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Roger Clarke’s Saltaire people

Jean McAllister “Heading one of Saltaire’s Major Institutions”
– Shipley College

Jean McAllisterJean McAllister, Principal of Shipley College, has worked in Saltaire since 1978. She originally came to Yorkshire from Southampton in 1968, to study at Leeds University, where she stayed to complete her Master’s Degree in Comparative Politics. She came to Bradford in 1976 and was seconded to Shipley College  by Bradford Council as a teacher of English as a Second language in 1978. She became Vice Principal of the College from 1985 to 1991 and has been Principal since then.

There can be no doubt about Jean McAllister’s commitment to the Village of Saltaire and to education in the area, or the extent to which she is conscious of the heritage of the past.

Sir Titus Salt valued education long before it was made compulsory in 1870 (his Factory School opened in 1868). His son, Titus Junior, was so keen on the education of teenagers that he opened the School of Art and Science in the Exhibition building. It was in recognition of this link with the past that Jean and her team invited the Princess Royal in 1996 to re-open the refurbished Exhibition Road building, just as Princess Beatrice had opened the building for the Yorkshire Jubilee Exhibition in 1877. Sir Titus’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren are still in active contact with the College, which Jean values greatly.

The College has 5,780 registered learners, involving both adult learners and 14 to 19 year olds. It draws students from Bradford and Shipley, mainly from electoral wards with the lowest “staying in education” rates at 16+ in the country. 63.3% of the wards fall within the 20% most deprived wards in England. The College courses target students who are under-represented in education, from those who have had little educational success in the past to those who will achieve Level 4 National Vocational Qualification, the equivalent of early degree level. Individuals are valued equally, whatever their abilities, and the College has clear and well advertised policies on equal opportunities, gender disability, learning support and bullying.

The most recent Ofsted Report for the College, completed in March 2006, reflects the quality of leadership, tuition and courses provided. The overall grade for the College was “Good – Grade 2”. Particularly popular and well performing courses include Information Technology, arts, media and publishing; care and early years; horticulture; and business studies. A good example is that the College is the West Yorkshire Centre of Vocational Excellence  (COVE) in the Care Sector, especially for the health and care of the older person. Jean’s leadership and the work of the governors come in for special praise in the report for the way in which they set a clear direction for the College, enabling a talented staff to raise standards.

The breadth of Jean’s vision for links with the external community is particularly impressive. She is a member of the Airedale Regeneration Board, which comprises mainly local employers who are planning the development of Airedale in the future. College courses such as New Media aim to provide the next generation of website designers, programmers, hardware installers and creative ICT application experts. On top of this, Jean has to run her organisation as a business (since 1993), generating its own funding. This is a high profile, very demanding job, but she still manages to attend community events and show an enthusiasm for the Village and its life. She does so with a remarkable integrity, modesty, composure and concern for people which makes them feel special and unique.

Saltaire is fortunate to have Jean heading one of its major institutions.

Roger Clarke, 2007

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