#futureprincipal – phase 1


Earlier this month I handed in my Dissertation after 9 years of procrastination, attempts at a number of careers and a whole heap of various routes into part time study. I am going to use the old clichéd phrase of saying that it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, but it really did. Years of frustration, a continued feeling of guilt over “I should really be doing some studying now but…” and a cloud of disappointment that I am sure was emanating from my mother over the fact I never did make it to Cambridge all seemed to disappear and I was free.

So I started thinking about what’s next, and given that I am more than a tad ADHD, it wasn’t long before I was envisioning myself running marathons, taking up the saxophone and writing THAT novel… but then I thought back to a chat I had had with the lovely @MrsSarahSimons and started to consider my professional future.

I have always been ambitious, sort of by default because my Geography teacher Miss Campbell once told me (after I got my Cambridge rejection – it still hangs heavy on me, can you tell?!) that whatever I ended up doing, I would be great at. Now rather taking that as some sort of positive portent, I have instead taken this on as a personal challenge, and I feel I owe it to Miss C to be just that. So in all my jobs I have tried to be the best that I can be, and now I feel I have found my career of choice in FE, for the last three years in my current role I have really worked hard.  But now I want to start thinking about where I go from here, and to some of you, three years may be a very short time, but remember, I do have ADHD, so it’s an absolute AGE!

In true “capable-with-ADHD” style, I have now decided I want to be a college principal (#futureprincipal) but I have also realised that there is a bit of a distance to cover to get there, given that I am currently ‘just’ a Lecturer. So how on earth does one get there? Add to that the statistic that Matthew Hancock recently shared at the Women’s Leadership Network Annual Conference, that around 64% of the total FE workforce is female, but only 38% of college principals are women, and I really am going to be paddling upstream.

I used to be a Prison Officer, and before leaving the Prison Service, was offered FastTrack which was their internal management training scheme. Does anything like that exist in FE? It seems not… There is a college that offers an L&M apprenticeship to its staff, but other than that there are no schemes or programmes or courses to take young and ambitious (or not so young but definitely ambitious) staff ‘up the ranks’ and prepare them for life at the top of the FE pile. Yes I could use my staff voucher to join a business and management course in September, but surely there needs to be something more specific to FE. Shouldn’t colleges be nurturing and preparing their finest and most dedicated staff for executive roles? To ensure that the best colleges remain the best and to ensure that all of the information and guidance someone like me would need to be a principal one day, wouldn’t it be sensible to feed it through CPD over the many years between being a lecturer and eventually an executive? But not just randomly – the odd course here and there, but a package of development with a focused aim – outstanding leadership in FE.

So in the absence of any scheme, I turned to Twitter and a very supportive chap I work with for help…and after sifting through the advice it seems there are 4 things I need to ‘get’.

1. Get management experience – can I go and buy it? Does it grow in an orchard somewhere? To find it will I need a bold horse and be skilled at macramé? NO? Well where will it come from then?  Here we find the age old chicken/egg issue.

2. Get published – this suggests a lot of research and writing, more than a dissertation…did I mention I have ADHD? A possibility for the future I feel…but not yet. And anyway, what on earth could I write about? Answers on a post card….

3. Get a mentor – Aha! Here Twitter is the winner and so far no less than two FE senior leaders have kindly responded to my call for help. The only problem now is tracking them down for a phone chat as both seem to be eternally busy, but so it goes if you are in a Principal / DP / CEO role.

4. Get a masters degree – Now this one I can make real progress with, so just need to ensure I choose the right course at the right place, do I go for an institute that gives me kudos and connections or one that does the right course for me? I know what I’d advise my students to do…

A friend of mine recently posted a lovely picture on facebook with the words

“I want to remember that no one is going to make my dreams come true for me…it is my job to get up every day and work towards the things that are deepest in my heart…and to enjoy every step of the journey rather than wishing I was already where I want to end up”.

I don’t know where this came from but I am going to try my hardest to apply it to my #futureprincipal journey.

If you have any thoughts or advice then please share.


(Also on #UKFECHAT.com)


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