As the College of West Anglia embarks on a £35 million development, KL magazine talks to Principal David Promfret about the future of local education…
KL MAGAZINE: How did you first become involved in education?
DAVID POMFRET: After graduating I worked in the banking sector before becoming a recruitment and training manager. I enjoyed the training, but the balance wasn’t right – although it gave me the momentum to try something new. My first role in a college environment was as a lecturer in Business Studies before becoming Principal of Boston College when I was 37. I’ve been at the College of West Anglia for four years now.
KL MAGAZINE: What have been the most important developments at CWA during your time as head?
DAVID POMFRET: There have been many, primarily a very successful Ofsted inspection (outstanding) in 2007 followed a year later with the college being granted Beacon College status in recognition of our educational excellence.
Of course our current £35m building development is a huge investment for the college, most of which is still to be carried out. Moving everyone out of the tower block into temporary classrooms was a mammoth task but we’re ensuring the facilities will be of equal or better standard. The enormous refurbishment programme will include a new £5.5m technology centre and improved facilities at our other campuses, all resulting in us being able to offer more to our students.
KL MAGAZINE: Has the increase in university fees affected the college in any way?
DAVID POMFRET: As the new fee structure doesn’t come into place until the 2012/13 academic year we haven’t seen an impact yet, although I’m sure it will have an effect. However, choosing to do a degree locally reduces the costs involved with moving away to study, and has many other benefits. Generally I don’t think anyone should be put off from higher education study, as fees are deferred and income from employment is generally increased with these qualifications.
KL MAGAZINE: CWA offers university degree courses from local learning centres – how important do you think this is to students?
DAVID POMFRET: Choosing to study higher education is one of the biggest financial decisions a person can make and studying locally can make this much more affordable. However, this is only one consideration and we ensure the choice and quality of our courses are high, as well as offering more direct support to our students.
KL MAGAZINE: Has the type of courses students are choosing altered over the last few years because of economic developments?
DAVID POMFRET: We have a significant number of employed students seeking to develop their workplace skills and qualifications. Last year we did see a small drop in the number of apprenticeships, but things are looking positive this year. There have been less adult learners on our courses which we put down to financial restrictions (cuts in government funding have brought further challenges) – however, the number of 16-18 year olds is on the increase.
KL MAGAZINE: How does the college work with businesses in the community to aid student development and future career options?
DAVID POMFRET: We support some 800 employers through our apprenticeships and commercial training programmes and last year over 2,000 employees were supported solely in the workplace. We have a specific team for our new range of employability courses which equip students with the skills they need to get back into employment. The college has strong links with local businesses such as Palm Paper and Morston Assets with whom we run the Enterprise Challenge each year.
KL MAGAZINE: What plans do you have for the college over the coming year?
DAVID POMFRET: Obviously the new building projects will be a main priority so we’ll be supporting our students in temporary facilities. The college is always developing its facilities and courses, introducing new opportunities for our students such as the new Motor Sport Engineering foundation degree which will begin in September 2012 from our Isle Campus.
KL MAGAZINE: How do you enjoy your free time?
DAVID POMFRET: Having five children and a busy job means family time is precious. Weekends are usually spent as a taxi driver to my children but I enjoy just being with my family. Very occasionally I play golf but the opportunity rarely arises.
KL MAGAZINE: Who inspires you?
DAVID POMFRET: There are lots of people who inspire me, especially my family. I’m always inspired by my students at the college award ceremonies – I admit I often become emotional when I see those who’ve overcome adversity and reached their potential.
KL MAGAZINE: Tell us something about you that would surprise people?
DAVID POMFRET: I used to play the French Horn in the county orchestra and could have gone to music college – although I’m pleased I chose the direction I did! Recently I taught myself the trombone and I played in a silver band.
THE COLLEGE OF WEST ANGLIA
Tennyson Avenue, King’s Lynn
Norfolk PE30 2QW
T: 01553 761144