St Patrick’s College celebrates history and tradition

21st March 2017

For most people around the world Saint Patrick’s Day is an occasion to don a green outfit and share a drink with friends, but for St Patrick’s the date also offers a moment to look back at more than 200 years of history. Traditionally, this day commemorates the introduction of Christianity in Ireland, and has since become a celebration of Irish culture. For our institution, the connection with the ancient missionary is a deep and meaningful one. On Friday 17 March our staff and students celebrated Saint Patrick’s Day together with music and refreshments.

Until 1791 Catholicism was forbidden in the UK, but after the ban was lifted Catholics were allowed to practise their faith and take on other public activities. For a community of Irish faithful based in London, this newly found freedom led to the opening of a school intended to provide education for the poor people of the local parish of St Giles. The first ever school to be dedicated to the patron saint of Ireland, St Patrick’s channelled the spirit of its namesake by offering aid to those in need, and has continued to do so since its inception.

At that time the area now known as Soho was crowded and underprivileged. Whilst for many education was the only way to a better life, it was also out of reach. St Patrick’s created 15 separate schools, offering free education for as long as possible to boys, girls, infants and orphans. With centres spread throughout the area, the schools sought to improve the living and economic conditions for the community and improve their chances for a better future.

More than 200 years later, that mission is still very much alive. The driving force behind the creation of the schools was to provide access to education, especially for those less likely to get it. St Patrick’s as we know it today seeks to keep doing so, offering affordable and quality education to those who need it, with the ultimate goal of improving their employability. The needs of modern students, faced with a far more dynamic and differentiated labour market, have indeed changed since the early 1800s, but so have the ways St Patrick’s intends to deliver on its original promise.

“I travelled around the world to recruit students when we were an English school,”said St. Patrick’s Registrar & Director of Student Services Esther Hardy, who has been a part of St. Patrick’s for almost 18 years, “and even then we were always focusing on the student’s needs. The challenge today is to widen access and give people a second chance in education. Going back to school to gain a qualification can change the lives of people, and give them the confidence to succeed.”

“Two years ago we had a student from Nigeria. She was a mother of four, doing everything on her own and juggling study, work and family life. But she pushed through it all and completed an HND in Business with us and progressed to a bachelors degree. Now she manages her own team in an administrative role at a large company. One of her sons was so inspired by her achievements that he decided to go to university, and worked really hard to get the results necessary to do so. This is the kind of story that makes our work, which is the students’ journey, so important.”

As an established independent provider of vocational education and qualifications, student’s welfare has always been at the core of St Patrick’s. Since the 1960s, the college has been adding new programmes and courses, looking to prepare students for their future careers.

Esther thinks there is a clear reason for the school’s continuous success: “Many of the staff at St Patrick’s have been working and teaching here for a long time and, like me, they have a sense of belonging and pride in all we do. There is a certain spirit within the college and we want to keep that alive. As long as we’re able to help students, the reward is watching them graduate and seeing their families looking on with pride and admiration – then you can think, we helped them to achieve this… job done!”

An internal survey on student satisfaction was successfully conducted in 2016, helping the college to realise its strengths and things to improve. On February of this year, St Patrick’s launched for the first time the National Student Survey, which assesses undergraduate students' satisfaction with the quality of their learning experience, including an ‘overall satisfaction’ mark.

The National Student Survey is open until Sunday 30 April, 2017. Complete the survey now!

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