeking an element of reform but a deregulation of teacher training was never on the horizon. For those of you interested in the full range of analysis and proposals then look at the Lord Lingfield review of FE professionalism. It also reminds me of that phrase ‘Be careful of what you ask for’!

No change at Weston College
In all reality for staff and students at Weston College the agenda will not change because Ofsted will continue to inspect us and within that process will be analysis to check that professional training and updating is excellent. The continued success of the College is based on having superb teachers who will bring out the very best for our learners.

Last week we held a series of Parents’ Evenings at all of our three campuses and the turnout and response was fantastic. As one parent remarked to me, her whole family had studied at Weston College over the last eight years and their learning experience was outstanding. At a time when young people need very precise support in planning their futures the College will ensure that it is the guidance services, the resources to maintaining outstanding learning opportunities.

Most recently local schools in Weston-super-Mare together with the College, NHS, University of West of England and the Creative Industries Sector proposed a new model of learning for the future. The concept was discussed with key people from the Department of Education and others last week. The camaraderie and partnership between all these organisations together with the support of North Somerset Council gave me great confidence in the future of learners across North Somerset.

Enterprise column from Dr Paul Phillips

Dr Paul Phillips

Dr Paul Phillips OBE

The funding maze is out and yes it provides challenges but it also gives a clear indication of a difficult future for learning in general. For 16 – 19 learning there is the potential of a new funding model which could ignore ‘success’ and for adults….. well you are going to be a clever student to avoid loans which will be repayable. In fact do we need to redefine what an adult actually is? I foresee a landscape where adult learning is for the unemployed and learners aged 19 – 23. Take this analysis and then look at the changes occurring in Ofsted who are seeking outstanding learning with an equality of opportunity for learners and Houston – we have a problem!

There is of course another way of looking at the above which is to consider the new adult landscape as a positive and developing partnership with Job Centre Plus so that we refocus adult learning and consider one of the key roles of Further Education as providing the bridge to employment. The rest of the adult market is then developed to provide up-skilling and with a strong focus on apprenticeships. This I am sure is what Government intend but it does reinforce the need for Further Education to be extremely flexible and ‘quick’ to change. We can do it but I hope that some consideration is given to transitional protection as we move to a new and even more target driven model. Let us also hope that the final adult allocations for 2012 / 13 are fair and reflect the SFA approach and give credit to those organisations who made the move from ‘Train to Gain’ to apprenticeships and maximised their approach in accordance with SFA guidelines. Colleagues inform me that to date SFA have not paid due attention to this, but it’s not too late.

While I look at funding in general I cannot let the issue of ‘HE in FE’ pass and the allocation of places to institutions seems at face value to be a mathematical calculation rather than a process which examines quality of provision, results of IQER and success in recent years. I personally had hoped for a sophisticated methodology with real attention to detail such as learner experience, time allocated for scholarly activity and level of entrepreneurship / research. Clearly not – in fairness perhaps this is not the model to be used and yet we do see growth for institutions making offers at high grade or their equivalent. Everyone will have a view on this but let us at least hope that all institutions who have direct funding for HE ie both Universities and Further Education Colleges are allowed to grow in the same way.

So having covered the issue of funding, there is now the chance to consider Capital Investment and the latest news from the Skills Funding Agency regarding approval of Capital Projects has been positive. Many Colleges can at least begin elements of refurbishment and capital investment to improve the learning environment. Again there is a long way to go but simultaneously organisations will be able to re-evaluate their accommodation needs as new funding changes and demography infer less demand in many cases and therefore a reduction in places. Equally this could be reversed in the light of the raising of the school leaving age and rising levels of unemployment.

So much then for the physical resource but what about the human resource – the staff who will engage our learners and those who will create the entrepreneurs and leaders for tomorrow. Firstly there is the issue of flexibility – the new environment will require a mix of managers, lecturers and instructors as well as Colleges being able to recruit staff on short term assignments to meet the demands of the curriculum and in particular response to industry requirements. Secondly there is the issue of conditions of service such as changes to pension entitlement and salary levels which is causing disruption and uncertainty. The debate in pensions continues whereas on salary the issue must rest with Governing Bodies and management. My own view is that salary should be treated as in the private sector with reward for good and outstanding performance. My own College recruits many of its key managers direct from industry – all agree they have never worked so hard in their life!

As we get to the end of January therefore we should be focussed and able to deal with the uncertain future for our sector but equally there is that reliance on receiving guidance and direction from those who continue to reshape our sector. I make no comment except to wish you all every success.

Learners to be honoured at College’s annual ‘Oscars’ ceremony

Weston College's Principal Dr Paul Phillips

Weston College’s Principal Dr Paul Phillips

Weston College’s most outstanding students will be honoured at a gala ceremony next week.

The College’s annual ‘Celebration of Success’ evening next Tuesday (January 24) will see more than 40 awards handed out to learners and businesses who have formed partnerships with the College.

Around 300 guests will gather at Weston-super-Mare’s Winter Gardens to see who has won the coveted awards, which reflect all aspects of College life.

Categories include ‘student of the year’ in subjects including computing, art and design, business, engineering and hairdressing. There are also categories for those on Apprenticeship schemes, and also for companies engaged with Weston College in business and training partnerships. Four special ‘Principal’s Awards’ will be given to students and staff who have made particularly strong contributions to the College.

This year’s keynote speaker is Steve Cunningham, a founder member and captain of the England blind football team who, in 2004, became the world’s first blind pilot and has set speed records on land and at sea.

Presiding over the evening will be Dr Paul Phillips OBE, Weston College’s Principal and Chief Executive.

He said: “This is always a tremendous evening highlighting real achievement where students have overcome considerable personal barriers to gain success. It truly is a celebration of the hard work, dedication and talent of our students across all areas of the College.”



Higher Education institution for North Somerset is ‘crucial’ says College Principal

Dr Paul Phillips

Dr Paul Phillips

A bespoke Higher Education (HE) institution for North Somerset within the next five years is ‘crucial’ if the area is to thrive, according to Weston College’s Principal.

Dr Paul Phillips made the call at College’s annual Business Breakfast meeting for College partners, local business representatives and North Somerset Council officials, at which the Annual Report was launched.

He made no secret of Weston College’s ambitions to become a fully-fledged HE establishment, saying that it is already making significant progress in this area.

In front of an audience of 150, Dr Phillips said Weston College was already making significant inroads into the field of HE. He pointed out that this year there was a 100 per cent pass rate in the degrees offered by the College, with 21 per cent of graduates gaining a First Class Honours degree – much higher than the national average of eight per cent. In addition, 85 per cent of Weston College’s graduates have found employment.

He said: “The greatest accolade Weston-super-Mare could have is for it to become a university town. A HE establishment is crucial for North Somerset within the next five years.

“Already, a significant proportion of our undergraduates are coming from across the UK and this year we’ve noticed that more people are coming into North Somerset to study than are leaving it for the same reason.”

The idea of a Weston College developing new models of education chimes with the Government’s ambition to open new learning organisations across the UK. Next week, Lord Baker – former Education Secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s government of the 1980s – will visit Weston College to talk about its University Technical College aspirations, among other subjects.

Dr Phillips said: “The College, with North Somerset Council, the schools and its key business partners is determined to create the very best learning opportunity for the people of North Somerset and beyond.”

The breakfast meeting also heard from Graham Turner, North Somerset Council’s Chief Executive, who said that an alliance of public and private sector
interests was vital during ‘difficult times’ for the area.

“I was very pleased to read in the College’s literature that it is committed to listening and responding to individual needs,” he added, “and I think it is vital that people are treated as individuals. It is not easy to think about creating brighter futures when the recession is so dominant but this has to be the message.”

Jude Ferguson, Weston College Chair of Governors, said the College was continuing to expand even in difficult times, pointing to the construction of the new atrium and ‘Library Plus’ at the Knightstone Campus as examples of continued growth.

She said: “We continue to meet the needs of our learners and employers, and we try to remain innovative and flexible. Local and national recognition of our efforts is down to our staff, our learners and the people who support them.”

Second decade partnership good news for town’s future

Weston College

Dr Paul Phillips OBE and Professor Frank Morgan

Weston College and Bath Spa University are celebrating their second decade of working closely together.

At a special ceremony held at the College, Bath Spa University Vice Chancellor, Professor Frank Morgan, signed an agreement to work together for the next 10 years.

Professor Morgan said: “At a time of uncertainty in higher education we celebrate a partnership which has enriched both institutions. Weston College offers great academic quality and excellent attention to resources.”

Ten years ago Weston College saw 70 students begin higher education and degree courses. Now 600 students are enrolled and nearly 1,000 have gained degrees.

Almost 20 per cent of these have gained First Class Honours which is more than double the eight per cent national average.

OFSTED also recognised Bath Spa University and Weston College’s teacher training programme provision as Grade 1 Outstanding.

Weston College opened its own University Campus in 2007 and now has student accommodation to provide for those from other places who wish to study at Degree Level in Weston-super-Mare.

College Principal, Dr Paul Phillips, OBE, said at the signing ceremony: “Working with Bath Spa has been extremely beneficial to us, Weston and North Somerset. We’ve achieved our ambition to offer quality higher education in the area.

“We anticipate for further growth and I hope this event can be seen as the start of Weston being viewed as a university town, offering even more higher education qualifications.”

College Higher Education Director, Anthony Murray, who has overseen the partnership, added: “Higher education is going through a tough time and the agreement with Bath Spa University is crucial to ensure our continued growth and confidence.”

For more information on courses at Weston College call 01934 411411 or go to www.weston.ac.uk

Exclusive column from Dr Paul Phillips OBE – Principal of Weston College

Image of Dr Paul Phillips OBE - Weston College

Dr Paul Phillips OBE

As the recession deepens there is an even greater focus on training and re-skilling. In fact, as much as there is a need for up-skilling there is also the need for business and learning providers to change their products and approaches. I have been at Weston College for ten years and during that time the magnitude of change has been significant – not just with the College but across the country.

I still have significant aspirations for the future however. I believe that the whole culture of learning will need to change though, but that doesn’t mean I believe wholesale in what the Government is doing.

So what needs to change and how will this benefit North Somerset? I do not profess to have every answer but I would like to see the following happen: a Conference Centre that will allow small and large groups to access state of the art resources for training of all kinds; for North Somerset to have its own bespoke institution of Higher Education and possibly a University Technical College in conjunction with the schools of North Somerset; a range of facilities that will support learners who have learning difficulties and disabilities simultaneous with resources for all types of foundation learning.

Now, what will these give to the community? Probably the best combination of learning resources in any unitary authority to complement the existing models of best practice in the country.

To try and achieve this mammoth list might appear impossible or at best daunting but I think it is achievable, albeit in stages, and I will tell you why.

Weston-super-Mare University

an image of Weston University

Weston College University Campus

We need to make Weston-super-Mare a ‘University’ town or at least a town with significant Higher Education. The word ‘University’ actually worries me a little because it may become associated with ‘debt’ in the current climate. What I want is an Institute of Higher Education that will be known for its very high quality of provision at reasonable cost. Already, Weston College graduates enjoy First Class Honours achievement and progression to employment at levels significantly above the UK average so let’s capitalise on it. Moreover I want North Somerset, in conjunction with its learning providers at the Council, to be recognised as a success beacon across the United Kingdom.

The sceptics amongst you are going to say none of this will happen but I beg to differ. Before we accelerate to success however we do need belief in ourselves and commitment from all local business and industry. We need employers to take on apprentices, we need a greater range of opportunities for 19-25 year olds and for partnership between key organisations.

Economic prosperity for North Somerset

Last week I had the pleasure of presenting awards, with local businessman Kerry Michael, to pupils of Priory School. This morning I met with Peter Colclough, the new Chief Executive of Weston Area Health NHS Trust. Two weeks ago I was able to discuss College plans with Graham Turner, Chief Executive of North Somerset Council and this afternoon I will meet with a small business who want to take on an apprentice. Have you picked up the common theme? It is that partnership at all levels can bring economic prosperity to North Somerset and that the belief, expertise and commitment is already here.

Interesting times for the UK but interesting and achievable times for North Somerset. I will keep you updated!

Dr Paul Phillips OBE is the Principal and Chief Executive of Weston College. For information regarding courses at Weston College call 01934 411 411 or go to www.weston.ac.uk

Weston College student’s business goes international

Ian BanwellA Weston College student is celebrating the success of his flourishing coach travel business that he started at 13 years old and which is now set to go international.

Ian Banwell, who is still only 17, employs six people in his business, Banwell South West, which offers day trips for the over 50s.

He is still so young he cannot even drive and he’s too busy with his business to take lessons.

The teenager launched Banwell South West five years ago when the coach firm his grandmother, Joan, enjoyed trips with folded.

Despite being just 13 he has gained a loyal clientele with his carefully organised weekly trips around the South West, Windsor, London and Christmas markets.

Now he has nearly 4,500 customers and just signed a contract with Crosville Motor Services in Weston to launch holidays in the UK and Europe.

Ian said: “The business has flourished. I go on each trip myself to ensure they run smoothly and get to really know my customers. I’ll sometimes visit them between trips for a cup of tea and check on how they are.

“However, they all seem to think I am much older than 17, in fact one thought I was over 40.”

Weston College Principal, Dr Paul Phillips, OBE, said: “The focus of our College is about securing dynamic futures for our learners. Ian has demonstrated that he has both the determination and entrepreneurship to succeed in today’s business community. Each year we meet many people like Ian who realise their ambition and become an example for other students.”

To contact Banwell South West telephone 01934 835 275 or email info@banwells@ymail.com

For courses at Weston College call 01934 411 411 or go to www.weston.ac.uk