Vice Principal Em Lowe of The Bedford College Group has been short-listed in the FE Leadership category of the TES national awards.
She is the latest success story from the Group, which was voted the UK’s Best FE College, as by the Times Educational Supplement (TES). The 2021 winners will be announced on May 28th.
Over the past eight years, Vice Principal Em Lowe has made an exceptional contribution to the growth and success of The Bedford College Group and has had a transformative impact on staff, students, the local community and the national FE sector.
In 2019, Em led and was nominee for the Group’s first Ofsted inspection since the merger with Tresham College, facing the additional challenge of Ofsted’s new educational inspection framework. In 2016 Tresham had been rated ‘Inadequate’, however after the merger Em led a sustained focus on improving quality standards which culminated with Ofsted rating The Bedford College Group, (including Tresham), as ‘Good’ in all areas, with adult and young students developing ‘Excellent’ study skills. Em’s success resulted in her speaking at the Association of Colleges (AoC) Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference and advising colleges across the country.
Em is a truly inspirational role model for staff and students. She created the College’s first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion role in 2013 which now focuses on LGBT, disability, women and ethnicity. Since then, staff have been given extensive training and LGBTQ+ support groups have been set up for both staff and students. In 2019 the Group became the only college in the UK to achieve the Stonewall Champion Silver Award and was highlighted as best practice by AoC in 2021.
Leading the Group’s COVID-19 response, Em was pivotal in ensuring all students continued to have an excellent experience and made good progress in their studies during the pandemic and was a passionate advocate for students in digital poverty. Em put in place stringent safety arrangements across all campuses resulting in an exceptional safety record – there was not one internal transmission between the Group’s 16,000 students. This approach received praise from Public Health England and Bedford Borough Council.
Em is now focusing on embedding the Group’s culture at the Wellingborough campus which reopened in September 2020. Leading by example, Em moved her office from Bedford to Wellingborough and is ensuring the redeveloped site delivers much needed educational opportunities to a community with low levels of attainment and four LSOAs in the top 10% most deprived in England. Councillor Martin Griffiths said: “This is one of the most significant developments to take place in Wellingborough for many years. It will play a crucial role in our economic recovery.”
Key to Em’s leadership success is her unwavering positive and empowering approach which energises and motivates everyone she works with. Her calm, approachable and inclusive communication style ensures that staff and students have their voices heard and feel valued.
Caroline Biddle, Executive Director of Human Resources said:
I’ve worked in several large organisations over the past 30 years and Em is one of the most outstanding leaders I’ve met. She’s a genuine role model who lives and breathes the values of the College. Her positive energy brings people together and she genuinely cares about all staff and students, whilst being exceptionally professional and delivering successful outcomes.