In summer 2022 as I was thinking about my transition into retirement, I saw an advert for a Trustee / Governor position for New College Worcester. I was immediately attracted to the role having worked in the field of post-16 visual impairment / multi-sensory impairment and complex needs for a substantial part of my working life. I applied and was delighted to be offered the position. My first meeting was in the autumn term of 2022/23. I immediately felt `at home` in the college and that my understanding of post-16 special education would be supportive of discussions at the governing body meetings.
On 31 March 2023, I retired from my role of Executive Principal of Sense College, after 13 years with the national charity Sense. Through undertaking that role, I had strategic leadership and management accountability for two independent specialist colleges, Sense College East and Sense College Loughborough. Diana refers below to `departing with very mixed feelings` and that was very much how I felt in leaving my role at Sense. Change, inevitably, comes to all of us in one way or another and this is another change for both me and Diana.
When Diana announced she would be stepping down as Chair, there was an opportunity to apply for the position. I have long-standing experience of Trustee / Governor / Vice Chair positions in local and national charities / specialist colleges and with my career background thought this would be a natural progression. I hoped I would be considered for the role and again I was delighted when I was successful with my application!
Linda Morris (Vice Chair), the Governing Body and myself would like to thank Diana for her incredible contribution to NCW over the years. Although sad to see an end to Diana’s period as Chair, all recognise with grateful thanks her considerable achievements in moving the college forward during her tenure.
When asked to contribute to a communication to staff pupils and parents, Diana said:
“I joined the Board as a trustee in early 2009, when NCW had just completed its first year of independence from the RNIB. Prior to that, the RNIB had a national board of trustees for all their educational establishments, and there was a local board of governors. It was initially decided to keep this 2-tier approach locally, so I joined the Trustee Board, responsible for finances and running the ‘company’ on the basis that I was Chief Executive of a Probation Trust, and there was a separate board of governors responsible for day-to-day operations. This did not work so the two were united under one NCW Governing Body, the first of many adjustments and changes as part of the hard-fought independence.
I was appointed Chair in July 2014 and initially focused on developing a long-term strategic plan as there was nothing in place, involving the SLT and governors. Since then, there have been many challenges to face and constant adaptations to meet the ever-changing external context and demands, as evidenced by the increasingly high standards for safeguarding. I recall the time when the only criticism by Ofsted was that the bananas provided for the students were too green, and the surgery carpet needed replacing! It was a different world!
NCW has been part of my life for the last 14 years, so I depart with very mixed feelings. My last 9 years as Chair has been a privilege and despite some very rocky times, the importance of sustaining NCW’s future has never decreased. You are such a wonderful community to have been a part of and I have every confidence you will meet the inevitable challenges ahead with your characteristic commitment and dedication to providing the very best for students. Thank you to everyone and all the very best for a brilliant future which is so richly deserved.”
We are very fortunate in that the Vice Chair position remains constant with Linda Morris, who has been instrumental in the Chair election process from gauging initial interest in the role through to overseeing the election and transition. Linda has been invaluable in supporting both Diana and myself through the process of handover and I am very grateful to them both for their backing and assistance throughout.
I am really looking forward to leading and supporting NCW through the strategic and operational challenges that are ahead for all in the specialist education sector. All at NCW have a can-do attitude, a strong determination to succeed and I feel NCW is uniquely placed to support our young people in their educational achievements and journey into adulthood.
Chair of Governors, September 2023