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Lifelong Learning: A Look At Newbattle Abbey College

As young people and learners of all ages await exam results it is always worth reflecting on the many options open on the educational journey.

Some may obtain exactly the grades they want and have a clear idea of what they want to do next. For others –  they may be unsure, not get the results they need or due to illness and other personal factors cannot take up a place they are offered.

There is nothing new in this.

George Mackay Brown, was born on 17th of October 1921 in Stromness, Orkney, the youngest in a family of 6 children  at a time when there was no welfare state. He was educated in Stromness but was very ill due to tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis is extremely serious, highly infectious and affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body. It is hard to imagine now because most people reading this would have been born in the UK and into a National Health System. Today we have antibiotics – if TB does occur people can be treated. When George Mackay Brown was a young man it severely restricted what he could do.

This restriction, however, meant he could not serve during World War 2 but instead he could write. In 1944 he wrote about Stromness for The Orkney Herald.

Edwin Muir

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall photo: Tedster007 from Wikimedia Commons

Orkney is a place which lends its landscape and culture to poetry. It has produced and continues to produce many poets. George Mackay Brown was given much encouragement to write.

Orcadian poet Edwin Muir was a warden at Newbattle Abbey College, Midlothian.

Newbattle Abbey College is an adult education centre. George Mackay Brown enrolled there  from 1951 – 1952 (at 30 years old)   only having to leave due to his recurring tuberculosis which incurred a period in hospital. But at Newbattle, George had been mentored by Edwin Muir and his wife Willa. In 1956 to 1960 he was a mature student at Edinburgh University.

The point in all this is that educational opportunities are always available – no matter what age you are.

“The imagination is not an escape, but a return to the richness of our true selves; a return to reality.”  George Mackay Brown

Newbattle Abbey Adult Educational College, set within 125 acres of woodland,  offers learning at transitional points in a person’s life.

Newbattle Abbey College indoors

It operates under a Governing Deed of Trust with Trustees which include the Principals and Vice Chancellors of Scotland’s ancient universities.

It offers access to Higher Education courses, in Arts & Social Sciences, Celtic Studies and Primary Education. The majority of its students have no or few qualifications and many have had disrupted lives and poor experiences of formal education. Newbattle Abbey College offers them a vital second chance to improve their own lives and often those of their families.

There is also an HNC in Social Sciences and an NC and short courses in Rural Skills and Celtic Studies. Rural Skills is a 1 year full-time practical course, in gardening and estate maintenance. Many of the Rural Skills students are young people who face multiple barriers to learning, including mental health problems.

Newbattle College outdoors

The college is the national accreditation centre for the Adult Achievement Awards.

Supported by Education Scotland and SCQF, the college developed and piloted the Adult Achievement Awards, a unique development in Europe. The awards offer accreditation to learners with few or no qualifications. Over 500 adults across Scotland have been involved to date.

In partnership with Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, it has extended the existing Gaelic programme and the college is now an established hub for Gaelic language and culture in Edinburgh and South-East Scotland.

Newbattle has also recently developed Scotland’s first Forest College in consultation with a range of local and national partners including: local authorities, colleges, schools, the Forest School Association (FSA), Forest School trainers, the Forestry Commission and outdoor learning leaders.

Forest College will provide creative outdoor learning opportunities with national accreditation to adults and young people. The initiative is unique to Scotland. It is socially inclusive and offers multiple learning and training opportunities.

If you are interested click on the link: Newbattle Abbey College

Packed in my skin from head to toe is one I know and do not know. Edwin Muir

Newbattle Abbey College

Reporter:  Fiona Grahame

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