Ann Southwood was praised for her “outstanding leadership and tenacity in office” by John Swinney as Newbattle Abbey College celebrated its 80th anniversary with a reception at the Scottish Parliament.
The event was hosted by Midlothian North and Musselburgh MSP Colin Beattie, who announced that Marian Docherty, current Depute Principal, will replace Ann Southwood when she stands down as Principal in early 2018.
Mr Beattie described Newbattle – Scotland’s adult education college – as a “life-changing” institution and praised its “amazing and committed staff”.
John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, said: “Newbattle Abbey College has made a profound impact on a wide range of learners and on the debate on lifelong learning.”
Mr Swinney welcomed Newbattle’s ambition to be a hub for Gaelic learning in the south-east of Scotland and said of Ann Southwood, who has been at Newbattle since 2000 “She has displayed great devotion to the college, tenacity in office and outstanding leadership.”
David Corner, Chairman of the Trustees of Newbattle Abbey College Trust, said: “Newbattle helps people to gain confidence and interpersonal skills, develop academic rigour and sharpen their judgement. Scotland should be very proud of Newbattle – and Newbattle should be very proud of what it has achieved.”
Ann Southwood said Newbattle’s history had spanned almost 1000 years, from its history as a Cistercian Abbey during which time the Declaration of Arbroath was drafted at the site in 1320. The current building, parts of which date from the 16th century, was home to the Lothian family until 1937 when it was gifted to the state to provide a second chance at education for those who had not, for various reasons, thrived in education at the first opportunity.
“Newbattle is a life-changing and transformative college, which helps people realise their potential,” Ms Southwood said. “The past has been important to us. It has not always been easy, but it has shaped us, but now we are looking to the future.”
She highlighted four new departures for the college: an HNC in Social Sciences with Queen Margaret University; moves to develop Newbattle’s forest college promoting outdoor learning and rural skills; the plan for the south-east Gaelic hub; and the development of Newbattle’s Scotland-wide Adult Achievement Awards, promoting access and inclusion.
Mr Swinney cut a cake to celebrate Newbattle’s 80th anniversary at the event attended by staff, current and former students and a wide range of supporters of the college.
Danielle Rowley, member of Parliament for Midlothian who attended the event, said:
“Newbattle Abbey College is not only is a fantastic hub of learning, but I also have a personal link to the college. My Grandfather, Mum and Dad and some close friends have all attended Newbattle, giving them a pathway into fulfilling careers and Higher Education. So I know first-hand how the college can transform people’s lives. Ann Southwood has made a huge contribution to the college, building an impressive legacy, and I know that Marian Docherty will ensure that Newbattle continues with its life-changing work.”