South Hampshire College Group – regional collaboration and first-class facilities

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.

South Hampshire College Group is simply impressive. From its first-class Institute of Technology to strong collaboration of colleges, universities and employers delivering industry-led education, the group supports economic and societal growth in the region. Recently merged, the group brings together three FE colleges from Southampton, Eastleigh and Fareham, making a strong and ambitious organisation.

A large engineering and mechanics warehouse environment shows cars lined up in rows
Motor vehicle workshop

I visited on a wet and windy day, but the college welcomed me with its shining ambition and leadership. I met with Sandra Prail, Chair, Andrew Kaye, Principal and CEO, Pete Joddrell, Deputy Principal Curriculum and Quality, and Tanya-Marie Richardson, Director of Quality. I was pleased with the feedback on the quality of ETF’s leadership and governance programmes that they have all been involved in. Our discussion moved swiftly to ETF’s role in the sector. I reflected that the Further Education and Skills sector is busy with the variety of CPD providers. ETF’s role is to take that step back to articulate its strategic role of driving professionalism through clear standards, raising quality of CPD, working with others to improve quality in the system, and articulating the sector’s impact on the economy and society. It is the first time I have met the chair and CEO of an organisation together, and I truly valued the opportunity to hear from both, particularly given their extensive experience with ETF.

A large piece of machinery sits in the middle of a marine engineering workshop cordoned off.
Marine engineering workshop

I visited on the day many T Level students were preparing for their exams and I was pleased to have the opportunity to talk to them. What they value the most in their T Level programme is their industry placement. Four students shared their experiences with me at the MoD, one of the local universities and a local digital employer. They explained how the T Level built their confidence, making them truly work ready and offering them options with employers to test and explore their career interests. They were all inspired by their teacher who, with her strong smile, continues to motivate them and support them through their hard work. When they ask me what I do, I say: ‘I support your teacher to be the best they can be and your college’s directors and CEO to be the best leaders. We work to make your education the most impactful for your employment, the economy and society as a whole. Together, we transform your learning experience, making sure your education is the best it can be’.

Student artwork, fashion and textiles, photography and sculptures are displayed on the walls of a corridor.
Corridors displaying student artwork, fashion, textiles, photography and sculptures.

A visit to the South Coast Institute of Technology an hour later left me speechless. I have never come across such innovation in terms of ways of working across professions, use of AI and digital, partnership working with local employers, sponsors and universities. It is simply the best way to deliver engineering in an inspiring environment. Andrew is a strong communicator and strategist. His engagement goes from influencing government and employer support for the region to learning from other places – all the way to Germany, where he visited recently. I am inspired by his personal take on his own professional development from two programmes ETF runs in partnership with Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, to other development opportunities he pursued to develop his leadership further. He continues to invest his time and energy in his leadership and, as he does, he motivates and supports his colleagues to do so. Tanya, for example, has finished a leadership programme and looks forward to joining networks and progressing in her career.