Seizing every opportunity

Professor Edward Sallis, OBE

Educationalist and Non-Executive Director

After leaving school and an initial interest in accountancy you studied for a degree followed by a Masters in Economics and then you became an Inspector of Taxes before moving into teaching. What brought about this decision to go into teaching?

While I am grateful I learnt about finance and accounting, which has stood me in good stead, I realised early on in my career that I am a people person and wanted to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Teaching in further education has provided me with that opportunity because it is so varied helping people of all ages achieve their career goals.

Your last role before coming to the Island was as Deputy Principal at the City of Bristol College. Can you tell us what motivated you most during this period and why you studied part-time for a PhD in Education Management?

Working in Bristol convinced me that I wanted to run my own college. I had huge opportunities during my eight years there. I originally joined Brunel College, which was the largest of the four colleges in the city.  Having that number of institutions made little sense. There was too much overlap and rivalry and when in 1992 FE colleges in the UK were incorporated, there was a need for restructuring.  Merging colleges is a complex business and I was responsible for the planning and strategic direction of the new City of Bristol College, one of the largest in England.  In addition, I took responsibility for planning the quality systems for the new institution and it was on the basis of the research I did for that process that I undertook my PhD.  During this time I was also a member of the Bristol Regeneration Partnership that was responsible for the huge amount of work that was taking place in the city centre and the docks.  That was interesting as the College had purchased land and was building a new city centre campus.  It was a time of enormous opportunity for me and gave me the chance to broaden my skills ready for the move to Highlands as Principal.

In 1997 you became Principal and Chief Executive at Highlands College where you remained for 15 years. Could you explain what attracted you to this role, what you set out to achieve and how you changed the organisation for the better?

I loved working at Highlands. The staff and the students were special and the only thing I miss in retirement is not seeing them on a daily basis.  What I am most proud of was changing the perception of the College and improving its reputation.  I established a strong strategic direction focusing on developing new programmes in conjunction with business. The result was a doubling of full-time student numbers and much improved quality of teaching and learning.  I also ensured that all students had the support in English and maths they needed to complete their course.  Developing the degree programme was a special interest of mine and I worked with Plymouth and London South Bank universities to establish the University Centre that has given access to degree education on-Island.

In 2010, you were invited to Buckingham Palace to collect your OBE for your services to Education. How did this incredibly proud day and your award impact your life?

I received my OBE from Prince Charles, as he then was.  Nothing beats that moment.  It was a little piece of magic  The King is very knowledgeable about young people and their transition to work and adult life and has done so much to support them through his Prince’s Trust, which I was fortunate enough to run in Bristol.  Having the OBE does make an impact, especially in providing recognition for a lifetime of achievement.

Nothing beats the moment that I received my OBE from Prince Charles. It was a little piece of magic.

You have been the Channel Islands Consultant for Plymouth University where more than 100+ students enrol from Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney. Could you tell us how you approached this honorary role, helping to oversee the University’s strategy in one of its key geographical locations?

Plymouth is a wonderful university with a world-class education in areas such as marine science, but it also works to improve access to higher education from under-represented groups and has strong regional links.  I have worked with Plymouth for over 30 years and they are the principal university partner of Highlands and have given the College unstinting advice and support in developing the on-Island degree programme.  As the educational landscape in the Channel Islands is different, the Vice-Chancellor asked me to be their Channel Islands consultant.  So many UK institutions are fascinated that we can run national programmes with a different political system.

In 2015 you chaired the review of Maths and English qualifications available in technical education at the request of then UK Skills Minister, Nick Boles MP. You later became a member of the Education and Training Foundation’s Expert Panel on Professional Standards in Technical Education. You are clearly interested in raising the standards for teaching these core subjects; how has your work influenced how these subjects are taught?

English and maths are the foundations of education.  Many students do not do well in GCSE and require additional support in these subjects when studying at college or on an apprenticeship.

I was asked to lead a panel with representation from the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, OFTSED and a number of senior business leaders to review English and maths qualifications, known as Functional Skills which have nearly a million entries annually.  The review looked at whether these qualifications improved students’ understanding, were relevant to business needs and whether they needed to change to meet future skills requirements.  I had a research company working with me and I personally interviewed students, business leaders and other experts and gave talks at places as varied as Leicester City Football Club and Church House, Westminster.  Nick Boles MP, gave me four months to complete the work because of the upcoming 2015 general election and to do this I travelled to London three days a week and worked most weekends writing the report “Making English and Maths Work for All”, which was delivered on time and accepted by him.  Functional Skills qualifications have subsequently been reformed based on updated employer standards.

My main hobby now is playing the classical guitar and I practice for an hour or two every day. Never be afraid to take a chance and seize the opportunities that come your way.

You have carried out research, authored several books and scholarly publications many on the theme of educational management and leadership. What have been the common themes that you have written about and the main messages you’d like to share?

I have been interested in how the quality of education provision can be improved and what structures and processes need to be in place to ensure continuous improvement and high standards.  It is in this context that I approach leadership.  I don’t believe there is a single approach to being a good leader, but what I do know is that you can tell a good leader from their actions and particularly from the results of the organisation they lead.

Since your retirement you have held several consultancy, and non-executive positions in Jersey and the UK and you hold the Financial Times Non-Executive Director Diploma. What has been your biggest achievements to-date and who has been your biggest inspiration along the way?

I have had a varied NED career.  Whilst some of my roles have been in education, I have also worked in heritage, professional standards, mental health, as a Board member of the teachers’ and public employees’ pension schemes and as an Appointments Commissioner.  My biggest achievement has been my involvement in the UK governments skills policy, most recently on the development of the new T level qualifications that are the equivalent of A levels and which are just beginning to come on-line.  I chaired the panel for the T level childcare and education qualifications and have presented to Ministers in the House of Commons and given evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Youth Employment on the implementation of these qualifications.  I am also a member of IoD’s National Expert Panel for the Future of the Workforce and I now advise the IoD London on skills policy.

Much of my NED work has been on a pro bono basis and it is inspiring just how many people give freely of their time to try to make the world a better place.

What does a man as busy as you do to relax and what advice would you give to the younger generation before embarking on their career?

My wife Kate and I have very similar interests and hobbies and we love spending time together walking and enjoying the Island and we go to France a great deal.  We are enthusiastic about art, music and heritage and I have been lucky to have been a trustee of Jersey Heritage and for four years I chaired their Board.  My main hobby now is playing the classical guitar and I practice for an hour or two every day.

My advice for those embarking on their career is to find a job you love, where you can use your skills and make a difference.  Never be afraid to take a chance and seize the opportunities that come your way.