New principal at Redbridge College, Ann Thunhurst, on her vision for the future - and why she didn’t do A-levels

Ann Thunhurst

Ann Thunhurst - Credit: Archant

“A-levels and universities are not the only options after secondary school.”

Not surprising words from the principal of a college that offers a range of vocational courses.

But new skipper Ann Thunhurst isn’t just rattling through the Little Heath post-16 centre’s latest brochure. The former Wanstead County High pupil is also talking about the path she chose for her own career.

“The expectation of my parents, teachers and peers was that I would continue on to study A-levels,” she explained.

“I was expected to get my A-levels and then go on to university, but I realised early on that this route was not for me.”

Instead, Ann, who grew up in Lord Avenue, Clayhall, quit sixth-form halfway through her final year and packed off to Waltham Forest College, where she studied for City and Guilds qualifications.

The ambitious teen embarked on a star-studded career that saw her working in flashy restaurants across the world – including hotels owned by the luxury Four Seasons chain – but found college beckoning her back.

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It wasn’t that she wanted to go back to school – rather, she wanted to teach there.

“After experiencing further education as a student, the move to FE teaching seemed like a natural progression,” she explained.

“I began teaching part-time in London colleges, including Ealing College and Waltham Forest College, before being appointed to a full time post at the Colchester Institute.”

She added: “Because I began my career via the vocational route, I think Redbridge College and I make a perfect match.”

So what’s Ann’s vision for the college’s future?

“This is a good college with outstanding features, according to Ofsted,” she said, “and I don’t plan to fix anything that isn’t broken.

“Inevitably, though, in order to move forward, we will need to change things.

“The new educational landscape is providing us with huge opportunities that simply have not been there in the past, such as direct entry into further education at 14.”