Concord’s Mrs Belfield-Dean has ‘the best job in the world’

Monday October 7, 2019

An ex-pupil of the former Priory School for Girls in Shrewsbury is marking 40 years’ service at Concord, in what she genuinely regards as the ‘best job in the world.’ Shrewsbury-born Barbara Belfield-Dean reflects on how lucky she was to have been able to transfer to the college’s main Acton Burnell site when the decision was taken in 1981 to merge their girls’ branch, which was located at Attingham Park, with the boys’ branch at Acton Burnell. Barbara had been appointed PA to the Principal at Attingham Park, Mrs Gill Hood, in 1979, and she says she was fortunate that a post was available at Acton Burnell when the college became co-ed. “I loved my time at Attingham, but the move gave me new opportunities and, in those days, in addition to supporting the Head of Girls and teachers, I provided day-to-day support for the students and was involved in many activities with them,” Barbara recalled. “For example, taking groups horse riding, assisting with the production of their annual magazine – which included obtaining sponsorship from local businesses, and helping with various concert performances and international society events.” In 1984 Barbara was promoted to College Accountant.  She recalls that at that time there were no computers so all the ledgers were hand written, using a Kalamazoo accounting system, and all the calculations were manual. Balancing the books was a time-consuming affair.  When she introduced a fully computerised system a few years later, it was a welcome transformation of the work flow. Three years later further promotion followed when she became Bursar, retaining the role of Accountant and becoming responsible for overall finance, business administration, legal matters, personnel, estates, health and safety, catering and domestic requirements. “There were no HR or accounts departments at that time as the college was much smaller than it is today,” she recalls.  “I had the support of one secretary so my work was extremely varied and very demanding – but I loved it and undertook further studies in business and finance to extend my knowledge and skills.” In 1989, Barbara took on the additional role of Company Secretary and Clerk to the Trustees and this provided another opportunity for further involvement in the management of the college and providing support to its 12 Trustees. She commented: “It has been an enormous pleasure working with such a supportive Board for so many years.  Our Trustees, who are experts in their particular professions, give their time freely and generously to provide guidance and direction in strategic matters and to ratify decisions in the development of the college.” Although in her current role Barbara has little contact with the students, since 2006 she has been responsible for the project management of developing the site and she hopes that this work has had a positive impact on the experience of all the students at the college.  Since that time she has managed major development projects totalling more than £34m, together with property and land acquisitions of over £5m. She admits that she ‘loves being creative’ and is currently working with architects on the design of a new sports facility and a further boarding house, both of which will benefit future students at the college and will continue ‘Concord’s amazing story.’ “I am very much involved in the design work with the architect, identifying and creating what is needed and how that can best be delivered. “My experience of working closely with the design team for each project has been a very positive one and I have been lucky to have had the support of so many talented and experienced specialists, whether it be in architecture, structural engineering, electrical and mechanical engineering or quantity surveying.  I have learnt so much from this area of my work which has enabled me to develop skills I would never have previously dreamt possible. “Having studied interior design, the project management area of my role has given me the opportunity to be creative in the development of our facilities and I constantly strive for improvement.  We are always looking forward – what can we do better, how can we improve our facilities to provide a more positive, enjoyable and supportive environment in this beautiful setting.” The college’s most recent development was its new science facility which was completed in January, 2018.  At £10.5m it was the largest single project that had been undertaken and for Barbara was a very special project in which to be involved. The Science Block provides outstanding facilities for all the scientists in the college and she is very proud of what has been achieved.  “The team worked so hard to deliver this project on time, on budget and to the highest standards and it was very exciting to see it develop during its construction. “I have been so fortunate to have had the support of two amazing Principals during my time, Mr Neil Hawkins and Mr Tony Morris, and a team of wonderful people who are so committed to what we are trying to achieve here.  I always think you can strive to do better, that there are always ways to improve and you need to recognise the positive impact that you can have on those around you, particularly the students. “I hope that I am touching their lives in some small but positive way by what I am doing.  It has been an amazing journey and I feel honoured to have been part of the Concord story and will be forever grateful for the opportunities I have had.” And the amazing journey of Mrs Barbara Belfield-Dean at Concord goes on…