March 2014

The know zone

  • Do the right thing
    Four recommendations in the recent report on whistleblowing by charity Public Concern at Work are particularly significant for schools and colleges, says Richard Bird. More
  • Save and prosper
    In tough times, ‘resourceful resourcing’ comes into its own. Val Andrew offers business managers a guide. More
  • Fresh look for inspections
    Suzanne O’Farrell examines the implications of changes to Ofsted’s subsidiary guidance and handbook and looks ahead to the new framework scheduled for September. More
  • Post-16 committee
    The focus in this Leader is on ASCL Council’s Post-16 Committee, which has a wide-ranging remit that includes all aspects of post-16 education in schools and colleges. More
  • Great aspirations
    Kathryn Podmore is Principal of Birkenhead Sixth Form College, an active member of several education bodies and chair of ASCL Council’s Post-16 committee. More
  • Ensuring complete representation
    From time to time ASCL Council co-opts members from groups that are under-represented to ensure that the views of all types of members are taken into consideration when debating policy. More
  • ASCL PD events
    Whole School Leadership of Teaching and Learning, Student Voice Beyond Student Councils, and Strategic Behavioural Management that Works More
  • Analyse this...
    What systems, processes and people do you need to help your staff develop their skills and their careers? Sue Bull and Vicky Bishop explain. More
  • Virtually University
    Virtually University (VU) links schools and colleges with universities via videoconferencing to help inform and inspire students with their HE choices More
  • Adding value
    Walk your way to improved health More
  • Poisoned chalice?
    Schools Minister David Laws recently announced a new programme to encourage ‘outstanding’ heads and school leaders to move into schools in challenging circumstances. Would you be willing to take on the challenge? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Take Care?
    No matter the intention, what you call it or how you present it to students, Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education (PSCH More
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Kathryn Podmore is Principal of Birkenhead Sixth Form College, an active member of several education bodies and chair of ASCL Council’s Post-16 committee.

Great aspirations

How would you describe your college?

We serve the whole of the Wirral and have 1,250 full-time students and a cohort of post-19s who study with us on a part-time basis, mainly in the evenings.

What are your facilities like?

We’ve made a huge investment and have just built a new humanities block, art and design centre and learning support base as well as extending all our science laboratories.

Our most recent project was a new frontage and reception area which has just been completed. When designing the new buildings, our main concern was practicality; very often, you see wonderfullydesigned buildings that aren’t always as useful as they should be. So in the art and design centre, for example, we went for big open spaces where students can display their work to maximum effect.

This works particularly well on the top floor which is filled with light and looks out across the Liverpool skyline with both cathedrals standing out prominently providing an inspirational backdrop for students. It also enabled us to provide a foundation course for our some of our students. Cammell Laird, the shipbuilders, recently sponsored a sculpture competition to commemorate HMS Birkenhead and the piece that they have chosen to create on the waterfront was designed by one of our students.

What does being an official Microsoft IT academy entail?

We work closely with the company and have a dedicated room to deliver courses to our students and the local community to prepare them for the workplace or further study. Again, our IT investment has been considerable to enable students to have 24-hour access to their work and industry leading software.

What’s top of the ‘to-do list’ for the ASCL Council Post-16 Committee?

Developing the campaign to ensure no more funding is lost from the 16-18 budget for schools and colleges; it seems to be the area where the Department for Education is choosing to make the deepest cuts.

Were you always going to teach?

No. I always wanted to work in an area where I could try to raise people’s aspirations but for a long time I was undecided about social work or education.

I was also going to be a prison governor at one point but at the time I was applying you had to be a certain age so I went into teaching to gain some life experiences. Once I was there, I loved it. I used to do volunteer work in prisons and young offenders’ institutions where I helped to set up youth club-type schemes and did some teaching with the prison education service. It was absolutely fascinating and I learned skills that have been extremely useful.

Underpinning it all, I knew that I always wanted to work with people that perhaps had not had some of the advantages that others had enjoyed and to be able to improve life chances.

  • Interview by John Holt

Kathryn Podmore