Nelson and Colne College Group is Outstanding!

Staff and learners within the Nelson and Colne College Group are celebrating after receiving ‘outstanding’ ratings across all three colleges in a new Ofsted inspection.

The group, which comprises Nelson and Colne College, Accrington and Rossendale College and Lancashire Adult Learning, is the first in Lancashire to receive the highest possible Ofsted accolades under the new inspection framework.

The inspection, which took place in March 2022, saw a 10-strong team visit all campuses, talk to staff, students, apprentices, governors and employers.

They identified that ‘learners and apprentices love being learners at the college’ and leaders and management across the group ‘provide a high-quality education through which learners and most apprentices achieve their full potential’.

Nelson and Colne College Group is now the only college in Lancashire to be graded as ‘Outstanding’.

Inspectors identified that ‘learners and apprentices embody the outstanding culture of high standards across all of the college sites. They are passionate and highly motivated about their education and futures. They describe their teachers and trainers as inspirational and knowledgeable’.

They also noted that ‘teachers and trainers create highly supportive, calm learning environments in which learners and most apprentices thrive. Learners rapidly build their confidence and produce work of a very high standard. Apprentices develop substantial new knowledge, skills, and behaviours’.

Speaking of her pride in the report, Principal and CEO of Nelson and Colne College Group Amanda Melton CBE said:

“I am beyond proud to be a part of this extraordinary college group. The work the teachers, trainers and support teams do on a daily basis is all focussed on our learners and their successes and I am just delighted that Ofsted recognised that in their recent visit.”

“Our focus has always been to provide the very best education and training to learners and apprentices across Lancashire and now, after two mergers and a pandemic, Ofsted has recognised us as an ‘Outstanding’ group of colleges.

“This is a phenomenal achievement for Nelson and Colne College Group, given the commitment we have shown to supporting the both Lancashire Adult Learning and Accrington and Rossendale College following the mergers.

“All of the colleges within Nelson and Colne College Group are now outstanding and this is a true testament to the hard work, dedication and talent of all of our staff and students.”

“We hope everyone connected with Nelson and Colne College Group will join us in celebrating this success. The college group has an exciting future ahead and we remain committed to this level of excellence for all our current and future learners, across all of our colleges.”

Nelson and Colne College Group achieved the following results in the inspection between 15 & 18 March 2022:

Overall effectiveness: Outstanding

The quality of education – Outstanding

Behaviour and attitudes – Outstanding

Personal development – Outstanding

Leadership and management – Outstanding

Education programmes for young people – Outstanding

Adult learning programmes – Outstanding

Apprenticeships – Good

Provision for learners with high needs – Outstanding

The full Ofsted report can be found by clicking here.

Remaining positive and looking to the future

I would like to begin my first column of 2021 by wishing everyone a happy new year. The festive break was a chance to recharge the batteries, clear the mind and to get active by enjoying some time out in the fresh air.

I was also able to reflect on the innovation and determination shown by all at Nelson and Colne College Group – with support from our partners – to overcome the profound challenges the pandemic has brought to those of us in the education sector.

Since I penned my last column at the beginning of December, much has changed, and this week all College learning has moved online – as it will until February half term at the earliest, for all but a very small number of learners. While a new variant and rising virus infection rates in the communities we serve are an obvious concern, I am confident of better days ahead after the excellent news that we have the rollout of vaccines.

And with positivity in mind, I want to reassure readers of my column that we are extremely well-placed to adapt and continue supporting our learners, and provide them with the very best education we can through online learning.

We’re also committed to supporting the health and wellbeing of all of our learners. Alongside the high-quality curriculum taught during lessons, our students at Nelson and Colne College and Accrington and Rossendale College are continuing to receive personal and professional development opportunities. Support with online resources and videos from our Extracurricular, Careers, and Health and Wellbeing Teams has developed tremendously in recent months.

Just this week, an Action Calendar promoting a Happier January was circulated to all students with a top tip or a small task – one for each day of the month – to encourage them to focus on the future, support one another, improve their health and wellbeing, and stay active.

We have also been encouraging our adult learners right across Lancashire to take control this January too with a comprehensive offer of courses and qualifications through Lancashire Adult Learning.

Whether the motivation for learning is to boost health and wellbeing, retrain, improve digital skills or to be able to better support your family, there is something for everyone, and courses are largely free, flexible and available online.

January does not have to be a month of gloom. It can be a month for a fresh start and new beginnings, and this College family is dedicated to supporting individuals, communities and regional employers through these difficult circumstances.

If you need help or advice for a better future, make sure you get in touch. In the meantime, warm wishes for 2021. Amanda.

My pride at incredible efforts of College Group in an unprecedented year

I write my final Principal’s Voice column of 2020 struggling to understand and comprehend where the year has gone. It has been the strangest year that I have experienced in my working life, but I have never been prouder of our incredible staff, students, partners and supporters who have shown real strength and determination in these unprecedented times. 

As usual, my final column of the year is a review of our highlights from across our College Group, of which there have been many…


We kicked off January with a successful Engineering Apprenticeship Event at Nelson and Colne College, where we were joined by many of our employer partners from the sector who we support through our outstanding Engineering department.

Colleagues at Lancashire Adult Learning began the year by launching a purpose-built Health and Social Care Hub at Northlight and a ‘Take 5’ initiative to support the health and wellbeing of our friends at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.


National Apprenticeship Week was the main feature of February, as Vice Principal Alison Rushton was out and about on the roads of East Lancashire to meet employers – including Burnley Football Club and Motor Vehicle Apprentices past and present at Graham’s of Colne.

It was also the month Nelson and Colne College became the number one FE College in the country for the progress that students make during their A Level studies – an occasion to celebrate – and Morag Davis took up the position as Centre Principal at our Accrington campus.


Accrington and Rossendale College climbed up the National Achievement Rate Tables to become a top five college in the country for classroom learning achievement, and the number one college in Lancashire for 16-18 Advanced Apprenticeships – one of the benefits of being part of Nelson and Colne College Group.

March was also the month our LAL team delivered a series of hugely successful events including a community wellbeing day at Padiham Town Hall, in partnership with the East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, and a health and wellbeing showcase at Northlight.


After the arrival of lockdown and a switch to online delivery for students and adult learners, April was the month where we at Nelson and Colne College Group showed our support to the NHS with a huge donation of PPE. We also celebrated our former students now working on the frontline, including former Health and Social Care friends Jasmin and Ellie at Leeds General Infirmary.


May was the month where we launched a new Higher Education offer, tailored to meet the needs of learners and employers operating in East Lancashire’s unique economy. Nelson and Colne College Group also won a Skills Award for our outstanding GCSE resit provision, and the new Hair and Beauty salons at Accrington became a real highlight of our £4million makeover of the campus.


Vocational Business student Marium Shafique, 21, from Nelson, was named winner of the BTEC Business and Enterprise Learner of the Year Award and the BTEC Adult Learner of the Year Award 2020! Marium had an inspiring five-year journey of progression at Nelson and Colne College as she went from speaking no English to achieving the highest grade possible in her course to secure a place at one of the country’s leading business schools at Lancaster University.

The development of our Accrington campus neared completion as the new entrance off Sandy Lane and the green space creation completely transformed the gateway to the College site.


The transformation of our delivery online continued apace in July with our first ever Virtual New Student Event for Nelson and Colne College and our sister College Accrington and Rossendale College. All applicants received a personalised invitation to experience the College’s modern facilities with online tours, interactive campus maps, video content, panoramic photography and much more.


Even in the strangest of years, with no summer exams sat, and no Results Day celebration, it was comforting to know that our A Level and Vocational students could progress onto university or into Apprenticeships or employment opportunities having been awarded their Centre Assessed Grades. Yet again we had exceptional progression routes, including Russell Group universities and Oxbridge, as we achieved a 100% A Level pass rate and a 100% Advanced Vocational pass rate.


As the new academic year began with a blend of classroom and online learning, it was the turn of our Higher Education graduates to receive their honours with a Virtual Graduation ceremony. The Class of 2020 included adult learners who are looking to progress or change career, have overcome significant health problems to achieve, or who have balanced significant family and work commitments to succeed in their studies.


October was a busy month, and I was absolutely honoured to be awarded a CBE for services to Further Education – helping to put the fantastic work and achievements of Nelson and Colne College Group on the national map.

Two stars from our Hairdressing department won awards in a national competition, colleagues at LAL celebrated Restart a Heart Day by delivering basic lifesaving skills training to 7,000 Lancashire schoolchildren via Zoom, and our alumni came together to help us celebrate Colleges Week.


I was delighted to see Lancashire Adult Learning’s innovative partnership with Lancashire Libraries winning a Highly Commended prize in the Festival of Learning Awards. This is national recognition for our partnership, which sees LAL teams deliver adult community learning in libraries across the county. Prior to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the 2018-19 academic year saw learning take place in 55 libraries, where 2,750 learners were supported through almost 550 courses.

Similarly, I was thrilled for Accrington and Rossendale College Carpentry and Joinery Apprentice Phillip Bentley who won a Highly Commended accolade in the national Institute of Carpenters’ Awards for a fantastic gothic wooden window frame.


And so here we are in December, with just one week to go until the festive break. I would like to take this opportunity to offer season’s greetings to readers and to wish you all a happy new year. I hope you are able to celebrate and make the best of the circumstances, with respect for the rules that are in place. Until 2021, stay safe. Amanda.

Lifelong learning is a central theme of the College of the Future

Last week, Nelson and Colne and Colne College Group – including Lancashire Adult Learning – marked Lifelong Learning Week, an annual celebration of the value of learning at all stages of life.

It was an inspiring week, and we shared heart-warming stories on our social media channels of adult learners who we have supported to upskill for a new career, helped improve their health and wellbeing, and given them the essential digital skills needed to enable them to stay better connected in the world of laptops, smartphones and tablets.

Lifelong learning is also a central theme to the final report which has just been published by the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, for which I am the Commissioner for all colleges in England.

The report recommends radical, long-term adult learning reforms, as well as investment, to address current and future skills gaps and also to transform life chances for every adult.

It calls for every adult to have the right to lifetime education and training, with colleges better supported to deliver this in every community across the UK. There are few, if any, more important places in the UK where this needs to happen than here in East Lancashire.

Recent research from the CBI found that nine in 10 people will need new skills by 2030 to support the future economy, and that further and faster action is needed. With the consequences of Covid-19, leaving the EU, climate change and the fourth industrial revolution changing the employment landscape, everyone will need access to part-time, adult and vocational education as the economy and jobs change – and we don’t want Lancashire’s adult learners to be left behind.

For a number of years now, the wonderful team at Lancashire Adult Learning – and the wider College Group – have been working hard to support the ambitions and aspirations of our county’s adult learners.

Very recently, we refreshed our adult learning offer to support adults across the county during this unusual time, with a wide range of free online and flexible courses. As we find ourselves in a second lockdown, new courses starting this month can enhance the employment prospects of individuals, help support their family, improve their health and wellbeing, develop their digital skills or simply develop a hobby. I would encourage readers to visit the Lancashire Adult Learning website at or our social media pages to find out more.

With a UK-wide approach to adult learning following the publication of the Commission report and its recommendations, I really hope that we can make real progress in providing access to lifelong learning to support individuals, towns and the wider economy. Lifelong learning is a vitally important but hitherto neglected component of our education system. I hope very soon I will be able to provide you with a positive update on its place in our UK skills system when the Government publishes its white paper on Further Education in the near future.

Until next month, Amanda.

Showcasing the great work of Further Education this Colleges Week

I’ll begin this month’s column with a thank you to everybody who has sent me a congratulatory message following the announcement of my CBE award in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List last weekend.

I really appreciated the response from people nationally, regionally or locally. I’m so proud to lead a group of Colleges that is so intrinsically linked to the fortunes of the people and communities that it serves, and the employers and economy it supports.

I’m a passionate advocate of Further Education Colleges, and the transformative impact they can have on towns everywhere, and I’m hugely ambitious for what Colleges can do for people and businesses when times are challenging, as they are right now.

Championing the great work of colleges brings me neatly onto one of the key events in the diary of our group of Colleges – Nelson and Colne College, Accrington and Rossendale College and Lancashire Adult Learning – and that is Colleges Week, an annual week of events to celebrate the impact of Further Education Colleges nationally.

Beginning on Monday, Nelson and Colne College Group will be fully supporting the campaign which celebrates the great work that colleges do and fights for fair funding for the sector, to invest in staff, students and resources.

This year’s theme recognises how colleges help build communities, boost businesses, and support individuals. The fundamental way in which colleges have responded to the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic means that there will be even more inspiring and impressive stories to share this year, and there is a determination to make this the biggest and best Colleges Week yet.

It is a fantastic chance to share the superhuman efforts my colleagues have delivered this year in providing high quality teaching, learning and support for students and businesses both in college buildings, in the community and through live online lessons.  I’m really looking forward to this special showcase that puts the truly brilliant work of colleges into the spotlight.

To keep up to date with everything that is going on, you can follow our social media activity through our channels on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

If you are a member of the College Group’s alumni network or you are an employer that has benefited from a positive experience with us, then we would love to hear from you too.

You can get involved in sharing your own stories of how the College Group has supported you by tagging us in a post and using the hashtags #CollegesWeek and #LoveOurColleges.

I hope you will see some of the positive impact we can accomplish together to overcome some of the present difficulties we all share.

Until next month, Amanda.

Rising to the challenge as colleges get back to business

We returned to College for the new academic year knowing that it was going to be a challenging term as we balanced important pandemic safety protocols with the essential move of getting our students back into a classroom environment.

Planning for a COVID-safe return at Nelson and Colne College Group consumed a lot of time over the summer months, however, I have also been busy working with colleagues across the UK with the Independent Commission on the College of the Future as England’s Principal representative.

I was delighted to put my name down in support of a new report published last week on colleges working with the NHS to assist easing its workforce difficulties – a collaboration between the Commission and the NHS Confederation.

Recent months have been painful for our country during this pandemic. Yet we have been reminded just what a wonderful asset the NHS is as it rose to meet the challenge of COVID-19, and we saw College students and staff volunteering for the NHS and in care homes to support their communities.

For the NHS to continue to serve us in our hour of need, further investment is required. If the Government is going to tackle the significant workforce challenges across the NHS and social care – there are around 90,000 NHS vacancies, on top of more than 120,000 in social care – colleges need funding in order to support this.

The new report calls for “employer hubs” to be set up across England to bring together local NHS organisations, including hospitals and general practices, with their local Further Education colleges to collaborate on courses and a pipeline for the local recruitment of health and care staff across a range of professions.

We at Nelson and Colne College Group enjoy a deep and long-standing relationship with East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, and we already support them in a number of innovative ways. However, it is not like that everywhere, and there is scope for growth and development.

The proposed hubs would focus on supporting local people to enter or progress careers in health and care, including through recruitment, upskilling and retraining, and in doing so, tackle local workforce shortages, which can vary considerably across the country.

In the joint publication, we call on the Government to:

  • Invest £5million over two years to pilot employer hubs in each of the seven NHS regions in England to help NHS and care organisations’ recruitment and training
  • Support the creation of a Health and Care College Council in England, with £2million funding over three years to create a national council to promote, develop and embed the essential contribution of colleges in education and training pipelines in England, and
  • Embed the role of colleges in the local delivery of the national NHS People Plan, which was published in July

The role and contribution of colleges within the education and skills system, and specifically in the minds of large employers such as the NHS is all too often poorly understood. With these recommendations, we have an opportunity to unlock their potential to develop strong and sustainable pathways into NHS careers for local people using tangible steps.

We at the Commission are looking forward to continuing to work with the UK Government as they set out their plans for Further Education in England with a White Paper later this year – I’ll keep you informed of its progress.

Until next month, Amanda.

Commitment to our College learner and employers is a certainty

It feels rather surreal to be saying we are now officially in the Summer break here at Nelson and Colne College Group, having promptly had to move to remote learning earlier this year following the Covid-19 outbreak.

We marked the end of term at our tenth annual staff Health and Wellbeing Day a couple of weeks ago. The theme this year was ‘Apart but Together’, and we certainly honoured this with an array of Zoom activities, team 10K efforts (socially distanced, of course), and virtual picnics.

Looking ahead, summer is usually defined by celebrating the achievements of our A Level and vocational students who are heading off to university, employment or an Apprenticeship, and welcoming our new starters who are full of excitement about starting life at College, fresh off the back of GCSE Results Day.

Enrolment this year for our new starters is going to be different through an online portal, and we are currently communicating with all our applicants on how this is going to work.

There is one certainty that all colleges can all subscribe to, and that is a commitment that we will be there to support our 16-18-year-old applicants, as well as our adult learners and our employer partners.

Lancashire’s colleges believe that skills will play a vital part in the economic recovery, helping businesses and communities to thrive and that is why we at Nelson and Colne College Group are part of a dozen Further Education and Sixth Form colleges across Lancashire to make a joint commitment to:

  • deliver a wide range of exciting education and training opportunities for adults, from foundation skills to degree-level courses, to develop new skills and further their careers;
  • help young people achieve their full potential and to maximise their future opportunities as they make the transition from school to College;
  • work more closely than ever with employers, ensuring the workforce has the professional and technical skills needed to help businesses bounce back.

Lancashire’s colleges provide the highest quality education and training, critical in driving social mobility and providing the skills to boost the local, regional and national economy.

I’m proud that Nelson and Colne College Group is part of sector that provides education and training to over 95,000 young and adult learners each year from entry level to postgraduate, including Apprenticeships, and work with over 10,000 businesses.

Come September, our primary aim is to support our students and Apprentices to get a good start to the year. All students will enjoy face to face learning from the start of their programme and it is essential that we help to settle them into College life as soon as possible so they are able to get the most out of their education and take the next steps towards their career aspirations.

I look forward to welcoming our new starters to College in the new academic year, and in the meantime I wish you a happy, healthy and safe summer break. Amanda.

Reopening our doors is a momentous step in the right direction

This week was a momentous week for Nelson and Colne College Group as we reopened our doors at our Nelson campus for the first time since lockdown. This was to a very limited number of students who need essential support or who need to achieve their qualification without disadvantage, and while it was fantastic to see familiar faces in person for the first time in over three months, it was far from a return to normal as our campuses remain closed to the vast majority of students and staff.

It was an important and necessary step, but one taken very carefully after stringent risk assessments in line with the latest guidance. We as a College Group have had to implement strict measures in order for this to happen safely, including sanitising points and social distancing signage throughout the campus, as well as classrooms limited to a maximum of six students.

We are currently busy planning for the new academic year and we are looking to welcome all of our students back after the summer break, but I think it is important to note that students are almost certain to be doing some of their learning online for at least the first term from September onwards.

While this is not ideal and will continue to be a major adjustment to normal circumstances, I am comforted from the feedback and the experiences of our current students who have successfully continued their learning during this period. I am also reassured that our brilliant teaching team, who adapted so quickly after lockdown, have been able to smoothly transition to alternative online delivery platforms to continue providing fantastic teaching and support to our students.

On the theme of alternative delivery methods, staff across Nelson and Colne College Group have been very keen for students not to miss out on our annual New Student Days and the experience these provide our September new starters. We have been working hard to replicate this in an accessible online format, and I’m delighted that this will happen in early July, with students receiving a personalised invitation to attend by email.

To provide the most authentic experience possible, there will be a video welcome from me, an introduction from each student’s respective Head of Division, and a virtual tour of our Nelson and Colne College campus – with interactive campus maps and panoramic photography. Students can also look forward to an exclusive course taster with resources and interactive quizzes, information on our support services and extracurricular programme, a live Q&A chat with our Schools Liaison Team, and more.

I want to finish this month’s column with a thank you to our team at Lancashire Adult Learning, who, since the end of April, have been supporting adult learners across Lancashire with online resources through the website ( and with a great, wide-ranging series of learning video sessions via Facebook.

With my degree in languages, I’m naturally thrilled that modern foreign languages are now part of the online offer too. Many of us will be enjoying staycations this year, but now could be the perfect time to learn a little French, Spanish or Italian in readiness for the tantalising prospect of a European trip in the not-too-distant future as the lockdown restrictions continue to be eased.

Stay safe and healthy, and arrivederci from me for now. Amanda.

We’ll be a greener and cleaner College Group post-pandemic

One of the striking things about the lockdown period, apart from the magnificent Spring we have been blessed with, is the many things we used to do in daily life that would have had a negative impact on the environment, that we have proven we can do in cleaner and more efficient ways.

The adaptation to using Zoom or having meetings on Microsoft Teams has been a smooth one, and it has brought with it environmental benefits – no travelling across the county, or country, from meeting to meeting. It has also meant a reduction on printing as departments across College have adjusted to the digital sphere, and I have now gone almost three months without printing a document.

Outside of work, I, like many others, have reconnected with nature through walking and cycling, and with World Environment Day on the horizon next Friday, the future of how we operate as a College Group is something that is on my mind.

I recently attended a meeting of the college’s Sustainability Group and I’m delighted that there are some very passionate environmental champions within it. I know last summer, in part as a result of attending Glastonbury, I returned to College with a climate changing fervour. I feel that we have a role to create good citizens, and that means encouraging our young people to care about the planet.

The virus has probably done more to support that cause than anything we could possibly have anticipated. It will be interesting to see how much of our new, more sustainable, behaviour under lockdown can be translated to what happens next, but my fervour to see a greener operating College Group has returned, and I’m encouraging colleagues to preserve the best practices when returning to normal in order to reduce our waste and environmental impact.

During lockdown, we have agreed that as a College Group we will no longer be purchasing any single use plastic bottles of water or other drinks. We will invest in providing additional water refilling stations for our students and staff, and this is essential progress and an overdue step forward.

Additionally, at our Nelson and Accrington campuses, we are undertaking development of wild flower meadows. Students will be involved in creating and maintaining these spaces to encourage wildlife and improve our environmental contribution. We are also considering the procurement of organic cotton clothing for student polo shirts and hoodies to reduce our environmental impact.

I feel re-energised to demand that we consider our sustainability credentials alongside the many challenges we face, and to consider the impact of the decisions we make going forward.

For now, continue to stay safe. Until next month, Amanda.

College life in lockdown

Since my last column, we all find ourselves in unprecedented times, facing challenges that we never planned for, and finding solutions we didn’t think we were capable of in such a short time. I am incredibly proud of the way the College has taken to its new virtual world. Credit has to be given to all staff for their flexibility, innovation and creative approaches to online teaching. 

My thanks also must go to our students, who continue to engage with learning despite the worries surrounding them. As well as those learning from home, right now, we have approximately 150 Apprentices working in care home settings Lancashire-wide, and we are enormously proud of the commitment and dedication they are showing to their future, developing skills and rising to the biggest challenge to face our nation since wartime. 

Many of our other students are taking part in virtual lessons – particularly important for those continuing with us next year – and this year’s leavers, despite their study being abruptly completed, are in touch, as we support them with their next steps after leaving us. Every year we see students progressing to some of the top universities across the country, progressing into employment aligned to their career aims, and taking on Apprenticeships, and while for many students the experience will be different this year, we are doing everything we can to ensure they are presented with the same opportunities.

On the topic of alumni, I have also read with admiration about some of our former Health and Social Work Professions students, who right now are using those skills they started developing at College to save lives on the front line. They truly are our heroes.

Of huge importance to us right now is making sure those young people leaving school and heading to college are being well supported and making important and informed decisions about their future studies. We very much remain ‘open’, taking applications, conducting telephone interviews, and supporting our applicants and feeder schools to prepare them for College life as best we can, through regular communication. We are also looking at delivering a virtual New Student Day – more details of which will be shared soon. If you require any information on applying to College, please contact our Admissions Team by emailing or contacting 01282 440272.

Lastly from me, we are continuing to ensure there are learning opportunities for those looking to develop skills from home and improve their health and wellbeing during this time. For our adult learners, this includes a Business HNC, which can be started immediately – there’s 50% off until September – and a wide range of programmes across Lancashire Adult Learning, more details of which can be found in the accompanying news article.

For now, continue to stay safe. We are all in this together. Until next time, Amanda.