Catherine Hill reflects on her experience of being awarded an OBE for services to FE and why she is proud to represent the sector on the New Year’s Honour’s list.

My 2016 got off to a fantastic start as I celebrated being awarded an OBE with family and friends.

I was ‘officially’ awarded an OBE for services to FE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list, which was released on December 31.

I was, however, informed by an official letter from the Cabinet Office at the end of November.

The letter was posted to my home address and sat un-opened for a few days.

We were having a new bathroom fitted and the plumber had kindly piled our post up on the shelf.

It was my husband who spotted the envelope marked ‘Urgent and Personal’.

I shared the news with my immediate family when we were all together at Christmas — they were delighted for me and it was quite satisfying to see my adult children speechless.

For the past 30 years I have dedicated my career to the FE sector as I am passionate about helping students succeed, progress to employment and become productive members of the community.

My mantra throughout my career has been simple yet steadfast — raise aspiration and expectation in every student, without exception, to achieve and be successful and never compromise standards.

The core business of our FE work should be to ensure that life changing opportunities are available to our students. If what we are doing isn’t for the benefit of our students then we should be questioning why we are doing it.

I have been a resident of Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire for 37 years, and had the pleasure of being part of some very knowledgeable and dedicated teams at colleges across the North West.

For the past 30 years I have dedicated my career to the FE sector as I am passionate about helping students succeed, progress to employment and become productive members of the community

I previously held positions at Burnley College, Accrington and Rossendale College in the Red Rose County and Bury College in Greater Manchester; all of which were graded as Outstanding by Ofsted during my tenure with them.

I came to Blackpool and The Fylde College in 2005 as head of quality and standards.

In 2009, I was appointed as vice principal and in 2013 I became deputy principal with the responsibility for all the college curriculum areas; working with the heads of schools to drive quality and standards.

During my time with Blackpool and the Fylde College, it has become one of the largest general FE colleges in England and gone from strength to strength.

Over the past 30 years the FE culture has changed considerably.

Contempory FE includes higher education, FE, and commercial work, and is about providing students with skills and attributes to take advantage of the career opportunities available, and for the fact that they may have several different careers over their working life.

Our sector also provides employers with highly skilled individuals to fill the skills needs of existing industries and the new and evolving jobs of the future.

I am humbled that the work that I am so fervently committed to has been recognised and the honour of the OBE gives me great pleasure.

I do feel extremely privileged to have held the roles that I have as there is nothing like witnessing first hand when a student has a light bulb moment. That instant when they find something that they are good at and enjoy and realise they can be successful.
Since the announcement, I have been astounded by the number of well-wishers who have congratulated me.

I would like to thank the teams of people I have worked with across the years, all of whom played a role in me receiving this honour.

The investiture will be at Buckingham Palace sometime over the next seven months.

Until then, its business as usual with our quality remit heavily focused on providing Blackpool and The Fylde College students with the best possible experience to help them secure their dream job.