Barnsley College welcomed Gillian Keegan MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills, for its first ever virtual ministerial visit. Hosted on Thursday 18 June, the meeting was joined by multiple representatives from the Department for Education, the College’s Senior Leadership Team, Chair of Governors and two student ambassadors.
The College’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was high on the agenda, with discussion surrounding both the preparedness of the College for lockdown and the student response. Liz Leek, Barnsley College Vice Principal Curriculum and Culture said: “It was critical to ensure that, from day one, teaching and learning was available online. Students and staff were given laptops and where necessary, dongles for internet access and even headphones to support quiet study in busy households.”
Mental health and wellbeing has also been a priority for the College which recently won a prestigious Beacon Award from the Association of Colleges for its efforts in this area.
Yiannis Koursis, Barnsley College Principal and Chief Executive spoke about the College’s ongoing response to the pandemic: “Our staff have launched a number of initiatives to support our local NHS and other organisations, for example by producing clinical scrubs and thousands of visors for local NHS staff. We are extremely proud of them for demonstrating the sense of community spirit within our town.”
Student Matilda Munden who is studying A level Economics, Maths and Spanish at Barnsley Sixth Form College commented: “My lessons have been taught online and I’ve found remote learning very manageable. I’ve been able to work more flexibly at home and manage my own time, which has helped me.”
Student Courtney Robinson who is studying Level 3 Animal Management Technical Diploma said: “Remote learning is difficult because I am studying a very practical course. I feel reassured that our tutors were online to provide support and continued to adapt lessons to focus on things we can do at home. I’m researching my next steps after College to get a head start for next year.”
David Akeroyd, Barnsley College Vice Principal Technical and Professional Education talked about the College’s expanding portfolio of digital, technical and professional qualifications, including Higher Apprenticeships and T-Levels. He commented: “Digital literacy upskilling will form a part of every study programme from September 2020 with learning taking place in the new SciTech Digital Hub, a cutting-edge learning environment.”
Yiannis Koursis added: “Our plans are supportive of the Government agenda on digital skills and employer engagement and these remain high priority areas for us. These new cutting-edge facilities, combined with a very considered and focused portfolio will give our students a very relevant advantage when they go out into the workplace.”
Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Gillian Keegan said: “It was wonderful to virtually visit Barnsley College and discuss with their senior leadership team their response to COVID-19 and their bright digital future.
“I was really impressed to hear about their new 4-storey Digital Centre for T Level delivery, which is making digital skills available to everyone at the College. It was a real highlight to speak with students, Matilda and Courtney, and hear first-hand the fantastic job Barnsley College has done to support their studies during this difficult time.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important for young people to have access to high quality technical education. It’s clear Barnsley College are making every effort to make sure their students have the skills and support they need to succeed.”
Following the meeting Simon Perryman, Chair of Governors at Barnsley College said: “We were delighted to meet with Gillian Keegan. We feel encouraged both by her understanding of the challenges we are currently facing and by her positive comments about our future plans, especially in the digital arena.”