Students and staff at Milton Keynes College are finding an amazing number of ways to support the community during the COVID-19 crisis, from providing PPE, posting entertaining and informative videos, taking food to vulnerable people and still functioning fully as a college.
Fashion and textile students are making scrubs and washbags for health workers, the hair and beauty team have donated a significant amount of PPE, while engineering and construction teams have donated 120 pairs of protective goggles for Milton Keynes Hospital made on a 3D printer.
There’s help for care homes too with gloves and aprons being donated by the Inclusive Learning Department. The College has been named as a key council supporter and staff are delivering emergency relief parcels as they are required.
The College has massively increased its online presence since the crisis began. Mental Health, Wellbeing and Performing Arts tutors have been sharing lots of helpful and informative video content to give people under lockdown something to do for fun and fitness. There are dance sessions and advice and the Sports team is running regular digital PE sessions.
In spite of everything there’s no let-up in the pace of education. The College has remained open for students of key workers who require support. Additionally, a huge proportion of courses have switched to online and apprentices are still being recruited in partnership with local employers keen to be ready to get fully up and running once the emergency is over. Students not normally able to access the internet have been loaned laptops to help them stay in touch.
College Principal, Chris McLean, says, “Everyone’s trying to do their bit and the reaction of all the staff makes me very proud indeed. The way the curriculum teams in particular have worked away furiously behind the scenes to make sure every lesson still goes ahead as planned is really impressive. Nobody else really sees what they do but we certainly wouldn’t be able to achieve a fraction of what we are doing without them.”
The College has also been offering opportunities for people who aren’t students but who might want to take the opportunity presented by lockdown to do some learning. A thousand people have already taken advantage of free distance learning courses covering a host of subjects from dementia awareness through to managing difficult children in a classroom setting – something a lot of parents might find very useful at the moment. Alex Warner was recently appointed Principal of the South Central Institute of Technology at Bletchley Park. Alongside developing this exciting new curriculum with partners such as Microsoft and McAfee, Alex has been using his time to produce a series of videos for social media highlighting the best digital tools for learning for children from primary ages upwards.
Milton Keynes College is also a provider of courses for offenders and they haven’t been neglected either. Staff have been sending a steady stream of work books into prisons so their learning isn’t any more disrupted than can be avoided. Support for offenders on release is also continuing despite the enormous challenges involved.
CEO and Group Principal, Dr Julie Mills OBE says, “Once this is all over I hope very much that staff and students at the College will be able to look back on this time with a great deal of pride. The College exists to serve the community and it is made up entirely of people from the community. It’s inspiring to know that during such hardship so many are doing so much to help those who are most in need. I always believed our people would step up to the mark in a crisis and I’ve never been happier to be proved so spectacularly right.”