Stuart Cale (Principal of NCHP)

It is a few weeks since Stuart stepped into the role of Principal at NCHP, as you know Stuart trained through the College and progressed through the ranks to a tutor, to Vice Principal to where we are today. We talk a lot of NCHP being like a family and for those members of our family, we thought it would be good to take the opportunity to ask Stuart some questions about his plans for the future.

Stuart, you started out as a student at NCHP, what are your thoughts today stepping into the role of Principal?

My thoughts today need to be set into a historical context. Initially it was a period of reflection on whether I could bring anything fresh to the NCHP and that part of the process didn’t take long because when faced with a new challenge I try to engage the imagination positively. I believe that each new phase of the College’s story needs to add something rather than just maintain, of course there is a legacy to curate and it will be evolution rather than revolution, but there must be forward motion and I’m not a person to rest on laurels. So, my thoughts today are not about my own journey to this point, they’re more along the lines of,” OK we’re here, let’s push on, how far can we go?”. It’s a strategy of constant improvement.

What is your vision for the future of NCHP?

Simply put, to help NCHP become the sector-leader in terms of student experience, evidence-based tuition and professional reputation. The real purpose of the college to me is to help create futures, for our graduates and the people they will serve. NCHP isn’t an entity in its own right, it’s the sum of who we are, what and how we teach, and what we believe in and stand for.

So, it’s about people, and we all have our roles to play. I bring a lot of commercial business experience to the role and this is something that we can hopefully all benefit from in terms of growing, belonging to, and drawing from the College. Anyone who is reading this who I’ve also taught will know that I make no apologies for wanting the College to be a successful and thriving community and for us all to benefit as individuals and collectively.

Teaching is our primary function and this is what I have focused on over the last 18 months in the preparation phase, gaining Fellowship of The Higher Education Academy so that both the core principles and latest methods of higher education could be interwoven into how we deliver our products and services.

The last few months have been a challenging time for the world, for therapy and for education with the move to online working, what are your thoughts about this and do you think that there is a place for online working going forward?

Yes, I do. Many colleagues have expressed the opinion that ‘the therapy world will never be the same again’, I think that may be a bit extreme and I keep a close eye on the college’s development remaining stable and solid. That said, the online teaching has been a great success and I expect many of us have found that recent events have forced us to accommodate the change from face-to-face to online work, rather than just talk about it.

I’ve been looking closely at the HE move towards ‘blended learning’ which allows students to access materials online and I’m working with Alan Greaves (Chair of the Academic Board) in developing a strategy to align NCHP with blended learning methods, I think this has exciting potential to free-up more time during live training for practical and experiential work.

What will be your main focus for the next 12 months within the College?

Consolidation and infrastructure in the first phase. I’m focused on keeping everyone’s journey stable and smooth so that energy isn’t wasted readjusting to new methods. I’ve seen a lot of handovers in which the new team have thrown out perfectly good systems and practices just to put their own stamp on things. Please be reassured that isn’t going to happen with the College, it wasn’t broken in the first place.

Changes will happen sympathetically, gradually and purposefully, there is no rush. Those elements which needed an overhaul, such as the website, were prepared in advance to come on-stream smoothly, the National Society’s overhaul was uneventful in terms of mechanics. Changes are carefully planned and functional, always with an eye on the people they will affect.

Looking back as a former student what would be the one piece of advice you would give to our current students on their journey to becoming therapists?

This question is the easiest to answer and my favourite bit because at heart I am an eternal student and a huge fan of the NCHP.

I’m also a lifelong Manchester United fan and I remember when Alan Hansen said, “You’ll never win anything with kids” about the class of ’92 and the rest of course is history. Similarly, the College has always nurtured its own talent and that’s how I came up through the College and that works because what we are about is a learning experience that’s more like a boutique hotel than a chain. The best people to deliver that learning experience are people who know the College and more importantly the needs of our students first-hand.

So, even though I’m not a huge fan of advice I’d say get involved and give of yourself wholeheartedly to the whole experience because you’ll get so much more out of it that way and therapy will repay you personally, emotionally and spiritually. The sky is the limit, NCHP is and will remain a true meritocracy and we value all of you and your individual stories and talents. Whether you are more academically or practically gifted, trust the process, give all that you can and take all that you need.

I look forward to meeting and working with you all and the NCHP being part of your future.