This is the story of New Directions College…
Adult and Community Education has been offered in Reading since 1958. Over the years the service has changed its name, its course offer and delivery venues. However, the service retains the core value of providing high quality education that meets the needs of the local community and local businesses.
Adult Learning provision begins in Reading
Initially called Reading Technical College, the service offered courses at Battle, EP Collier and Alfred Sutton Schools. Courses included: Dressmaking, Languages, English, Mathematics and “Special courses in cookery and needlecrafts” for Spring Brides. In the first year the service planned to provide provision for around 100 learners, actually enrolling over 300.
The service becomes known as Reading Adult Education Centre.
Delivery sites included Caversham Adult Centre, The Homemaking Centre on Katesgrove Lane and South Reading Community Centre. Pottery is offered for the first time at South Reading.
Painting Holiday in Greece
The service offered a Painting holiday in Greece; 9 nights for £90 included admission to art galleries and museums; dinner and bed and breakfast in a twin room in a “second-rate hotel near Athens”.
Wilson Road Centre Opens
Wilson Road Centre opens with an offer that includes “Basic Education for Unemployed People” and a Language Lab was established at the Caversham Centre. Other courses on offer include: Making Anoraks and Glove making.
Renamed Reading Adult College
By the Mid-1980s the service is now called Reading Adult College and produces an annual course guide as a supplement to Reading Chronicle. Around 160 subjects are offered including Austrian Floral Folk Art, Recorder Playing and slimnastics. Dutch and Russian are added to the language courses and the tag line for the service was ‘Carry on Learning’.
Course Guide in Colour
In 1995, the course guide was published in colour for the first time. Courses were offered in stress control, bird watching at Dinton Pastures and Thai cookery.
Yoga and Belly Dancing
In 1996, our current Lead Tutor for Foundation ICT and Business, Bridget Parslow, started attending yoga and belly dancing lessons at Wilson Road.
Renamed New Directions
In 2007/8 the service becomes known as New Directions, merging Reading Adult College and the Training Education Advice Shop. Delivery starts at 330 Northumberland Avenue offering Vocational and Employability courses.
Wilson Road Site Closes
In 2011 the Wilson Road site closes as the Primary School expands. The building had been a school since 1905 and a hospital during the war.
Ofsted rating of Good
In 2011/12 the College is rated Good by Ofsted for the first time. It was noted that there had been “significant and well-managed improvements to the delivery of provision” with a “clear vision for the future”; “excellent partnership working” and the “range of provision is wide and opportunities for provision are good”, “Learners are enthusiastic and enjoy their courses”.
Barry Wren becomes Principal
In 2013 Barry Wren becomes Principal. Barry started working for New Directions in 2004 on the Berkshire Basics for Business Project. Barry becomes Business Development Manager when New Directions was formed; then Head of Curriculum before becoming Principal in 2013. Barry left the service in July 2020.
New Directions retains good Ofsted rating
In 2015 Ofsted inspects the College again and it retains its Good rating. Ofsted comment “The centres provide welcoming, safe environments where very diverse groups of learners can study and succeed. Applicants receive very good, high-quality, impartial advice and guidance prior to and during enrolment”.
Caversham Centre closes
In 2017 the Caversham Centre closes, but South Reading has a major refurbishment with a new ceramics suite, sewing/upholstery classroom, teaching kitchen and IT suite.
New Directions celebrates 60 years
New Directions celebrates 60 years of Adult Education in Reading and hosts a series of events and special courses to mark the occasion.
Skills Capital Funding secured
New Directions secures Skills Capital Funding to create The Curious Lounge in Reading. Working with partners, Connect TVT and Reading UK CIC, The Curious Lounge becomes a designated skills centre for digital skills in Reading. New Directions College chair the Management Board.
Brand new Hospitality suite created
In Spring 2019, New Directions secures Skills Capital Funding to create a brand new Hospitality suite at 330 Northumberland Avenue. The SMILE Hospitality Project will train and re-train individuals for a host of jobs within the hospitality sector.
Andrea Wood becomes Principal
In August 2020, Andrea Wood becomes Principal of New Directions College. Andrea is an experienced leader in local skills, education and employment policy with nearly 20 years experience of working in the further education sector.
COVID-19 Crisis continues
In 2021, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to grip our communities, the offer of learning at New Directions College is a more important lifeline than ever before. The strategic direction of the service is set to be responsive to local need and to support our economic recovery and enhance the health and wellbeing of local residents.
New Directions College is committed to delivering outstanding education to the residents of Reading and the local area.
Delivering a range of informal and formal learning from entry-level courses to Level 3 in English, Mathematics, ESOL and Essential Digital Skills, Apprenticeships and professional qualifications, as well as employment support and confidence-boosting programmes in a range of community settings, New Directions College gives residents a first, second, third or even fourth chance to access learning.
All adults already beyond school age should have the chance and encouragement to start accumulating skills and qualifications that will lead to better, more fulfilling life chances. They should also be better equipped to support their families and local communities.
Adult education supports individuals to consider their return to education, enhance their skills and employability, and utilise their skills effectively in the labour market. There are many beneficiaries of adult and community education, including individuals, their families and communities, and the organisations where they study and work, as well as society.