For the last three years Heather has been working as an independent consultant, undertaking a range of projects, focused predominantly in the learning and skills sector. She also works with the Building Research Establishment, mostly to do with quality assurance, quality improvement and sustainable development. The flexibility that she now has as a consultant allows her to get more involved in other work such as being a Secretary of State appointment to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Conservation Board, a co-opted expert for the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, and being able to continue her research in chalk grassland management. Heather has also been Vice Chair of the IES Council since 2008.
Heather has been passionate about the environment since she was a child and as a result was enthusiastic about science. She started work as a lecturer in biology and by the time she had taught for a year she was able to introduce the new ‘A’ level in Environmental Science. Her favourite parts of the teaching job included fieldwork, whether it be residential or day trips including some to the 25 ha woodland nature reserve that she managed for 25 years.
Having worked at a number of different colleges Heather’s most recent full-time college employment was as Principal and Chief Executive of Pershore Group of Colleges; a land-based college with a 250 hectare organic farm, fruit unit (with juicing and cider making) and plant nursery. In 2007 the college won a Green Gown Award for placing sustainable development at the heart of their work. Heather has always “got involved” and her membership of the Holland Committee that advised the government on Sustainable Development Education was an important one for her personally and for sustainable development education. After the 5 year term of this committee she became a member of a sounding board for the Secretary of State.
“The route that I have worked through has thrown up so many opportunities and continues to present me with huge variety. Students can be so rewarding and seeing the contribution that they can then make has got to be one of the best aspects. Being able to contribute to the development of others working in the sector is very important to me as well as being very enjoyable. Being able to have an influence on policy is very satisfying and allows you to make a difference in yet another way.”
Heather became a member of the IES in 1987. Whilst she was already a member of the Institute of Biology, the volume of environmental science work she was doing prompted her to link up with more like-minded people and to pursue more targeted CPD. Subsequently Heather took up the opportunity to become a Chartered Environmentalist, and to join the IES Council.
“Joining the IES Council hadn’t really crossed my mind until I was approached by two Council members. On reflection I don’t know why I wasn’t a bit more proactive and needed others to suggest it to me. I would encourage others who may be interested to come and have a look at us; attend a Council meeting and decide whether to put your name forward, or contribute in some other way. Getting involved and working with others from different sectors is really engaging. I’ve undertaken various roles on the Council such as holder of the Education Portfolio, Treasurer and now Vice Chair. With Mark as Chair we have had two important visioning days that have raised issues such as influencing the media, policy and supporting a gender balance within the environmental sciences.”
At present, Heather is working on a strategy for sustainable development at the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, called ‘Sustaining Our Future: A framework for moving towards a sustainable learning and skills sector’. Alongside this is a set of criteria to help providers to self-assess and prioritise next steps. Heather has been involved in piloting this work prior to its evaluation, amendment and roll out to the sector. She has also been part of the further development of websites providing up to date information and help for those wishing to develop their businesses with sustainable development in mind. These are part of a range of initiatives that will support leaders and build capacity in the learning and skills sector.
Heather has also been working on a mentoring programme to support career progression in Horticulture. This is through the Institute of Horticulture of which she was recently President. The industry has sponsored this pilot and is waiting to hear about the successes and lessons learned. At present they have a great mix of mentors and mentees with whom Heather is enjoying the opportunity to work.
“Projects in the future? More of the same please – but of course that means more of the variety within the same and more of those opportunities to present new challenges.”