Together We Transform: Penny Taylor – Lincoln College Group

Penny Taylor is the Head of Newark College and Air and Space Institute, part of Lincoln College Group. She has worked within further education (FE) and skills for over 20 years and was awarded an MBE in the King’s Honour List for her services to education and skills and employment in Newark and Sherwood. She was also recognised at the inaugural Good for Me Good for FE awards.

In this case study, Penny discusses how FE can help to transform entire communities, as well as the lives of her students.

Photo of Penny Taylor

My FE journey

After doing an Open University degree in Social Science and Criminology, I worked in youth offending and the prison service for many years. I met many who were genuinely good people who’d simply not had the right guidance and were stuck in a cycle.

I wanted to have more of a positive impact on young people, so after being a full-time mum for a few years I did a PGCE. For 18 years, I taught mainly NEET students (Not in , Employment or Training) at Lincoln College Group, until I changed roles four years ago and am currently Head of Newark College.

FE changes lives through a hidden curriculum

I am a true believer that FE changes lives. Many of our students arrive with low confidence and have had a negative experience at school. But FE offers an alternative way of learning. We focus on solutions, not problems, and our individualised learning plans can really help a young person to thrive.

There’s also a hidden curriculum of non-qualification-based skills within FE and Training which is vital for their future. We empower our students with information, but also nurture positive behaviours and relationships, build trust and develop vital life skills.

Changing local communities

Through education initiatives, we’re changing the outlook of our communities. For the last two years, we’ve been running the Air and Space Institute (ASI) at Newark College and have now secured a £15million programme for a new building to train young people in the aviation, space and engineering sector. By partnering with Nottingham Trent University to deliver the degree programmes, we’ve also brought the first higher education provider to the area.

Not only is the institute transforming people’s skills and life trajectories, it’s changing how people view Newark. The ASI has reenergised the area, raised local aspirations and created a destination hotspot for upskilling.

Life after FE

I’ve witnessed how FE can change people’s cycles. Our students continue to thrive after college; they do fulfilling jobs, they give back to society and they’re valued in the community. These can be the same students who didn’t start with any confidence, or they’re from families that don’t prioritise education, and yet, by attending college, and having a purpose, they were able to use FE to transform their own lives.

Developing through CPD

Doing my ATS with the ETF re-invigorated my love of learning and research. It allowed me to think and behave in different ways, which had a noticeable impact on my work. After a change of job role, I was promoted, and now as Head of Newark, I’ve been able to work with the team to develop the college to be in a different place to where it was four years ago.

CPD within Newark College

At Newark, we have a pedagogy focus. We make sure that teachers have at least 30 hours CPD practice and 15 hours of industry-based learning a year, to ensure we’re growing professionally and teaching the skills that employers want. We need to help our students be as work-ready and prepared as possible, and relevant CPD plays a big part in that.

We use a lot of resources from the ETF and Society for and Training (SET), including my personal favourite: the . It allows staff to reflect and focus on areas for development, but is also supports their managers and leaders through a coaching and mentoring process. It’s quite cathartic and a real learning curve for staff.  

The benefits of SET courses

Having a membership with SET has provided our college with a foundation for learning. The courses enable individual development through research and reflection, as well as the much-needed opportunity to collaborate with other practitioners. SET also offers a range of research opportunities for the college, which I’ve noticed has impacted staff and students in a variety of positive ways.

Building a teaching community

As well as investing in our teachers’ professional development, we need to make sure they feel supported at work. We hold an informal ‘Curriculum Chat’ once a month, where staff from different faculties can come together to chat over coffee and collaborate, without the pressure of any structured meetings or the formality of CPD training.

I think it’s really important to support our staff to build connections, collaborate with one another and ultimately, to enjoy working in FE. By investing in your teachers this way, you’re trying to give your students the best learning experience they can possibly have.

Find out more

Find out more about our Together we transform initiative, and view other case studies, highlighting the transformative impact that the further education and skills sector has on lives across the UK.