POLITICIANS, business leaders and council bosses have paid tribute to the ‘life-changing impact’ of one of the north’s leading colleges as part of a national campaign.

Northern College, based in Wentworth Castle’s grounds in Stainborough, is the only adult residential college in the north of England and educates students from South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and further.

Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Central MP, and the Rt Hon Lord Blunkett were among 50 guests who attended a Colleges Week celebration event at the site last Friday.

Colleges Week shines a light on further education colleges’ vital roles in strengthening communities, boosting the economy and transforming lives through learning.

Emma Beal, principal and chief executive at Northern College, said: “We are incredibly proud of our students who prove that it is never too late to discover a joy for learning.

“We have a distinguished history of providing life changing adult education opportunities to hundreds of learners every year many of whom have not fulfilled their potential previously.

“We give equal value to the development of their knowledge and skills as well as their confidence and wellbeing, thanks to our amazing staff.

“We are committed to honouring our past whilst evolving and innovating. It is great to champion our students and share our future plans during Colleges Week, which is all about celebrating the inspirational impact of further education colleges.”

Representatives from the Association of Colleges, Barnsley Council, Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, Bolsover District Council, Department for Education, Department for Work and Pensions and Doncaster Chamber of Commerce attended the event.

Dan added: “Northern College has a long-standing and cherished history of supporting adults to re-enter education and uses residential learning to progress students’ development, helping them get a job or retraining them for a new career.

“It is a hugely valuable part of our region’s educational and cultural landscape, and it was great to hear about their ambitious plans for the future which will allow them to continue their outstanding work.”

Guests heard from leaders about Northern College’s ambitions and from students whose lives have been transformed by education.

The student speakers included Hayley Greenfield, 53, from Barnsley, who has successfully overcome a drugs dependency, which led to her being homeless and spending time in prison for shop theft.

Discovering a love of learning and studying at Northern College has been an important part of Hayley’s recovery since four years-ago she decided to turn her life around.

Hayley lived at the college as a residential student, which enabled her to immerse herself in her counselling studies.

She said: “Education helps to stabilise you, it gives you a focus - Northern College has been absolutely phenomenal and it’s a brilliant place as there’s so much support.

“I was at rock-bottom for a long time but now I have a lot more self confidence.

“I feel very positive and so much better, I know that I am truly moving forwards.

“The more progress you make, the more your confidence builds - I would recommend it to anybody.”