The Ayrshire College Foundation was set up in order to support Ayrshire-based projects that provide educational opportunities for all age groups.
We interviewed Margaret Harper, Ayrshire College Foundation Trustee.
I am a Depute Head Teacher at Grange Academy and my background is as a Physics teacher. I have worked together with Ayrshire College for decades because I believe that if we are working together, we can get the best we can for the young people we serve.
I have had many roles including being involved in enterprise and education with the College, I have been a member of the College Board, the chair of learning and teaching at Kilmarnock and I am now delighted to be a trustee of the Ayrshire College Foundation.
Why did you choose to get involved with the Ayrshire College Foundation?
With the Foundation it was almost a natural progression for me, when Ayr, Kilmarnock and Kilwinning Colleges merged to become Ayrshire College, I stepped down from the board but was delighted to be invited back to continue some involvement with the College. I am passionate about education, industry, colleges and further education all working together, so this let me maintain some involvement with the College and continue my support for it.
What did you think of the Mission Discovery Project?
We sent pupils from the school every morning, who were all very excited heading off to Mission Discovery and returning in the afternoon enthusiastically with lots of stories to tell.
I visited the event where astronaut Michael Foale gave a talk, which was such an inspiration. Our students found it hugely beneficial, especially within my subject, physics, where the challenge is always to ensure that young women understand that they have a huge future within the STEM industries.
Another benefit was that the students realised the massive opportunities that are here for them right on their doorstep in Ayrshire. One of the young people at the event commented on how they couldn’t believe that they could pursue their career in Ayrshire.
I’m interested to hear how you encourage girls into STEM subjects?
We have done so many things over the years as joint initiatives, with schools and colleges and other partners as well, higher education and further education sectors but it is sometimes difficult. As a teacher of physics and as a principal teacher of physics, I could have three rows of girls, and one row of boys in my class, but then not many of the girls were actually going on to do anything to do with STEM when they went on to university or work.
I would say that the biggest impact for me, my most successful experience, was getting the young people out and working in real work places. When I taught my advanced higher class on a Friday afternoon, we used to meet in the carpark and jump in my car and I’d take them to wherever would give me a project, a real problem for them, and allow my girls and boys to work together and use their skills.
We visited places like Diageo and the Paper Mill and actually see what it was like for women, and for men, to work side by side in engineering and scientific environments. The problem is that many people believe that science isn’t “girly” so to deal with that, I felt the best way was to get the girls out there and see what it was really like in a working environment. Because they were treated equally in the workplace, it made the students realise it didn’t matter if they are male or female, they can do whatever they want to do.
What did you think of the work done at the Student Services areas in our Ayr and Kilwinning campuses?
I think that the work was all very thoughtfully undertaken and it is evident that all students are benefiting from it. After the work was completed, I actually thought to myself, “why did we not do this sooner?” It’s great.
What type of person or group can apply for funding from the Ayrshire College Foundation?
One of our challenges is to understand and support applications appropriately. We need to make sure we get right applications and respond appropriately to them. However, we don’t have an exclusion zone, my experience is that the foundation are open to considering a wide range of applications. We have no set expectations, however the project has to be seen to benefit educationally and we want it to lead to positive destinations and impact the area and community, not just one person.
How do I find out more?
More details about the Ayrshire College Foundation and how to apply for funding are available on our website www.ayrshirecollegefoundation.com