Students: work hard, but remember you are more than an exam

They say a week is a long time in politics, and the same can be said in education too. I write this column during unprecedented times, and today’s publication marks two weeks since we at Nelson and Colne College Group took the extraordinary decision to mobilise our curriculum teams to entirely deliver teaching and learning online as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The week of the switch from classroom to virtual delivery was extremely challenging, emotional and stressful for colleagues in all departments across College. Though our day to day lives have been turned upside down, it was an overhaul borne out of necessity, and an unwavering commitment to the education of our students and the community that we serve.

Uncertainty around exams and the award of qualifications followed, but we now have more clarity on this. The overall message is that students’ results are going to be largely based on teacher assessment. Students at College should be reassured that these decisions will fall to our phenomenal teachers, who are the best placed professionals to make such assessment on ability. They have a wealth of assessment information upon which to make an accurate judgement, and I’m reassured that the grades awarded will be a fair reflection.

Of course, exams and assessments are one measure of a student’s ability, and we have been encouraging students to continue to work hard in their studies to give a good account of themselves and ensure that any further progress achieved between now and the normal exam period is considered.

But we know that College students here at Nelson and Colne College Group are much more than a set of exam results. We develop well-rounded individuals that are ready for their next step in their careers. I want all of our students to remember this, especially those concerned about their immediate futures.

We create good citizens, with compassion, a willingness to help, and an understanding of the community around them. And it is a time to demonstrate just how good we are as citizens right now by supporting one another through this crisis.

We are in the middle of a national lockdown to protect the most vulnerable in society, and to allow our valuable NHS – of which many of our students will know through work placements with East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust – with the space it needs to support those suffering greatest with coronavirus.

Be good citizens, help those in the community who need it most, and above all, take care, stay safe, and stay at home if you can. Together we will weather this storm.

Until next month, best wishes. Amanda.

New T Levels integral to Careers Week celebrations

We have been busy celebrating National Careers Week here at College, something which is integral to our intent as a career focused tertiary education provider.

As Principal, one of my key messages to staff and curriculum delivery teams is that our College is about positive destinations and not just qualifications. That is why our curriculum is designed to get our students career ready and we put incredible emphasis on the importance of providing students with work placements and exposure to what careers actually look like. Students don’t attend College to get parked in education or study which doesn’t directly lead to something better.

Having a career focused curriculum, and enjoying strong links with businesses and career opportunities, enables the College to place each student on the right programme for them based on their starting point and career aim. Students here have personally designed study programmes and learning experiences at all levels, and these are built around progress towards an end result and skill development.

Apprenticeships are the traditional example of a career focused qualification that is directly linked to a job or career at the end of it. With the introduction of new T Level qualifications here at Nelson and Colne College Group from September in Digital and Education and Childcare, it is a new opportunity to provide additional technical career pathways to students in Pendle and the surrounding areas. This is why I am so keen for the T Level curriculum to be successful.

Within a T Level, students benefit from an in-depth work placement of at least 315 hours, which equates to a minimum of 45 days. This allows a student to make impact while on their work placement, and learn new skills and roles that are directly related to their programme of study. They are not with an employer just to do photocopying or do the office brew round.

Off the back of the introduction for T Levels, I think employers have a role to play in encouraging young people into jobs linked to the economy locally. One of the things that we know is that young people are strongly affected by the positive experiences that they have. For example, a day in an engineering workshop can inspire a career in engineering much more readily than when a student is sitting in a classroom learning about it.

Through my work with the Lancashire Skills and Employment Hub, I see the great work that the Enterprise Adviser Network do in bringing closer together the worlds of education and work. Anyone who might be interested in supporting this important work can visit Employers seeking to get involved with supporting the implementation of T Levels and work placements can contact the College directly at

Until next month, Amanda.

Delighted to accept role as a national Further Education leader

Since I penned my last column, I’ve been out and about attending a wide range of meetings and conferences around the future of colleges and leadership, including in two of the UK’s capitals in Belfast and London.

The meeting in Belfast was part of the work I’m doing with the Independent Commission on the College of the Future as the representative for College Principals in England, a role which I am incredibly enthusiastic about as the representative for an entire nation of colleges.

I joined my Principal colleagues from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, together with other members of the Commission, where we had some valuable and constructive conversations about the UK’s future workforce, industry involvement in education and the core purpose for colleges in the future across the four nations as we work towards our draft vision.

I left feeling hugely optimistic about the future of skills development and how it is going to support the post-Brexit economy, the prosperity of individuals in the years to come, and the role that colleges will play in this essential drive to skill young talent.

That brings me neatly on to another new development, and that is my appointment to the National Leaders of Further Education programme, where I join 10 esteemed colleagues from colleges around the country. Working together with fellow members, we will provide strategic mentoring and support to other colleges that need to improve, and we are able to determine the best way to support the particular needs of the college or colleges we are working with.

I’m thrilled to accept this role, as driving improvement in Further Education is something I am passionate about. I’m relishing the opportunity to share the good practices we enjoy at Nelson and Colne College Group to improve education standards nationally, while gaining fresh ideas on where we can strengthen the way we operate.

I can’t end my monthly column without a mention of National Apprenticeship Week – and what a celebration it has been over the last five days. It’s been a real showcase of how Apprentices and Apprenticeship programmes have a positive impact on the performance of employers across a wide range of industry sectors, and the knock-on positive effect a skilled workforce has on the economy.

I took real pleasure from seeing the case studies of Apprentices from our employer partners being shared widely on social media throughout this week, and I would encourage you to have a look at some of the exceptional individuals and their journeys that have been shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. I’m equally proud of the culture we have at College in terms of growing our own talent through Apprenticeships in a variety of College departments.

Until next month, Amanda.

‘New year, new you’ and opportunities for all

I would like to begin my first column of 2020 by wishing you a happy new year, and I hope that you had a wonderful festive break.

Here at Nelson and Colne College, we have a flying start to the new year. This week, we held a series of adult advice events promoting our fantastic Higher Education offer and new Professional Skills courses for anyone looking to improve their professional credentials in 2020. We also highlighted our brilliant range of leisure and wellbeing courses delivered by our wonderful Lancashire Adult Learning team.

It may be a bit of a cliché, but the new year is always an opportunity for a ‘new you’, and it really is never too late to learn. Taking Higher Education qualifications as an example, they truly can be transformational for career prospects and improving lives. As a Further Education College we are able to support our community to develop their skills and qualifications at all levels, even to degree level, with courses to suit everybody starting in January and February.

For those who were not able to make the advice events, I would encourage you to contact our teams at Nelson and Colne College to find out more about our Higher Education and Professional Skills qualifications, and at Lancashire Adult Learning, who will be happy to share details of leisure and wellbeing courses. You can also find out more by visiting or

Turning attention back to supporting our community, our continued support for local employers will be highlighted at our Engineering Apprenticeship Event on Thursday 16 January, from 5pm until 7pm, aimed at College leavers, school leavers and parents. It is the perfect chance to find out everything you need to know about Engineering Apprenticeships, volunteering and work placement opportunities.

Some of our key employer partners and their Apprentices will be on hand to talk to for valuable insight into careers in the sector, and these include Pendle Engineering, Saco, Bright Engineering, Protec Fire Detection and Fort Vale. There will be the opportunity to apply for live Apprenticeship vacancies on the night too.

As a Director at the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership, and as Chair of the Lancashire LEP Skills Advisory Panel, I understand the skills demands of our regional engineering sector, the opportunities it presents, and its value to the economy, particularly here in Pendle and East Lancashire.

Before I sign off, National Apprenticeship Week takes place this year from Monday 3 February. We will once again be celebrating the value of Apprenticeships with our Apprenticeships and Careers Expo at College on Wednesday 5 February – a date for the diary.

Until next month, Amanda.

A year in review – and what a year!

As we approach the end of 2019, instead of my usual column, here is a round-up of news from throughout the year, highlighting what a stellar organisation the Nelson and Colne College Group is.


We kicked off the year with an Engineering Apprenticeship Event where more than 100 visitors attended Nelson and Colne College to discover the exciting range of career opportunities in the thriving industry. Students and local salon owners were also inspired by a visit from Dawn Ward, one of the British aesthetic industry’s leading ladies, who talked about her journey in business and the skills required to succeed.


Nelson and Colne College maintained its position as the ‘number one college’ in figures released by the Department for Education. This included our status as the number one college in Lancashire for A Level progress, the leading FE College in the country for GCSE Mathematics progress, and second nationally for GCSE English progress. Meanwhile, Lancashire Adult Learning’s approach to family learning and improving lives through adult education was praised by the National Literacy Trust during a visit to Northlight in Brierfield.


Around 200 people from Burnley and Pendle took advantage of Lancashire Adult Learning’s Raising Aspirations careers event held at Northlight. The free event was held to highlight the employment and educational opportunities available in Pendle and Burnley for those seeking employment or a change of career. Nelson and Colne College celebrated National Apprenticeship Week and National Careers Week, and was also top of the national table for 16-18 learner achievement and Apprenticeship timely achievement!


Nelson and Colne College was named as the FE College of the Year in the prestigious Educate North Awards 2019 – a fantastic honour. The awards celebrate and recognise best practice and excellence in the education sector and the honour acknowledged our outstanding performance in the areas of teaching, student experience, innovation and economic impact.


Hair and Beauty students at College learned about the history of one of Europe’s leading salon fixture and fittings manufacturers when they visited the factory of REM, based in Nelson, and discovered the company’s 100 years of heritage. A new group of volunteer teachers in Pendle, Burnley and elsewhere also took their first steps into teaching after being trained by LAL to help teach the 370 targeted learners basic English skills through the Integrated Communities English Language Programme.


Artistic and creative students had their chance to shine at the College’s annual Art and Design End of Year Show, showcasing a wide range of pieces including fine art, film, graphics, photography and textiles exhibits. I’m delighted that four of these students were later awarded Commendation Awards by the Mayor of Pendle for their contribution to art and culture in the borough.


Lancashire Adult Learning celebrated training up 700 members of the public to be lifesavers across the Red Rose County, working in partnership with the North West Ambulance Service, Lancashire County Council and BBC Radio Lancashire. Ninety-five per cent of LAL’s staff also undertook essential lifesaving training over the course of the academic year. Meanwhile, College BTEC Sport and Exercise Sciences student Dominika Bzdon had her extraordinary achievements recognised when she was named as the national BTEC Sport Student of the Year.


I was thrilled that the College bucked the national trend and enjoyed a stunning rise in the highest grades at A Level, with many progressing on to Russell Group universities, including Oxbridge, or leading Apprenticeship or employment opportunities. There were so many success stories on a brilliant day, and it was fantastic to recognise these achievements, alongside those of our vocational students, at our Star Awards.


Engineering Apprentice Michal Halamicek, who is employed at acdc as Quality Controller, won the North West Intermediate Apprentice of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards Regional Final. A richly deserved award for the amazing impact he has made at the company. Our ‘Class of 2019’ University Centre graduates also received their honours at a glittering graduation ceremony in subject areas including Business, Biology, Computing, Engineering and Teaching.


We launched a new Nelson and Colne College Group brand following our successful merger with Accrington and Rossendale College, also to incorporate Lancashire Adult Learning. Lancashire Adult Learning launched its participation in social prescribing, connecting people to non-medical support in the community – an example being where education is prescribed as an alternative to medication, empowering people with the right tools to become self-managing and resilient.


A busy month, including the celebration of everything that is great about the Red Rose County at Northlight with our wonderful Lancashire Adult Learning team. At College, we hosted our hugely successful Engineering Because event at College, attracting schools from across a wider footprint than ever before to take part in the competition and encourage them to consider a career in Engineering. Students already studying A Levels or vocational courses at College were also inspired, with Conference Day and Industry Careers Days respectively. Career focused sessions were delivered by a mix of business people, leaders, academics, our much-valued alumni network and our own fantastic teaching team here at College.


The end of a breathless year, in which so much has been achieved. Our popular Lancashire Adult Learning Festive Market was held at Nelson and Colne College, and it is also the time of year to give something back. LAL has once again taken up a lovely opportunity to become involved in the Cards for Kindness initiative, which sees greeting cards delivered to elderly residents in care homes across Lancashire, as a way to try and reduce loneliness.

With that, I wish you a happy festive period and best wishes for 2020. Amanda.