In March last year, Michelle Brabner was excitedly looking forward to walking in and making a mark in her new role as Principal and CEO of Southport College and King George V Sixth Form College in Southport.
She had only been in post for seven working days when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, with fast-rising cases leading to a sudden and unprecedented lockdown.
The year since then has seen heroic efforts by staff and students to keep going, quickly adapting to new ways of online learning and doing all they could to support each other through this traumatic time.
Michelle Brabner is now delighted to be back on site in the campus facilities at Southport College on Mornington Road and KGV Sixth Form College on Scarisbrick New Road.
Students and staff have enjoyed their return and the venues are thriving.
After being restricted to hosting ‘virtual’ tours last year, Southport College is now busy preparing to welcome prospective students and the families for a real-life Open Day on Saturday, 26th June, where they can tour the impressive facilities and meet real-life people once again.
Given the local case rates while observing the progress of the new variant, all plans are based on the current national roadmap out of restrictions. The college will maintain a cautious eye on the local situation while ensuring safety is its priority.
Michelle Brabner said: “After the last few months of lockdown, if you didn’t know that students and staff are the beating heart of a college, then you do now!
“It is so heartwarming to see people back here.
“I have been really impressed by the things people here have done for each other over the past 18 months. Their kindness has got everyone through.
“The support I have enjoyed at both colleges since I was appointed has been lovely. There is a really strong sense of college community. We really saw that during the pandemic.
“Not long after I joined, the pandemic happened and then the site was closed after just seven working days!
“The number of staff who took the time to send me emails to welcome me here was really heart-warming.
“It was amazing how people can make you feel so welcome when you are working from the spare bedroom at home!
“We are coming through the other side of the pandemic now.
“Last year, we received a really positive report from a Full OFSTED inspection. Unfortunately the report was released during lockdown, which was a shame. It wasn’t the time to shout about it because people were dealing with the impact of the Covid lockdown.
“The pandemic took away the opportunity to celebrate the findings of the report with staff and students.”
It is one of many things that visitors will be able to ask about next month.
Michelle Brabner said: “I am really looking forward to seeing people at our Southport College Open Day on 26th June. I am so excited it is ridiculous!
“We are going to be offering new courses in September, we will have lots to talk about and to tell people as well as our skills courses, engineering, beauty therapy, catering – our arts facilities are excellent too. We are so fortunate with what we have here.
“We made the decision two weeks ago to have in-person open events again.
“The day we took the decision it felt really brave. I drove home from work thinking ‘I am really excited about this’.
“We need to give people the opportunity to see teachers first hand, to be able to see our superb facilities.
“Hopefully by 26th June there will be no Covid restrictions in place. We will however maintain a cautious approach so that people feel comfortable when they come in. We hope to have lots of exciting things going on.”
The OFSTED report rated Southport College and KGV Sixth Form College as Good.
The OFSTED Lead Inspector issued a series of Good ratings, for aspects including: Quality of education; Behaviour and attitudes; Personal development; Leadership and management; Adult learning programmes; and more besides.
In her report she said: “Learners and apprentices enjoy a wide range of courses that meet local and regional needs very well. This helps to ensure that most learners and apprentices who stay on their courses progress to higher levels of study or work.
“Learners and apprentices told us that they benefit from a very caring and highly inclusive learning environment, and inspectors agreed. Relationships between them and their teachers and assessors are excellent.”
Michelle Brabner is passionate about the power of education and training, believing in the transformative impact colleges can have in supporting their local communities.
She has worked in post-16 education for over 20 years having previously worked at Runshaw College in Leyland. Her heart always remains a teacher of biology.
More broadly, she has hobbies and interests that get her out into the local environments including walking, kayaking and canoeing. She loves to support local activities and volunteers with her local canoe club.
The keen canoeist is enjoying making waves in Southport.
She said: “I consider myself to be very fortunate to have two colleges with very different aspects to them.
“KGV gives school leavers the traditional sixth form experience. They are surrounded by a similar peer group. They are young adults, and we treat them as such. It is like a large family there.
“At Southport College we are providing a wide range of skills based vocational courses, and for some people the opportunity to learn with us at a Higher Education level.
“The two colleges have very different features. But it means that Southport has got two great colleges that can provide the right courses for young people depending on what they need.
“My background is in Further Education as well as sixth form colleges, so there is something really special about being here.”
Young people aged between 16 and 18 are being invited to apply for courses at Southport College this September now.
The vocational courses use fantastic facilities, industry experienced tutors and valuable work experience to prepare students for university, an apprenticeship or employment in their chosen career.
Courses are now also available for Adult Learners aged 19 and over.
With the college doors now open once again and lots of new courses starting, it’s the perfect opportunity to upskill, retrain or just do something to put a smile on your face.
Southport College is also the leading provider of Apprenticeships in the area and has trained more than 1,500 Apprentices.
- Southport College is hosting an Open Day on Saturday, 26th June, where people can learn more about all the courses on offer. For more details please visit: southport.ac.uk