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.