Newbury College has a long and fascinating history as one of the first colleges nationally to offer further education.
As an organisation we have seen radical changes in education over the past 70 years and even faced a mammouth cross-town relocation from our original home on Oxford Road to our modern, purpose-built campus on Monks Lane, but we are still at the heart of the local community and continuing to meet the needs of students and local employers.
Established in 1948, Newbury College (formerly the Newbury Institute of Further Education) was one of the first colleges to open following the Education Act of 1944.
The Act provided free secondary education for all pupils, raised the leaving age to 15 and recommended compulsory part-time education until the age of 18.
Initially located in Ormonde House, Oxford Road, the first students to attend would gain practical, real-world skills from day one as they were put to work building their own classrooms.
The students all worked for local employers and were working towards nationally recognised qualifications in bricklaying, carpentry, paintwork and plumbing on day-release programmes.
The original accommodation included rooms in Ormonde House and a varied assortment of wooden sheds, chicken huts and a wooden chapel, all situated in and around the garden. Laboratories were in Albert Road.
By the end of the first year, there were over 1,500 enrolments. The 158 dayrelease students, studying technical subjects, which included construction, engineering and motor vehicle, would be joined by over 1,350 evening students, studying subjects uch as art, ballroom dancing, commerce, drama and home craft.
In 1951, the institute became the South Berkshire College of Further Education and expanded both its facilities and curriculum with a £250,000 investment to improve the accommodation.
The first intake of full-time students in 1951 were twenty-six school leavers who enrolled on the two original full-time programmes: the Pre-Apprenticeship course for building and engineering, and the Commercial course in shorthand and typewriting. The following year, a course in domestic subjects for girls began.
By the early 1960s, the College had successfully moved all of its departments into new buildings on the Oxford Road site and was operating an extensive programme of community learning courses across West Berkshire.
The end of an era came in 1970, when Eric Lansley retired, after 14 years as Principal. This would also be the same year that the Building Department would close due to economic pressures, but the College continued to diversify and look to meet the requirements of the local community.
In 1972, after the expulsion of Asians from Uganda, 90 refugees were welcomed onto the full-time programmes offered by Newbury College. This would coincide with new Workshop Experience courses for students still at school and specialised provision for students with disabilities.
In 1975, following the county boundary changes, South Berkshire College of Further Education was renamed Newbury College.
Comprehensive education would also come to West Berkshire in 1975, as all local secondary schools were modernised. This as a result of changes to the school leaving age from 15 to 16. Sixth form education was initially only available at the newly-merged Newbury County Girls’ Grammar and St. Bartholomew’s Boys’ Grammar or Newbury College, but plans were underway to introduce sixth forms across the region.
The 1988 Education Reform Act made considerable changes to the education system. These reforms included a National Curriculum, which made it compulsory for schools to teach certain subjects, and changes that were aimed at creating a ‘market’ in education, with schools competing against each other for pupils/students.
By the early 1990s, the Oxford Road site was full to capacity and plans to move the College were starting to be discussed. The Further and Higher Education Act 1992 released Newbury College from the local authority and in 1993 the College was incorporated with its own corporation board and a new Principal, Gordon Bull.
Newbury College became the first PFI (Private Finance Initiative) college in the country when it moved to its new 40-acre purpose-built Monks Lane campus in 2002. The move was overseen by Dr Anne Murdoch who took over as Principal and Chief Executive Officer in 2001.
The new college was officially opened by Sir Peter Michael on 10 November 2003 and had state-of-the-art facilities for a wide range of subjects including IT suites, art studios, a professional kitchen, a large performance space, beauty salons, and engineering and motor vehicle workshops.
In 2009, Newbury College celebrated a successful Ofsted report when the education regulator awarded the whole College a rating of ‘Good’. The report noted that Newbury College had an extensive, well developed range of vocational programmes that enabled students to enhance their employability prospects or move on to Higher Education or training. This Ofsted rating has been maintained to the present day and was recently reconfirmed in 2017.
In 2012, Principal Dr Anne Murdoch was awarded with an OBE for services to Further Education and the College opened its first new building since the Monks Lane relocation with a Sports Hall and Construction Skills Centre.
In 2017, Newbury College opened a £1 million Engineering Solutions Laboratory to help address the needs of the local economy in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). The new lab also supported the launch of a Degree Apprenticeship programme with Buckinghamshire New University, a level 6 qualification delivered at the College.
Principal, Iain Wolloff, who took over from Dr Anne Murdoch in January 2018, revealed that he plans to continue development in this area with a university centre to broaden the College’s higher education opportunities.
Newbury College already offers higher education qualifications that are equivalent to one or two years of study at university and the College believes that a university centre would make sure that even more higher education opportunities are available to even more people in the local community.
The exhibition of Newbury College’s history was on display at the West Berkshire Museum in October 2018, and we had lots of interesting stories from former students and staff members.
If you have any interesting stories about your time at Newbury College, please contact us using the form below.