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02 October 2023

The Monday Briefing: Just a Dream

The Monday Briefing: Just a Dream

Back in February, as part of my planning for the academic year of 2023-2024, it started to become clear that the College was likely to require some form of expansion.

Given the increased demand for places, and the in-year growth which we experienced during 2022-2023, I could confidently plan for more students being on roll than we’d had since 2016-2017 when the population of the College was rather more part time, and ‘bitty’ given the nature of the modular exam system which promoted students enrolling in Colleges like Ealing to take the odd unit here and exam there to improve their results profile.

It was at this time when an exploration was undertaken to build an annexe to house more students with planning permission granted to enable expansion. The dream of enlargement seemed like it could become reality.

The landscape changed, however, with exam reform - which ushered in the linear system - and the College had to alter its approach.

It wasn’t until I took over as Principal that, I feel, that necessary change was fully embraced.

I recall vividly my first discussion with David Williams when he came to visit the College. He stated that, in an ideal world, one would tear the College down and repurpose it to better fit the needs of the learners who attend here. While drastic, such an approach would have yielded a revolution - a completely new College. It became clear that such a transformation was indeed required, but would need to be done through evolution rather than a ‘rip it up and start again’ process.

A three-year plan was enacted to actively market the College with an aim of enrolling the requisite number of students to fit the following guidelines, to my mind, a perfect College size to fit the vision I had for it:

120 students in total

12 in Year 9

24 in Year 10

24 in Year 11

36 in Year 12

36 in Year 13

 

This would ensure that the College was able to work towards maintaining the ethos - small class sizes empowering students, personal coaching within an inclusive environment, a close-knit community - whilst ensuring that it was viable. We had to work hard to fight for progress through some tough times - like Covid - within a competitive market place and volatile economic climate.

In February 2023, the College stood on the brink of achieving the goal set when I became Principal:

111 students in total (we made it to 115 by the end of the year)

9 in Year 9

19 in Year 10

21 in Year 11

36 in Year 12

26 in Year 13

 

Satisfying the aims of the three year plan has happened due to several key factors, all of which have been key characteristics of what EIC has become:

-Excellent results, in terms of value added - something which has not been compromised on for several consecutive years

-A stable staff body - which has been truly enhanced through the recruitment of excellent people to fulfil key roles

-Engaging stories of student rehabilitation and ‘mending futures’ - something of a College specialism

-A nurturing and supportive environment with more flexibility - something which has improved immeasurably to accommodate students who have found an environment in which they feel happy and empowered - the polar opposite of the conditions which they had before they came to EIC.

 

The College had, however, always been a ‘best kept secret’ - local parents who suddenly ‘discovered’ us often said they had no idea we were there, but this was, to a large degree overcome - with the reputation of the College growing due to further key factors:

-An improvement of the online presence of the College - with this successful blog alongside our excellent alumni podcast bringing thousands of new online impressions.

-A flurry of positive, honest and detailed online reviews from current and former parents enhancing the presence of the College.

-Fledgling links with local businesses and schools to increase the awareness of the power of the College in changing lives

-Positive word of mouth gaining momentum throughout Ealing, capitalised on through a more professional admissions process.

 

Such innovations and improvements have been important, and, coinciding with the return of formal exams following the Covid-19 pandemic which ushered in teacher or centre assessed grades, demand for what the College offers has risen. The College has grown into a place whereby it can intelligently seek to capitalise on the opportunities which now present themselves. 

In addition to this, the College is now run far more effectively - but this blog is not the place to discuss this - at least not at this point.

The stumbling block in projected growth had always been the limiting size of the College, along with the meagre facilities which it offered. But the planning which commenced in February, was agreed in the months after, and is now coming to fruition is truly liberating.

It would be difficult to deny that the aesthetic of the College has improved in the last three years:

-Large photographs are in place around corridors which give a modern look

-An extensive redecoration of the College in the summer provided an immediate transformation - with the College looking cleaner and fresher than before.

-Recent extensive spending projects have included an improved roof; a new fence has also vastly improved the security and initial appearance of the College.

 

And now we come to the solution - the construction of a garden room, providing the breathing space for the College to live comfortably with its capacity of 150, and a reinvigorating look which has brought it fully up to date with the internal changes.

Here are the initial plans:

 

And now we stand on the brink of completion, with the dream nearing reality:

 

The pace of the project, once it got started, has been really quite startling - and here I must give effusive praise to Vivid Green who have managed the project so incredibly well.

It was Mikhail Gorbachev who stated, in the mid 1980s, trying to bring fundamental reform to the USSR: “If you are not moving forward, sooner or later, you are moving backward.”

This resonates - we are always trying to strive for progress in the classroom, to get the very best from our students - and it’s vital to apply such a mantra to the College itself. 

This is why I was so delighted when I read the feedback from our staff consultation in June - when asked whether they felt the College was going in the right direction, EIC staff responded with a net promoter score of 92.8%.*

Of course, I believed this to be true before I asked, but it is good to receive affirmation.

I knew that the new building would be wonderful too - but it’s tremendous to see it before your eyes. From dream to reality.


 

* A net promoter score is provided where the amount of respondents who state that they agree with a statement 0-6/10 is removed from the amount who agree 9 or 10/10, and divided by the number of respondents.

 

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