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NIKOS SAVVAS: Leaving ‘my corner’ to meet others

Interview with Dr Nikos Savvas, Principal West Suffolk College ANL-140513-133922009
Interview with Dr Nikos Savvas, Principal West Suffolk College ANL-140513-133922009

It is the simple things in life that bring us most pleasure. For me it is bed time stories with my kids. In my head it will be a time when we can sit together with the children in their pyjamas, hair brushed, listening attentively to the book we are sharing.

In reality they start wondering off after two minutes, or the middle one pushes the youngest or they both start climbing on the eldest. However last week – for once – one of them was listening. We were reading Winnie the Pooh and I had just read out: “You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

My middle daughter asked, “What does that mean?” and my eldest told her, “It means if you want someone to play with you then you have to go and ask them.”

Later on it got me thinking about the past few weeks at work and I reckon Winnie the Pooh was definitely on to something.

In the last month I have had three interesting meetings that have seen me and others ‘leaving their corners of the forest’ and reaching out to form positive relationships.

The first was with Jo Churchill, who is the Conservatives’ Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bury St Edmunds. Her understanding of the role Further Education has to play in bolstering this region’s economy was evidenced when she arranged a meeting between the college and Greene King. As they are a huge employer in the town and we are the largest provider of apprenticeship training in the region it made sense that we should come together to talk about creating apprenticeships. It just took someone to reach out and bring us together.

We already have excellent partnerships with other large employers, such as Thetford-based Warren Services, so I am delighted to be meeting with new partners in this area and working together.

The second meeting was with a new working party called the New Anglia College Group (NACG, which) is made up of 10 college principals from the region. Together we educate more than 40,000 learners. The purpose of this group is to collectively enhance the delivery of outstanding and inspirational learning, build efficient partnerships and provide a single presence for working with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. It is an honour and a privilege to work with these outstanding leaders as we all have the same objective, to provide an outstanding education for all our students. We’ve ‘left our own corners of the forest’ to work together to make the Further Education world a better place for our learners.

And then finally, I met with the newly appointed Student Council members at the college. This group is made up of student representatives from different courses and its purpose is for the students to speak on behalf of their peers to me about their college experience.

The meeting was incredibly positive; the students were very complimentary about the teaching, the support they are getting from our staff, the high calibre of the learning resources, and the opportunities they have to develop their independence by being in an adult environment, but what impressed me in particular was their maturity and commitment to finding ways of working with us to make improvements. They automatically wanted to see things from both sides and offered considered options for the way forward. They had learnt that the best approach to making the world a better place was to build relationships, and always be part of the solution. Such maturity at such a young age was immensely rewarding. A A Milne would have been proud!

We could not do what we do without building partnerships with employers, other organisations and students, and by working together we all become the engine in this region’s economic growth.

As Winnie also said, and as my daughters would agree; ‘A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside”.

Nikos Savvas is principal of West Suffolk College