Introducing Keighley College’s new principal

25 April, 2022 2:27 pm

The current year has been an exciting one so far for Keighley College – from featuring in BBC News and Channel 5 broadcasts to hosting globally-recognised TEDx events and teaming up with locally-loved rugby team, Keighley Cougars.

At the centre of this hive of college activity has been the interim and now official Principal, Kevin O’hare. 

As Kevin starts to settle into his new position, we sat down with him to understand a little more about his background, motivations and ambitions for the college.

How did your interest in education develop?

“Whilst undertaking my Fine Art degree, I found myself enjoying conversations with other undergraduates about their work. One peer even mentioned that I would end up teaching, but I didn’t envision it then.

“My first part-time job was as a contextual studies tutor at Hull College in 1992, which allowed me to see real potential in the way in which art seems to touch on so many wider areas, such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, history and politics. It offered a rounded social education for young people and through it, a better understanding of their contemporary world – which really excited me.”

What do you enjoy most about working in education?

“Those moments when students find their spark and can see their true potential. I’ve worked with so many learners who have a self-limiting narrative but then unlock something which opens a much wider view of their possibilities. 

“That shift often happens during the 16 to 19 age period, as students are exposed to the broader complexities of society. To be able to facilitate that changing mindset is a fantastic privilege.”

Who inspires you and why?

“I recently had a conversation with a student during a particularly pressured moment on campus. They said that calm seas never make a strong sailor, which really transformed my perception of that moment.”

What do you think makes a good college principal?

“There are many good principals who have very different approaches to the role and have been equally successful. Some prefer to lead on the basis of facts and data, others focus on building relationships, and others use charisma and assertiveness to achieve their goals. I think a good college principal will have elements in each area. Above all, a duty to the students and their life chances needs to be at the heart of their strategy.”

What does a day in the life of a college principal look like?

“It’s always so varied. I can be representing the college in important local government meetings, discussing curriculum plans with teachers, speaking to students about common room facilities, identifying a building to renovate, giving radio interviews, visiting local schools to deliver assemblies, speaking to the board of governors on a paper I have written and encouraging local employers to take on apprentices – it’s never boring!”

How do you hope to make a difference at Keighley College?

“That’s simple really – I want the college to become known for its student success and I want those students to have loved their time here.”

What do you think makes Keighley College stand out amongst other local colleges?

“The college has such a wide variety of provision – from a pupil referral offer through to study programmes at all levels: T Levels, apprenticeships, Access courses, A levels and degree programmes.

“It’s known historically for its engineering, building trades, health, childcare and beauty therapies. I think the college is most connected to its community.”

What have you been most proud of during your working life?

“To date, it’s been my part in the growth of creative arts education in Leeds over the last 30 years. In the next 30 years, I want to be proud of helping to make Keighley College a truly inspiring institution.”

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

“I still love making art and visiting galleries. I also coach a junior football team and follow Guiseley football club’s rollercoaster journey through the lower leagues. The mix of art and sport is a nice balance of calmness and adrenalin.”

What advice would you give to someone considering a role in education?

“Education needs kind and selfless people who can see the transformative power of learning for others and themselves. I’ve always loved the James Madison quote: ‘Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.’”

Read more about Kevin’s appointment here.