Principal of The Sheffield College steps down after three decades in further education

Principal of The Sheffield College, Heather Smith
Principal of The Sheffield College, Heather Smith
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The principal of The Sheffield College will say a fond farewell on Friday when she takes early retirement after more than 30 in further education.

Heather Smith is stepping down after two years in the top role - having worked her way up the ranks from a part-time teacher.

During her three decades at the college she has seen huge changes including the demolition of Castle College, the construction of the new £60m City campus and the redevelopment of Loxley and Parson Cross campuses into the Hillsborough campus.

But despite her continued passion for further education and her love for Sheffield, she is leaving to have a more flexible working life.

Heather, aged 56, said: "My plans are to have a more flexible life. When you are committed to the college and all that it aims to do, it take up so much of your life, that it's time now to have a break.

"I want to keep involved with education - some advisory and voluntary work, but I also want to have time for all the things I love such as running, cooking and coffee with friends.

"Sheffield has such a cultural side to it and has so many events, that I have sometimes missed, and I'll be able to enjoy them now."

Heather trained as a teacher and began her career teaching psychology evening classes at Richmond College, before moving on to become a full-time lecturer.

She rose up the ranks at The Sheffield College and was appointed head of general education at the former Castle College, now the college's City campus on Granville Road, in 2007.

She ran the Hillsborough campus in 2009 and that role expanded to include the former Norton campus and Peaks campus.

Heather was appointed principal of The Sheffield College in 2015, covering all of the college's four main campuses.

"Having that psychology background I have always been interested in people and workplace psychology," she said.

"I have always been really interested in how the workplace can be a better place and how we can make it the right environment for people who work there and feel thrive there and have a positive experience.

"It seemed like a natural progression to go into people management and think about organisational management."

Heather firmly believes in the power of further education and its life changing impact on students, communities and businesses.

And it's helping students progress and achieving the once unimaginable that are among some of her proudest moments at the college.

"To think about one moment that is my most memorable is impossible. It's about seeing students overcome the odds and going on to do great things", said Heather, who lives in Sheffield with her husband and teenage son.

"There was one A-Level student who had a very difficult time in his personal life. He had to drop out of school and asked us to give him a second chance. He did brilliantly and went on to study medicine at university in Manchester.

"I'm also proud of how people have changed their careers. We have done a lot of work on enterprise and giving people the opportunity to set up businesses while they are studying.

"It's fantastic to see then have that light bulb moment and they see that they can set up their own businesses and follow their dreams.

"We've had some students who have been really successful.

"We had one student wanting to have a career change and came to us to study hair and beauty. She began to see a business and she set up one for Muslim women called Beauty Beneath which is now thriving.

"I'm so incredibly proud of the student and what they have achieved.

"I'm also proud of the way the college has developed its facilities. We've gone from some really poorly equipped buildings, to some fantastic buildings which students can thrive in."

Heather will be replaced by Angela Foulkes, who is currently vice principal for curriculum and support at The Manchester College.

"I know Angela for being in the sector and she is very student centered and I know the college will be in good hands," added Heather.