Former plumber Corrienne Peasgood first joined City College Norwich as a part time instructor in 1997 and last month became its new principal. She told education reporter Victoria Leggett how she thinks young people should be encouraged to learn.

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City College Norwich’s principal admitted the site may have thought twice about allowing Starbucks coffee to be sold on site if allegations about tax avoidance by the company had emerged earlier.

But Corrienne Peasgood said she wanted to make it clear that a branch of the international chain had not opened up at the Ipswich Road campus. The TEN Foundation – which includes the college, City Academy in Norwich and Wayland Academy in Watton – went out to open tender earlier this year and awarded its catering contract to Caterlink. The company was keen to sell a big brand coffee as part of its offering and, after carrying out research with students, chose Starbucks.

“All of that was done before the whole tax thing came out,” said Ms Peasgood. “But Starbucks aren’t here. It’s only the coffee. And it’s not at Starbucks prices. All the food is hand-made on the premises. If we were going out to tender now, we would still say we wanted a premium brand coffee. I’m not sure we would go for Starbucks now.”

The newly-appointed principal of City College Norwich has said she does not believe the government’s planned reforms to GCSEs will engage young people and inspire them to learn.

Corrienne Peasgood, who has taken over from Dick Palmer at the helm of the college, believes students work best if they are being pulled forward by dreams of a career. She aims to ensure every young person learning with the college – whether on vocational courses, academic courses or apprenticeships – can relate what they are studying to their goals.

Ms Peasgood, who trained as a plumber at the age of 16, said: “Say you are learning to be a bricklayer. I think the first thing we should do is take you to a building site and say ‘this is what it’s like to be a bricklayer. This is what it’s like to be a site manager.’

“The destination pulls them through the learning rather than the teachers pushing them.

“If you do that, you have a completely different attitude to learning because you know why you are doing it.”

But Ms Peasgood is not convinced the government’s plans for an English Baccalaureate qualification – replacing GCSEs and focusing on specific academic subjects – would have such a positive effect.

“What’s in the EBacc that’s going to make me think ‘wow, I want to do that?’” she said. “It’s not the way they learn best. They won’t achieve and we will have to pick that up at 16.” The principal said she agreed with the government’s aim of helping students to keep their options open, but did not think that meant avoiding vocational subjects until later in life.

She said a student choosing a two-year engineering course would not necessarily pursue an engineering career at the end of it, but would finish the course armed with maths and ICT skills which would help them follow a number of other paths.

“Why can’t you learn English, maths and science as part of a hairdressing and beauty therapy course? I watch entry level students on the till, taking money, using maths every day. Would they have maths skills at that level doing exactly the same in a classroom? I don’t think so,” said Ms Peasgood.

What do you think? Write to Evening News letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE, or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

Do you have an education story? Call reporter Victoria Leggett on 01603 772468 or email victoria.leggett@archant.co.uk

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