DfE appoints first FE student support champion

The role has been created to improve student success and progress

The role has been created to improve student success and progress

14 Nov 2023, 16:37

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An assistant principal has been chosen by the government as the first further education student support champion. 

Skills minister Robert Halfon announced the appointment of Polly Harrow, assistant principal for safeguarding and inclusion at Kirklees College, to the new role in his keynote speech at the Association of Colleges’ annual conference today.

It follows the appointment of a student support champion for higher education, Nottingham Trent University vice chancellor Edward Peck, last year.

Halfon said: “Further education students need as much support to complete their studies and make a success of their efforts as undergraduates. In fact, they often need more, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

“For social justice and helping these students to succeed is a key pillar of the ladder of opportunity and an absolute priority for me. 

“That is why I’m delighted to announce the appointment of Polly Harrow as the first further education student support champion.”

A recent FE Week investigation found that demand for student support services has soared in the wake of the cost of living crisis.

DfE told FE Week that the new role will include advising the minister on student mental health and well-being, SEND support and careers and will work closely with Peck and FE Commissioner Shelagh Legrave.

Harrow will “act as a channel between the sector and the government, driving a strategic approach to informing and improving the experience of students at colleges”, Halfon said.

The department expects the role to “improve colleges’ ability to give learners the full opportunity to succeed and progress”.

The role is a two-year appointment, requiring around 25 days per year, DfE said. The funding for the role is £40,000 per year over two years. 

Harrow is well-known in the student support sector, having chaired the National Association of Managers of Student Service (NAMSS) for ten years.

Her college career has included spells at Dewsbury College in the early 2000s as head of additional learning support and Barnsley College as head of personal and social development. She joined Kirklees College as head of progress and inclusion in 2012 and was promoted to assistant principal in May 2019. 

Harrow told FE Week: “I feel terribly honoured to have this role.”

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