The man from the ministry

29th September 2000 at 01:00
For variety, his CV takes some beating. Peter Clough is a former secondary school teacher with a PhD who also taught post-graduates earth sciences. He is a senior principal at the Department forEducation and Employment who has worked as an education officer at the Natural History Museum and is an Open University associate lecturer. He has now taken up a secondment as associate principal at Hadlow College near Tonbridge, Kent.

At Sanctuary Buildings (the DFEE's headquarters), his workload included responsibilities for the new post-16 inspection legislation created by the Learning and Skills Act and for FE quality and standards. In charge of internal affairs at Hadlow, his expertise in government policy and thinking should prove invaluable.

"I know how to obtain national information on best practice in any particular area," said Mr Clough, who started his secondment in August. Because he's not a dyed-in-the-wool mandarin, he had few qualms about applying for a job at the sharp end.

"If I'd been a lifelong civil servant, I would have been much more dubious," he said.

Anyone who can switch from teaching post-graduates to all-comers in secondary schools is unusually adaptable. "That wasn't easy but it was character-building," he said. "In teaching, I have found that the most rewarding thing is getting people fired up over subjects and making sure their enthusiasm is satisfied."

Increasingly, he DFEE encourages its people to develop new skills. Career progression has always been a priority for Mr Clough. His career moves include switching from the Natural History Museum in 1989 to a policy job in what was then the Department for Education and Science. "I decided 12 months ago to look for secondment opportunities in an FE college," he said. "Hadlow is relatively small but forward-looking, a good college which is going places."

Hadlow has around 1,500 full-time students and lies in rural surroundings in the west of Kent. It specialises in land-based courses including horticulture and animal welfare. "I'm learning how things are being done locally," he said. "I can work closely with our key skills co-ordinator to make sure our policies and practices are in line with the best.

"But I think also it's a good thing for some senior managers to do a little teaching, to keep their skills sharp and identify with the teaching staff. I may take an extra-mural class in the summer term."

It is, perhaps, a less steep learning curve for Mr Clough than for those with less experience but, like all college managers, he recognises that stern challenges lie ahead in building a good relationship with the Learning and Skills Council. While cautious about the future, he seems sanguine about the present. "I've never had to work hard but I've never had anything go wrong," he said.

Andrew Mourant

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