In the third of a series of articles on members of our Senior Management Team, we hear from Director of Education & Learning at OCR Margaret Kerry about archaeology, bicycle sculptures, and a debut appearance on Cambridge TV!
In the morning I read through the OCR Senior Management Team (SMT) papers ready for our meeting on Tuesday. I like to have some time undisturbed to read them all thoroughly, and having everything in advance makes the discussion very tight and enables us to get through a major agenda efficiently, focussing on decisions.
One of my favourite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon is to go for a walk, and today I persuaded my husband Nick to accompany me on a visit to not one, but two cemeteries in Cambridge: one at Mill Road and the other at Histon Road. My fascination with archaeology and anthropology is the reason behind what might seem to some to be a rather unusual choice of destination! The cemetery at Histon Road is an excellent example of Victorian design. Cemeteries also reveal much about the ways in which different generations and cultures choose to remember the dead. There’s currently a good deal of debate in the media in London about whether people should be allowed to use cemeteries in a similar way to parks, as places where they can go and exercise, or whether they should remain a place for quiet contemplation.
I grew up in Surrey but moved to Cambridge to study archaeology and anthropology at university. It was there that I met Nick, who was then studying mathematics at St John’s and – minus the seven years that we lived in Weymouth due to Nick’s job in sonar (he now works in gene sequencing) – we simply never left. I remember vividly my first day at university. I went to King’s College and it was 1972, which was the first year that female students were admitted.
In the evening I relax by reading Entry Island by Peter May. I particularly enjoy reading crime novels and especially those by PD James.
I head to work and upon arrival at 9 Hills Road I go straight into in a teleconference with colleagues from Operations and Assessment Standards to address a problem. One thing I really like about working in OCR is the willingness of people to get together and focus on solving a problem.
Before lunch as part of a focus on the two areas working more closely together, I attend a joint policy meeting with colleagues in Skills & Employment. In the afternoon I take part in an interview for a new channel, Cambridge TV, which is my first real media experience after being ‘media trained’ earlier in the year. I find the interview much less nerve-wracking than the training was, as I don't have to watch my own performance immediately afterwards and be given feedback!
Cambridge TV kindly provided me with a souvenir, a podcast of my interview
. I finish the day with Pilates, which I find very relaxing, and head home to have dinner.
Today is the day of the monthly SMT meeting in Coventry and, with each of us having read through the papers in advance, we focus on the decisions that need to be made. In the afternoon, we hold a less formal meeting with an open agenda where anyone can bid for time. We use this session to discuss how we implement strategy, and how to resolve high level issues. I enjoy this session because we function as a problem-solving group with a very practical sense of what needs doing. Today we focus on business planning and prioritising.
Later that evening, over dinner my husband and I talk through our plans for a trip to South India later this year. I have been to India twice before and I loved it, although I found the contrast between the rich and the poor thought-provoking – it makes you appreciate everything you have.
Like many days, today is a day full of meetings, including a ‘keep in touch’ meeting with a member of staff who is on maternity leave and regular catch ups with members of my team. I like meetings in which I am required to make decisions as I enjoy the challenge – I just hope I never lose the skill!
Since I took over responsibility for the General Qualifications reform team earlier in the year, I’ve had to improve my knowledge of the technical side of delivering qualifications as we transition the reformed qualifications to live delivery. This has been quite challenging for me, although I have always enjoyed a challenge which demands a greater breadth of understanding – in fact, one of the reasons I chose to study archaeology at university was because in the 70s it was just becoming a scientific discipline but still retained a strong humanities/arts element.
Our main aim is to produce qualifications that make education worthwhile and are good for schools. Having previously worked both as a teacher and at a regulatory body (Ofsted) I can appreciate each party’s needs. Despite the challenges, the team has maintained a high standard of material for submission to Ofqual and I’m equally proud of the teams of subject specialists, who very often receive positive feedback from centres as a result of their direct contact with them, putting OCR at an advantage over our competitors.
In the evening Nick and I catch up with our daughter by telephone. She’s a Senior HR Manager at a commercial insurance broker in the City of London. It’s a tough environment in which to work, and I’m really proud of everything she has achieved.
Today starts with ‘Successful Conversations’ training in the Regent Street offices. In any discussions about appraisal, I’m always fascinated by the diversity of approaches across the Group. I’m especially interested this year as having brought two areas (the subject teams and the GQ reform team) together I want to see consistent and good practice across the teams, with conversations that are both honest and positive. I find the training useful and I think it is always good to have a little space to think about your own management practice.
I spend the rest of the working day reading what could be described as a small mountain of reports, papers and slides that have come to me for comment or information. This includes ELAB reports – documents which set out a full business case for each and every development of qualification or significant resource.
By the time OCR’s results day celebration drinks arrive I feel I need one! After attending the celebration, I visit the open air Shakespeare festival, which I attend every year.
As well as going to the theatre, I’m very passionate about art (above you can see a still shot from a video of my bicycle sculpture in motion!) and singing. I’ve enjoyed singing since my school days. I sing (Alto) with three choirs, one of which meets up in Ely. We perform classical music as well as pieces by current composers and sometimes we even go on tour – we’ve performed in Germany, Poland, France and Belgium.
Today is another day of meetings, including one about the future direction of Cambridge Maths. One of the things I particularly enjoy about my work is that I can range across the whole gamut of the subjects. I also have a number of catch ups with different members of my team today – it’s essential for me to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening across my area.
At home that evening as it is Friday I treat myself to a glass of Sauvignon Blanc – my favourite – and relax.
Today Nick and I head off to Bristol to help our son move to London. Rentals being what they are in London his flat will be much smaller than the one he has been living in, so we remove some items for storage. On one of his previous house moves we acquired a pet leopard gecko called Frisbee (pictured), but this time it is only a bicycle and a keyboard so we get away lightly!
Director of Education and Learning, OCR