The power of education

Henriette Harnisch is Interim Deputy Director of Education Partnerships at the University of Wolverhampton. Her role involves managing the University’s Schools and Colleges Partnerships and also the Midlands Leadership Centre, an educational consultancy.

She has worked at the University since 2003 and her background is in Linguistics. Henriette has worked across all educational sectors as a lecturer, teacher, curriculum manager and head of a specialist language centre, and moved to the UK 20 years ago from Berlin.

What does your role involve?

Schools and Colleges Partnerships manages the higher education and further education collaborative provision the University has in the Black Country and beyond.

It also involves pre-entry curriculum activity, where we develop partnerships with schools and colleges to jointly deliver curriculum opportunities such as tasters, workshops and year-long courses delivered in sixth forms.

Why is this aspect of the University’s work important?

It helps us as a University to understand the journey of students before they come to us, and this informs teaching, learning, assessment and achievement. It is important for us to understand this so we can feed it into our institutional strategic priorities.

 If we want to improve student satisfaction, we need to understand concretely and practically where the students are coming from.

What do you enjoy about your work?

I really do enjoy challenges.

I wasn’t looking for a job when I heard about this one, but the role initially was to direct the Black Country 14-19 Pathfinder (which later became Language Networks for Excellence) and help people to work together, and I wanted to try and help change take place. Innovation is the theme that links everything I do.

I am in a privileged position that I work with external partners and no two days are ever the same.

The opportunities in Education Partnerships of working either through Schools and Colleges Partnerships or the Midlands Leadership Centre are tremendous.

The Midlands Leadership Centre is an educational consultancy that is commissioned by public and private sector bodies to deliver bespoke activity.

That could be, for example, delivering a project for funders in the Middle East to set up an international school by helping them to write a curriculum model, a staffing structure and progression routes.

We also do local consultancy such as our involvement with academies, which informs what we do on the schools and colleges side too.

What is the key to partnership working?

Communication and understanding.

What I find fascinating, elevating and inspiring in partnership working is being confident about the contribution we can make but also being humble enough to understand every other partner’s contribution.

The aim is always to create a whole which is greater than the sum of its components.

What is the most difficult thing about partnership work?

The same thing!

People are driven by personal or institutional agendas – understandably so – but it is about working out what makes the other person tick.

What is making them say what they are saying, and how can we find a solution?

What advice would you offer to students?

Follow your passion.

Think about what it is you really like or are great at, and that need not relate to a specific job.

To succeed in this world, having one great job cannot be the objective. We have to be flexible, highly skilled and confident.

It is finding that flame inside of you.

What has influenced your own career?

The big thing in my life has been mentors.

At every stage professionally I have had a really important mentor. That is something I try and be to young people – it is only when you reach my age that you realise the value.

What are you working on currently?

The University co-sponsors three academies which brings fantastic opportunities for us in terms of student progression but also in relation to building strong relationships, and a robust research base for our transition work.

One of these new academies is the Black Country University Technical College (UTC) with lead sponsor Walsall College.

The UTC is a completely new type of institution for 14-19 year olds and the emphasis is on high quality vocational and technical learning. The focus is on engineering, and we have engineering and scientific expertise from both institutions working together to develop a curriculum model at the moment.

This is a very good area for us to be involved in, given the expertise at the University.

What is the most rewarding thing about your job?

We work hard to provide high quality and innovative activities, and when children experience these and at the end of them say “I want to come back”, that’s very rewarding.