Rona Mackenzie

Rona Mackenzie

Rona Mackenzie

Dr. Rona Mackenzie is Principal of Lincoln University Technical College (UTC). She has a strong background in education, having worked in six local authorities during her career, and is passionate about providing an education that meet the needs of young people and their community industries. She is a keen sportswoman and mountaineer, recently trekking to Everest Base Camp, and has an interest in photography.


2016 has taken me into my twentieth year in education and it has been a busy, eventful and unforgettable year.

Whilst enjoying the new Lincoln UTC premises on Lindum Road, we have opened our doors to educate our students, inspiring them in STEM subjects, and to welcome numerous business and community professionals to widen the experiences of our students.

This year we have enjoyed learning with experts from local faith groups, engineering and science businesses, the armed forces, university experts and charity groups.

I have particularly enjoyed welcoming rotary club members and old students to tour the Greestone building, giving us the opportunity to learn about the building’s rich history and to hear schoolgirl tales of education and adventure.

Our students continue to impress and inspire me with their talents which lie across many different fields. Outside of the classroom, we have a GB team sailor, a national standard hockey player, a national age group champion in trampolining and the youngest ever scuba diver instructor, who will secure her qualification as she turns 18.

We appreciate the talents of a young man who is a grade 8 singer and a member of the National Youth Choir. These students, and many more, impress me not just because of their achievements, but also because they dedicate their time at the end of a long working day to train and practice. Their commitment is enviable and a quality that will take them far in their future careers.

In the classroom, we enjoyed our first set of achievements in GCSE, BTEC and A Level qualifications in August. Our A Level and BTEC results were mind blowing – our staff and students had worked so very hard to prepare for their final examinations and not only did this hard work pay off, but it launched our students into exciting careers in education and apprenticeships.

Our GCSE results proved that we are a specialist college for STEM subjects, with excellent results in these specialist areas. I could not be more proud of our achievements and appreciate the significant commitment and hard work from every member of the UTC community.

I have been very fortunate to hold the post of founding Principal of Lincoln UTC for the last three and a half years: it has been both an honour and a privilege. As I begin 2017 embarking on a new career pathway, this will be my final article for The Lincolnite.

Having contributed since August 2013, I would like to thank Daniel and the team for their coverage of many of our UTC events and for providing with me with the opportunity to write my monthly column.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity – so much so, that alongside my MBA and Executive Coaching studies, I will also be completing a Copywriting course!

I wish you all every happiness, good health and success for 2017 and look forward to reading about the developments and events across Lincolnshire through The Lincolnite.

For me, 2017 is a year of learning and personal growth development: what is your focus for the year ahead?

Dr. Rona Mackenzie is Principal of Lincoln University Technical College (UTC). She has a strong background in education, having worked in six local authorities during her career, and is passionate about providing an education that meet the needs of young people and their community industries. She is a keen sportswoman and mountaineer, recently trekking to Everest Base Camp, and has an interest in photography.

I met with friends last weekend and their two young sons were fascinated by the YouTube videos entitled, ‘People are Awesome’.

The videos are made annually and show ordinary people doing some amazing physical stunts and feats. I use them for college assemblies as I love to see the awe and wonder in the faces of our students and then remind them that these people are just like us – we are all capable of being awesome in our own special way if we practise and work hard.

I also use TED talks for my assembly inspiration and one such talk that interested me was the ‘Power Pose’ talk by Amy Cuddy.

Amy is a remarkable woman; early in her university career she was involved in a car accident and suffered a severe head injury. Doctors believed she would struggle to complete her degree but Amy thought otherwise. Not only did she fully recover, she trained as a classical dancer and is now a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School.

She hit the headlines with her ‘Power Pose’ TED talk; how your body position can influence your brain and the brains of others. She believes that how you stand communicates to others how confident and powerful you are; by standing like a superhero before you go into an important meeting or event, it can make you feel more confident and therefore affect how others view you.

Amy’s research took the world by storm with over 25 million views on YouTube, but in the last two years it has been discredited. Amy’s research used only 42 participants, and when further research was conducted with 200 participants they found that the power pose made no significant difference to hormones or behaviour. I’m glad that I didn’t encourage my students to power pose after all!

The beauty of the internet is that new advances in research can be quickly shared and interested parties can develop their work, taking it to a new level to see what more can be learnt. In the UK we have conducted outstanding research in the field of science and technology, developing treatments for serious illnesses and surgical procedures which have changed the lives of many people.

I wish that we placed the same importance on completing rigorous research in the field of education. The government makes changes to our curriculum, qualifications, assessment methods and types of schools on a too frequent basis.

These decisions appear to me to be made based on the whim of the latest party leader, their experiences in education and what they think is ‘right’ for the next generation of young people.

Many young people have had their option choices at 14 reduced because of the government’s introduction of Progress 8. The arts and technology subjects have been reduced in many schools due to the pressure placed on them to achieve highly in Progress 8.

Brave leaders ignore this pressure and ensure every student is studying the subjects which are most suited to them as an individual. Whilst this could result in lower performance data (and subsequent pressure from Ofsted and parents who may deem the school to be underperforming) each student fulfils their potential in a way that matches their skills.

Whilst some research is cited as underpinning government decisions, the level of rigour is unimpressive. We have opened hundreds of free schools but I am yet to see research which was conducted from day one of the project and which identifies how they were set up, what has led to their success or the factors that resulted in their demise.

The government continues to open new schools and colleges without stopping to learn from evidence-based research.

The grammar school debate currently raging causes me grave concern; no one should be made to feel a failure at 11. Education is a complex place and I hope Justine Greening, the new Education Secretary, will seek the counsel of researchers and school leaders before the government disrupts the learning of our students again.

Dr. Rona Mackenzie is Principal of Lincoln University Technical College (UTC). She has a strong background in education, having worked in six local authorities during her career, and is passionate about providing an education that meet the needs of young people and their community industries. She is a keen sportswoman and mountaineer, recently trekking to Everest Base Camp, and has an interest in photography.

In different ways, last week signified the end of a chapter, even a book. In September 2014 our first students joined Lincoln UTC and last week, nearly 22 months later, we celebrated the end of the academic studies for our Year 11 and 13 students at two very successful Proms.

Hosted by the Charlotte House Hotel, I was very proud to see our students celebrating their achievements with their teachers, rather than the more usual celebration of the end of ‘school’.

We have shared an exciting journey along a pathway never previously trodden. It takes a special type of person to embark on a new project, whether it be in business or education, and I admire and respect both staff and students for their commitment, determination and resilience.

Parents too have been part of this vision and we are grateful to them for the faith they have placed in their children and our community. Businesses and individuals have also played a role in our success, adding to an amazing network of diverse contributors who have shared in our journey.

As we reminisced at the Proms, laughing at shared memories and reminded ourselves of the colourful experiences, I found myself feeling sad that a very significant chapter in my life, and the students’, had come to a close.

This has been a very special journey which we have travelled together in a spirit of cooperation and shared belief. Of course it has had its challenges but these are far outweighed by the sense of fulfilment and camaraderie we now all share. I know that following results days in August, we all embark on new and exciting opportunities as further chapters of our lives unfold.

They say that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone; to say that I miss our Year 11 and Year 13 students is an understatement!

This week, as our doors have opened to only two year groups, the corridors seem quieter and the pioneering faces fewer. Whilst the chatter is a little subdued, new faces are emerging, starting their own journeys and their own new chapters.

Our new cohorts, joining us in September, have been in for meetings and open evenings, preparing to join us on the journey started in September 2014. They will forge their own paths and write their own stories but the themes remain the same even if the journey is less fraught.

Filled with enthusiasm and excitement, they bring a new sense of excitement and anticipation as we prepare courses and resources for September.

Opportunities have been flooding in, with offers of work in local businesses: chances in aviation, mechanics, manufacturing and systems control projects.

Sometimes I think our staff are bigger kids than the students, their excitement for these projects brimming over!

And as the academic year draws to a close, we are collecting feedback from our students as we seek to learn from our adventures and improve our offering.

Their perceptiveness never ceases to amaze me, as they accurately pinpoint areas of strength as well as aspects they would like to develop. They have strong opinions, not least when discussing the EU referendum.

We often underestimate the opinions of the young, fearing that youth suggests a lack of experience and therefore ill-thought judgements. Whilst I was surprised by the outcome, I was more troubled by the blame that was laid at the feet of the young, elderly and those perceived to lack education.

The United Kingdom is embarking on its own new chapter as an outlier to the EU and now that the decision has been made, we should all unite to seek a way to make this chapter even better than the last.

As students around the county begin to enjoy the summer holidays, I wish each and every one of them the very best of luck for their summer results and in the new opportunities September will bring.

For those who work hard, realise their potential and discover their talent, doors will appear and wonderful opportunities will emerge. Rest well, for you will need your energies for the new challenges ahead.

Dr. Rona Mackenzie is Principal of Lincoln University Technical College (UTC). She has a strong background in education, having worked in six local authorities during her career, and is passionate about providing an education that meet the needs of young people and their community industries. She is a keen sportswoman and mountaineer, recently trekking to Everest Base Camp, and has an interest in photography.

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