Wednesday, 29 April 2015

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Clare Davison

CLARE Davison has been principal at Kingston Maurward College for five years, coming to the role from the position of deputy. In total, she has been at the college for about 15 years. Prior to her arrival in Dorchester she led a management and professional studies department in a Bournemouth college after teaching jobs in schools. She comes originally from the Muscliff area of East Dorset which, as she says, was then a small village, before being swallowed up by the Poole-Bournemouth-Christchurch conurbation.

WHAT are some of your earliest memories from your childhood?
Probably of Throop Mill where we fished and swam. There is a picture of me at home at about the age of two at the mill. It’s a lovely place.  We also used to cycle around the area as a child, with a group of friends, although I have never let my daughter do that. 

HAVE you always had an interest in the countryside?
Yes, I have always has an interest in large country houses of the sort this [Kingston Maurward] is, and I’ve had an interest in the countryside from my father who had a smallholding.

WHAT attracted you to Kingston Maurward?
It’s a very special place and unique in its ways. There are now only 14 land-based colleges. When I first came into the sector there were probably 40 or 50. I do feel passionately about Dorset hanging on to its land-based college because so many have gone, although a number have been merged with further education colleges, some successfully, some less so. Since I have been here were have diversified along with the industry. It now has new facilities for animal sciences, horticulture and we have just got some money for agritech, just to mention a few. We have needed to be outward facing and seek to grow year on year and are, of course, popular as a venue for weddings and conferences.

WHAT keeps you interested in your job?
The staff and students, who are fantastic, but of course this building and its grounds. I never tire of looking at the site and try and get out every day for a walk around and to chat to people. It’s a busy but exciting job and we continue to grow year on year and the college has seen more students opt to come here. 

WHAT sort of changes might yet be to come?
We have to constantly innovate and one of our priorities is to do more in Higher Education. We’ve done particularly well with apprentices – over 700 last year is significant for a relatively small college and of course with Dorset full of small and medium-sized business we have great links to hundreds of employers across the county, and beyond. Most of our students do go on and get jobs. We want to do more Higher Education and be in the forefront of making it possible for people to stay local.

DO you have a favourite area or department?
There hasn’t been a single day when I don’t drive into this beautiful campus and think “Gosh, I’m lucky to be working here”, and when you come in on a spring day and you see the lambs in the field and you look at the gardens with all the magnolias it’s hard not to like agriculture and horticulture. 

IF you went back to the classroom what would you teach?
I still do a bit of teaching but I would perhaps concentrate on English and maths, which is so important for everyone to have a good standard in. 

IN your spare time, if you have any, what do you like to do?
My husband and I like to cycle. On a good day we’ll get the bikes out and sometimes go fair distances. One of our favourite cycle trips is to go from Wimborne down to Poole on the old railway line and then over on the ferry and then on to Old Harry Rocks. It’s a view which is hard to beat. 

ANY hobbies a bit less physical?
Reading - I do like psychological thrillers. I don’t paint but I do like art and spend a fair amount of time browsing art galleries and looking at art. I’m a member of the Royal Academy and always go to the summer exhibition and am generally tempted by something. I love impressionist art. We’ve got a nice garden, but I can’t claim to have put it together, we inherited it when we bought the house. It’s now full of flowering cherries and magnolias and lots of shrubs, but we don’t have a lot of flowers.

HOW do you see the years ahead for you and Kingston Maurward?
I think we are well positioned to face the future and have the infrastructure and courses to ensure young people in Dorset have a real choice from us. You can never do these things quickly enough - I would like to see us being considered a world class institution and I like to think we keep in touch with what the sector needs and how its needs are changing so we can always deliver what is appropriate to the next generation. Our biggest challenges are financial – we need to maximise our commercial activity and we will have to continue to remain being very efficient in all that we do.

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