Welcome to the best night of the Year

Wed 04 Jun 2014

Tomorrow night (Thursday) will be the best night of the year – it’s official.

We will gather at our Bletchley Campus for Students of the Year 2014 when we recognise effort, achievement and excellence.  This is our Oscars night.  For all those involved and guests, it is an exciting, vibrant and above all indescribably inspiring occasion.

Our students are succeeding as never before in a wide range of subjects and disciplines.  Tomorrow we will celebrate the individuals and groups chosen by their peers as symbols of the hard work and achievements of everyone.  And what a choice they have had to make!

Milton Keynes College supports more than 30,000 learners drawn from across the city and indeed the world.  For hundreds of them, English is a second language.  Their determination not to allow the challenges associated with learning and developing skills fills me with admiration.  Diversity is a hallmark of our success as an institution.  The College’s enduring capacity to bring together people from a kaleidoscope of cultures, backgrounds and traditions, and for them to enjoy success with us, is testament to the value of what we do.  What’s more it is right and proper that it should be so, here of all places, in Milton Keynes where the so much of the population has, after all, come from somewhere else.

The individuality, the celebration of difference which is so central to city and College is one of our greatest strengths.  Perhaps it’s precisely because so many people have come from so many places that the desire to work and learn together, to collaborate, is so strong.  Students of the Year showcases individuals but it also reminds us of the partnerships which are so vital to our success.  Take our community work with the local authority and Jobcentre Plus, the results of which have been simply outstanding.  The statistics bear out the boast whereby the Neighbourhood Employment Programme (an employability support service comprising free job search facilities, advice and training throughout the city) for example, is proving twice as successful as its predecessor, the Work Programme, in helping people find jobs and careers.

Further signs of cooperation, collaboration and mutual support will be in abundance at the Awards ceremony in the form of so many companies who have been not just kind, but committed enough to be our sponsors.  Why would companies from the biggest multi-nationals to the smallest SMEs think it worth their while to be associated with such an event?  Simply, they all contribute to and benefit from the kinds of partnerships which are the lifeblood of what we do.  They are at the heart of the great changes the Further Education sector is experiencing.  Against a backdrop of constantly evolving national policy the College continues to make great efforts to be more responsive to employers, the city and community.  Our mission is to forge a new organism in social enterprise to drive growth in partnership with those employers while also helping all our students to excel.

It’s tough, it’s exciting and it’s the right thing to do.

Tomorrow night is a night for the students, of course, but it’s not just for them.  The families and friends who have cajoled and pushed and consoled and supported the award winners deserve this moment of celebration every bit as much as the wearers of the laurels themselves.  Not one of those who will stand up on the stage to accept their accolade would be there but for the commitment and professionalism of the College staff who work tirelessly throughout the year to help all achieve and it is their night too.  What’s more, the student vote will honour three very special members of staff through the Students’ Choice Awards – individual prizes for excellence but also a symbol of the central importance of that vital teaching resource.

Twenty-one years ago Milton Keynes College gained its freedom; that is to say, it was incorporated as an independent body outwith local authority control for the first time.  In celebration of our coming of age I have decided to make an additional staff award this year to two people who epitomise the spirit of this place, going the extra mile to ensure our students and all colleagues are valued, treated with respect and given a first class service.  I especially cannot wait to see them receive their award.

Nothing ever prepares me for Students of the Year.  Every year it’s like walking into a room with your eyes shut and then opening them to reveal a glorious surprise.  I have absolutely no doubt my breath will be taken away once again this year.

Finally, it’s commonplace at awards “dos” for recipients of the honours to say there are far too many people to thank right here and now.  Well, that’s true for me too, but in a break with tradition, I am going to list all the awards to be presented and the wonderful partner organisation which are sponsoring them.  The list reads like a Who’s Who?  of business in Milton Keynes.  As for the award winners, their names are more appropriately Who’s GOING to be Whom?  Big names with big futures, every one.

The 2014 Awards comprise:

•    Service industries - Sponsor: Spirit Group
•    Music & Performing Arts - Sponsor: MK Orchestra
•    Higher Education/Learning Skills - Sponsor: Aspers
•    Leadership & Business - Sponsor: Santander
•    Sports Science - Sponsor: POWRX UK
•    Creative Industries - Sponsor: MK Citizen
•    Construction & the Built Environment - Sponsor: Vinci
•    Sports Leadership Academy - Sponsor: MK Dons SET
•    Learning Difficulties & Disabilities - Sponsor: Andrew Peck
•    Engineering & Technology - Sponsor: Niftylift
•    Community & Employment - Sponsor: MK Community Foundation
•    Enterprise Award - Sponsor: MK Business Leaders
•    Apprentice of the Year - Sponsor: Chris & Sons
•    Academic Studies - Sponsor: Kingston Smith
•    Computing & IT - Sponsor: Mirus IT
•    Offender Learning - Sponsor: Tribal Publishing
•    School Links/Under 16 - Sponsor: Blum
•    Public Services - Sponsor: Think Alumni   
•    Care Professions - Sponsor: PJ Care
•    Outstanding Achievement in Sport - Sponsor: MK Council

The evening’s entertainment in the form of the student performances are being sponsored by Jardine Michelson Public Relations.  Three staff awards, chosen by the students themselves, are also being presented and all of which are being sponsored by Protocol:

•    Students’ Choice – Support Staff Member   
•    Students’ Choice – Teacher of the Year – Campus
•    Students’ Choice – Teacher of the Year - Offender Learning

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