Cowes Enterprise College principal sails away with prestigious award

  12 October, 2023

Staff and students at Cowes Enterprise College are celebrating after the school’s principal, Rachel Kitley, sailed away with a prestigious prize at the Maritime UK Solent Awards 2023.

Ms Kitley was honoured with the night’s major prize – the Maritime Legacy Award – as part of Thursday’s (6th) black-tie celebration at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The annual awards seek to celebrate the employers, apprentices, and innovators who champion the maritime industries across the region.

Ms Kitley, who joined the school in 2017, was awarded the prize thanks to her “significant impact to the strength of the Solent Maritime Sector,” and “legacy of achievements” which include “having had a positive impact on the regional sector; having constructively supported young people and apprentices; [and] having been an ambassador for the Solent’s maritime sector.”

Under Ms Kitley’s helm, the Maritime Curriculum at Cowes Enterprise College has seen the school fully engage with its maritime heritage. The award-winning curriculum sees students learn key skills relevant to the maritime industries, work closely with employers in the region, and explore future careers in the sector. The success of the scheme is now being replicated elsewhere, with the school offering guidance and support for schools across the UK who wish to develop similar initiatives.

Alongside this work, which has been praised by officials at the Department for Education, Ms Kitley is a member of the UK Government’s Shipbuilding Skills Task Force. The body, which brings together experts from across the maritime industries, is exploring the ways in which the sector can continue to provide jobs and opportunities in the future.

Principal, Rachel Kitley

On receiving the award, Ms Kitley said: “I am hugely honoured to receive this award, and really humbled to be in a room with such champions of the Maritime industries. Tonight’s awards have been hugely inspiring, and showcased not just the brilliant work which is underway at the moment, but the exciting future we all have ahead of us.  

“The Maritime Curriculum at Cowes Enterprise College was created to help support that future – and to show students the Maritime industries are not just a piece of their past, being from the Isle of Wight, but a viable part of their future, too. We are so keen to inspire the next generation, and I really hope to see former Cowes students thrive in supporting the very industries we have celebrated tonight.

“Though I am stood up here alone, this award really stems from a titanic team effort. As a result, I would really like to thank not the just the entire student and staff body at Cowes, but also the brilliant businesses and individuals who we have the pleasure of working with on a day-to-day basis – your support means a great deal. Moreover, working with other members of our industry through the government’s shipbuilding skills task force has been eye-opening and inspiring in equal measure, and made me optimistic about the future of maritime in the UK.

“I came to Cowes in 2017 and – in all honesty – never thought I would spend so much time thinking about shipbuilding, or the maritime industries! However, it has been such a joy to be part of this journey, and to gain an insight into the incredible work you all do every day. I can’t wait to help the school, and our partners, to take this to new heights.”

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