Is that it already? It’s hard to believe that 2019 has been and almost gone. It’s been a year of incredible milestones both personally and for the College. As I look back on it it’s hard to believe we’ve managed to pack so much in, so I thought I would put together a list of some of the highlights – with apologies to all those whose marvellous achievements have been omitted on the basis that if I gave every event its due I’d still be writing this by the middle of March 2020.
Probably the happening with the most lasting impact will be the award by government of funding for our Institute of Technology. In ten or twenty or perhaps fifty years time I would like to think the then principal of this wonderful new centre for learning will be looking back on its achievements just like this, and celebrating the stunning successes of its alumni.
It’s always more persuasive when other people recognise our successes rather than blowing our own trumpets and there have been a lot of plaudits which have come our way this year. 2019 brought great news to the kitchens at Bletchley campus where our multi-award winning team did it again. Talia Barrington was named MasterChefs of Great Britain, Young Chef of the Year while Andrea Ruff was awarded the title of Craft Guild of Chefs Chef Lecturer of the Year. The opportunities open to our Hospitality and Catering students really took off this year thanks to an exciting new partnership with Silverstone Circuits. From now on they will gain incredible work experience at the race track helping the Silverstone events team – a relationship which had a turbocharged start with many of them helping out at this year’s Formula 1 British Grand Prix.
Another deal done with Anglian Water will see construction students in a new partnership where they will undertake a fully employer-supported multi-skill course. This innovative pre-apprenticeship programme has been designed with the specific aim of attracting new talent into the utility sector and will enable learners to find work as apprentices with the water company or one of its top quality industry partners.
The College was also confirmed as one of the best places in the country to study hairdressing, being named the Hair & Beauty Apprenticeship Provider of the Year in the Annual Apprenticeships Awards. And of course we are so proud of our former hairdressing student Fallon Sherrock who made history this week becoming the first woman to beat a man at the PDC World Darts Championship. Not only does she demonstrate the College’s values of Inspire and Excellence, we also like to think she learnt how to handle sharp things at Milton Keynes College.
We’re very proud of our sports teams and students here at the College and it was a terrific boost to win the contract to take over the running of Sport:Central on behalf of Milton Keynes Council. The announcement was perfectly timed to coincide with the launch of our first Football Studies degree course which looks like a really exciting study option. Football at Milton Keynes has a brilliant reputation and it was fantastic to see four of our former students following in Dele Alli’s boot steps by signing professional contracts with the MK Dons.
The wonderfully dedicated Sally Alexander, College Principal for Prison Services, was a thoroughly worthy winner of the Public Services Award from Women Leaders UK. I was put in mind of the amazing work she and her colleagues do when seeing an interview with one of the men who confronted the London Bridge terrorist. A convicted killer, education turned his life around and his bravery in confronting the attacker is an unforgettable lesson of the redemptive power of learning. Artwork from some of the offenders from prisons all over the country being taught by College lecturers went on display at Worcester Cathedral – also a source of great pride to us all.
The FE world is preparing itself for the arrival of T-Levels, new technical qualifications which will be on an absolutely equal footing with A-Levels and which will provide real choice for every school leaver. I’m delighted that Milton Keynes has been named as one of sixty-four colleges nationwide which have been chosen to offer the new qualifications before they’re rolled out across the country.
We take great pride in the way our students contribute to the greater good of the wider city. A film made by some of them made one of the College’s many TV appearances. It included interviews with members of the Windrush Generation who came here with so little but who have made extraordinary contributions to local life. Public Services students have been making their mark too, collaborating with the council and Thames Valley Police to train school pupils from across Milton Keynes to become anti-hate crime ambassadors.
Personally I have been hugely honoured this year. I had the enormous privilege to go to Buckingham Palace to receive an OBE from Prince William – one of the most exciting days or my life. I was also honoured by the National Centre for Diversity with the title of National Principal of the Year. Diversity and inclusion are so central to everything we do here that it is a tremendous source of pride. When people win things they always say how the award, “isn’t just for me, but for all the people who helped make this possible.” Now more than ever I know what that means. Family, friends, colleagues and students all deserve a share of the spoils. I would have achieved nothing without so much help and support and love from so many of them.
2020 looks like being as exciting and busy a year as the last but for sheer eventfulness if nothing else, 2019 is going to take some beating.