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Cue for change

Paul Grainger begins his first principalship later this year at an interesting time. His new appointment to the helm of Widnes Sixth Form College, in Cheshire, begins in September just as Curriculum 2000 starts.

After three years as director of curriculum at South East Essex College, Southend-on-Sea, he says he is well prepared. "We've invested a lot of time in Curriculum 2000," he says.

"I was very fortunate in that I was present when David Melville (the Further Education FundingCouncil chief executive) launched it at the Association of Colleges conference for sixth form colleges last June. I was able to set to work almost straight away with colleagues here.

"We'd got our shell proposals for the new curriculum bySeptember '99. So I'm feeling on top of that development."

Mr Grainger, 50, began his career as a secondary school teacher in the Midlands. After two years, he moved into the more amenable environment - as he puts it - of further education.

He became a lecturer atColchester Institute and then moved to South Thames College, before working for Wandsworth in south-west London.

He moved on to becomedirector of curriculum at Wigan and Leigh College before taking on a similar post at South East Essex College.

One of his main tasks recently has been negotiating a partnership with the Uniersity of Essex to provide higher education and to overcome students' transport problems. That project has now been launched.

Mr Grainger sees the timing of his move as critical. "I could see that as soon as that project got rolling I would have to commit another two years to it. So this was a good window of opportunity to make a move and let someone new come in and put their stamp on the project."

Widnes Sixth Form College gets good A-level results and has a good track record of getting young people into higher education. He says: "I think they understand A-levels and the business of AS-levels.

"And it's a college which has been very near to Halton College, and so they've done well to preserve their integrity."

Looking ahead not only to his first principalship, but also to moving from general FE to sixth form college at such a turbulent time, he says: "I think the big challenge for me will be that I've been responsible for a very successful range of provision here in South East Essex. But what worked in Essex isn't necessarily going to work in the North-west.

"The challenge is to test out the strengths of the new college, see how it acts in tandem with Widnes and Runcorn, and to continue to develop those courses which enable young people to enter higher education."

Martin Whittaker

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