‘An amazing adventure’: Haywards Heath College principal looks back at first year

The principal of Haywards Heath College has described its first year as ‘an amazing adventure’.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 5:36 pm

The college, which is part of Chichester College Group, opened its doors to students for the first time on September 7, 2020.

It was then officially opened at a ceremony in October by Susan Pyper, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, alongside dignitaries MP Gillian Keegan minister for skills and apprenticeships, and Mid Sussex MP Mims Davies, minister for employment.

“It’s a really good challenge to open a new college, but to open it in a pandemic has been particularly interesting,” said principal Paul Riley.

Haywards Heath College principal Paul Riley. Picture: Chichester College Group.

Paul, who lives in Southwick and is also principal of Worthing College, said staff and students have been ‘absolutely fantastic’ at adapting to the changes in government Covid restrictions.

This meant moving to remote learning from November 5 to December 2 last year and from January 6 to March 8 this year during the two most recent national lockdowns.

“But we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to have a long period of face-to-face learning,” said Paul, adding that students returned as soon as they were allowed.

“We were able to put social distancing in place in the classroom to bring all of our learners in,” he said.

This meant students’ learning was unbroken and they have responded with plenty of positive feedback, said Paul.

The age range for students at Haywards Heath College is 16-19, as it offers A Levels and Applied General qualifications, mostly at Level 3 with some Level 2 provision.

“A student’s typical day-to-day experience is a combination of in-class and independent study time, integrated into their timetable,” said Paul.

He also said students have access to ‘enrichment opportunities’ like sport, performing arts and other clubs and societies like the science society.

Social distancing rules meant the capacity to deliver enrichment activities was limited over the past year but Paul said Haywards Heath College was still able to put on some key events.

“We’ve had a fantastic business and enterprise day,” he said, adding that local businesses visited the college for interactive sessions.

“Moving forward we’ll be able to do that on a much grander scale, much more interactive, when social distancing restrictions are removed.”

Paul went on to say that offering ‘a wider experience of support’ for students’ individual progression was important at Haywards Heath College.

He said the college offers opportunities, advice and support through its Progression Plus service, which guides students towards part-time work, work experience or other ways to expand their learning.

“There’s a tremendous amount of services in place for students to meet their individual needs,” he said, adding that there will be a full enrichment programme after social distancing restrictions are lifted.

This will include clubs, societies, visits, trips and community events.

“We are going to be letting out a lot of our sports facilities to local sports clubs, which we can promote to our student body to participate in out of college,” said Paul.

“We’re also letting out our theatre.”

He added that Haywards Heath College is looking to develop its curriculum next year too with more subject choices for students. This will be expanded further in 2021-22 and 2022-2023.

Looking back over past year, Paul said he is proud of the sense of community at the school that both students and teachers have created.

He is also proud of the students’ resilience to the pandemic.

“They’ve got on with it and they’ve worked really hard to address the challenges of Covid,” he said.