From education to employment

Northern College unveils its ambitions to Yorkshire leaders during Colleges Week

Northern College unveils its ambitions to Yorkshire leaders during Colleges Week

Yorkshire politicians, business leaders and council chiefs have paid tribute to the life changing impact of one of the North’s leading colleges as part of a national campaign.

Northern College at Wentworth Castle, Barnsley, is the only adult residential college in the North of England and educates students from South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and further.

Now it has officially unveiled its future plans to leaders from across Yorkshire as part of the national Colleges Week 2023 celebrations.

Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Central MP, and the Rt. Hon Lord Blunkett, were among 50 guests who attended a Colleges Week celebration event at Northern College on 13th October 2023.

Colleges Week shines a light on further education colleges’ vital role in strengthening communities, boosting the economy and transforming lives through learning.

The Association of Colleges-led campaign has run over two weeks this year from 9th to 20th October 2023.

Emma Beal, Principal and Chief Executive, Northern College, said:

“We are incredibly proud of our students who prove that it is never too late to discover a joy for learning.

“We have a distinguished history of providing life changing adult education opportunities to hundreds of learners every year many of whom have not fulfilled their potential previously.

“At Northern College, we give equal value to the development of their knowledge and skills as well as their confidence and wellbeing, thanks to our amazing staff.

“We are committed to honouring our past whilst evolving and innovating. It is great to champion our students and share our future plans during Colleges Week, which is all about celebrating the inspirational impact of further education colleges.”

Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Central MP, said:

“ Northern College has a longstanding and cherished history of supporting adults to re-enter education and uses residential learning to progress students’ development, helping them get a job or retraining them for a new career.

“It is a hugely valuable part of our region’s educational and cultural landscape, and it was great to hear about their ambitious plans for the future which will allow them to continue their outstanding work.”

Representatives from the Association of Colleges, Barnsley Council, Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, Bolsover District Council, Department for Education, Department for Work and Pensions and Doncaster Chamber of Commerce attended the event.

They were also joined by officials from Leeds City Council, National Trust, Luminate Education Group, Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Hallam University, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, South Yorkshire Colleges Partnership and West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

Guests heard from leaders about Northern College’s ambitions, with the official launch of its Strategic Plan 2023/26, and students whose lives have been transformed by education.

The student speakers included Hayley Greenfield, 53, who has successfully overcome a drugs dependency, which led to her being homeless and spending time in prison for shop theft.

Discovering a love of learning and studying at Northern College has been an important part of Hayley’s recovery since four years-ago she decided to turn her life around.

Hayley lived at the college as a residential student, which enabled her to immerse herself in her studies. Hayley completed several short courses before progressing to a Counselling Skills Certificate at Level 3.

Now she is studying a Degree in Psychology at the University of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

Hayley said: “Education helps to stabilise you, it gives you a focus. Northern College has been absolutely phenomenal. It’s a brilliant place and there’s so much support.

She explained: “I was at rock bottom for a long time but now I have a lot more self confidence. I feel very positive and so much better. I know that I am truly moving forward.

“Arriving at college was nerve-racking initially. The short courses have been an important stepping stone. The more progress you make, the more your confidence builds. I would recommend it to anybody.

“It is really exciting to be able to go to university. It feels an amazing achievement and I am really proud of myself. I never expected to feel like this and it’s had a much wider impact. Hearing my family say they are proud of me is the best thing in the world.”

Based at the grade 1 listed Wentworth Castle within 60 acres of National Trust gardens, the college provides short community courses and academic and vocational qualifications.

Northern College students benefit from learning with other adults, residential accommodation so they can focus on their studies and free access to National Trust gardens.

The college prepares learners to return to education, gain employment or make a career change through residential learning and specialist support.

The college’s new strategy commits to three themes:

  • Being sustainable, including growing the curriculum in line with regional and national priorities, and maximising the estate.
  • Elevating the college’s profile and becoming recognised as a leader in adult education regionally and nationally.
  • Continuing to offer high quality inclusive education and training.

Adult learner Michelle Allen, 36, left school with few qualifications but successfully completed an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Criminology at Northern College this summer.

Michelle has progressed to a BA Honours Degree in Criminal Justice at University Campus Doncaster, part of the DN Colleges Group.

Michelle said “Northern College has changed my life and created chances for me that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. If you’d have told me a few years-ago that I would study a university degree, I wouldn’t have believed you.

“Throughout my life I have not had much confidence. But when I arrived at Northern College, I instantly felt at home. Initially, I was shy in class and used to sit at the back of the room because that’s where I felt safe. Gradually, my confidence improved.

“I began to speak out when I knew the answers to questions. You get a lot of support at the college, which has been so helpful to me as I have autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia. The tutors know about my conditions and their support and understanding have helped me to flourish because they believe in me.”

Being residential has been the key to success. She added: “Being able to live on campus for two nights a week as a resident at the college whilst studying has made such a difference.

“You can spend time in the library without rushing off. Your time is not taken up with a long, stressful commute. You can really focus on your studies. The grounds are really peaceful and I made a lot of friends.”


Pictured (left to right): Northern College strategy launch guests included alumnus speaker Hayley Greenfield; Chair of Governors Mark Sanders; Principal and Chief Executive Emma Beal, Rt. Hon Lord Blunkett, student speaker Samantha Thompson and Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Central MP.

Related Articles