East Surrey College – an open and inclusive culture

Part of the Transformation in action blog series

In this series of blogs, Dr Katerina Kolyva, Chief Executive of the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), reports on her visits to Further Education (FE) and skills providers across the sector. She uncovers the transformational learning opportunities available to students alongside the dedicated professionalism of teachers, trainers and leaders from the wide variety of different providers across the sector.

As Claire Nicholson-Clinch and I stepped into East Surrey College, we were immediately welcomed by a beautiful art exhibit created by learners, including artwork which is soon to be displayed at the nearest train station and some great photography. Proud 2 B Me was about to start when we visited – a week in March dedicated to celebrating inclusion among students and staff, encouraging them to be their authentic selves. It creates an environment where every individual feels valued, respected and empowered. It all adds up to creating a welcoming and supporting environment within the colleges.

Lindsay Pamphilon runs her organisation with pride and openness. She engages across her organisation with learners, teachers and trainers and is passionate about showcasing best practice. Our conversations with Lindsay and Rebecca Taylor focused on culture and professional development. We discussed how the college can benefit from the new ETF strategy, both in terms of our programmes and using the Professional Standards to support staff development.

Both Lindsay and Rebecca talked about the importance of using the right language, symbolism and role modeling. If you want to have an open culture then your language must be welcoming, you must be open to discussion, challenge and positively engage with staff and learners. An open culture is also about promoting the great work of the college across its geography and education provision. They believe in the importance of living the culture you wish to have and that this is the only way to build an organisation post-merger.

Our discussion with learners and their teacher in the train industry focused on the importance of clear communication and prioritising safety for all passengers. The need for professionalism came through strongly. The learners come from all walks of life and look truly motivated towards their journey of employability. We were really pleased to see how keen they are to prepare for the next stage of their learning and get ready for work.

Overall, an excellent visit that taught us a lot about how to lead with pride, being open and inclusive and living the culture you want to see in your organisation.