Obituary - Kevin Conway - 1947-2012

14th September 2012 at 01:00

Described as a "giant" in the world of post-16 education, Kevin Conway had an unfaltering belief that every young person could and should succeed if they were just given the right care and attention. His commitment to the betterment of both his students and his staff made him as loved and respected as he was successful.

Born in Omagh, Northern Ireland, in 1947, Dr Conway was schooled by the Irish Christian Brothers before going on to gain a first-class honours degree and then a doctorate in physics at Queen's University Belfast.

He taught for eight years at the British School of Brussels in Belgium before returning to the UK, where he enjoyed continued success, most notably at St Brendan's Sixth Form College in Bristol. But it was during his time as principal of Greenhead College in Huddersfield that Dr Conway really flourished, turning it from an underperforming institution into a "beacon" of further education.

Such was the success of Greenhead that colleagues from across the country flocked to see the methods Dr Conway had used to make it one of the UK's finest sixth-form colleges.

At the centre of his work was the Advanced Level Performance System, an invention of his own that uses raw data to measure how much difference an institution is making to students. It does so by gauging from their GCSE results what grades a student should attain at A level and BTEC. The system was a resounding triumph, setting tough but achievable targets for students. But far from keeping the secret of his success, Dr Conway was keen to share his findings with any school or college that wanted to listen.

His achievements led to him being appointed a CBE in 2001, an honour that he received while recovering from a liver transplant. But according to those who knew him, the essence of his work was never to push for his own advancement. Instead, his focus was always on providing the best opportunities for the young people who came though his door. And to achieve this, he demanded the highest standards of pastoral care and teaching from his staff.

According to Martin Rostron, the current principal of Greenhead, Dr Conway's entire approach was underpinned by his faith. As such, every student and member of staff was "valued, nurtured and treated with kindness and love, reflecting his own beliefs". Outside of work, Dr Conway was known to worship at two churches: St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church in Huddersfield and Old Trafford, the home ground of Manchester United, where he held a season ticket.

Despite being forced to retire from teaching because of ill health, he continued to make a difference to young people though his educational consultancy, Alps, which now works in 70 per cent of England's sixth forms.

Dr Conway died on 28 August following a long illness. He is survived by his wife Mary, to whom he was married for 43 years, and his four children, Martin, Mary, Simon and David.

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