St Catharine’s is delighted that May 2022 marks 15 years since Sharon Goodchild first joined the College’s housekeeping team. Sharon will be known to many in our community in her current role of Housekeeping Manager.
The housekeeping team is responsible for cleaning and servicing the wide range of spaces used by St Catharine’s students, staff, Fellows and visitors. Since the College is proud to welcome people of all backgrounds, many new arrivals are not familiar with the role of a housekeeper (also known as a bedder). Sharon explains the important contribution that her team makes in helping the College community to fulfil its potential:
“Housekeeping ensures that everyone benefits from a clean, safe environment that is conducive to studying or working at St Catharine’s. Beyond keeping facilities in a reasonable state for us to be able to clean, we genuinely just want our students to focus on seizing every opportunity to learn and to enjoy life at Cambridge. We are always happy to hear from students about how we can help: whether that’s rescheduling when we hoover to avoid disturbing a revision session, or even taking a few minutes to explain the basics so students are set to look after their own place when they graduate."
Sharon first joined the team as a bedder in 2007 and initially cleaned student flats at the St Chad’s property on Grange Road, which is home to the College’s second-year undergraduates. She remained at St Chad’s after her promotion to the role of housekeeping supervisor, and later supervised housekeeping at all College properties apart from the Island site on Trumpington Street. Reflecting on those early years, she comments:
“St Chad’s was and remains an especially tight-knit part of the Catz community, so I couldn’t have been given a lovelier introduction to the College and have really fond memories of my time there. Bedders were obviously responsible for cleaning and looking after the flats at St Chad’s, but the students living there definitely looked after us in return. A great example in my very first year was the group of students in Flat 24 who had a coffee machine in their kitchen and used to make me cappuccinos. After such a positive start, I was honestly reluctant to leave the familiar surroundings at St Chad’s, but I knew if I had to become equally familiar with the Island site if I wanted to step up and take on more responsibilities.”
As Housekeeping Manager since 2014, Sharon oversees a team of 31 (a Deputy Housekeeping Manager, three supervisors, four housekeeping porters and 23 housekeeping assistants), who clean and service all sites and properties owned by St Catharine’s. The team’s work has changed considerably in that time, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit:
“It was hard going at the start to be honest – I really can’t say any of us miss carrying heavy piles of sheets, blankets and candlewick bedspreads up and down stairs every time we needed to change the beds! If you can believe it, we still relied on pen and paper to manage our rota in 2007, which is a far cry from how much I use my computer and mobile telephone to communicate with my team and other departments now. I like how we manage to find a sensible balance between tradition and modernity at St Catharine’s and hope this will continue in the future.
“The type and amount of work done by the housekeeping team during vacation periods has also changed to keep up with the College’s conference and events business, which has really taken off in the last decade or so. We have pretty much perfected tight turnarounds between the end of the period of residence for students and welcoming our conference guests, sometimes in as little as 6 hours.”
From the start of 2020, rigorous cleaning and hygiene measures have been vital to the College’s response to the pandemic. Sharon reflects:
“The pandemic had a massive impact but having such a great team made overcoming the challenges that much easier – everyone has done brilliantly in exceptional circumstances. There was added pressure because we were trying to keep everyone at Catz safe and you never knew if a single lapse in our normal high standards could result in an outbreak. The need to maintain a safe distance from students also meant that we largely missed out on the chance to build rapport with our student community. As we look ahead to the next academic year and what our rota will look like then, I hope there will be an opportunity to return to some of our normal ways of working and establish relationships with households again during our visits.”
Helen Hayward (2018), Fellow and Operations Director at St Catharine’s, adds:
“On behalf of everyone at St Catharine’s, I want to thank Sharon for her 15 years of service and the genuine care for our community that she has fostered among the housekeepers, for which we are all enormously grateful. Sharon is understandably proud of how her team rose to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and dedicated themselves to keeping the College clean and safe. I look forward to continuing to work with Sharon and seeing how her team continue to excel in the years ahead.”