MARCH 2015


To the Activate Learning Staff Bulletin, designed to keep team members informed of news and developments from across the group.

News shared via the bulletin aims to demonstrate how we are living our four guiding principles - Enterprise, Empowerment, Connectedness and Transformation.

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Professional Learning Communities at Activate Learning

At the start of 2015 we launched the group’s first Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

PLCs are a means of connecting curriculum areas across the Activate Learning colleges to improve the student experience and increase student outcomes.

The first two pilots have been launched in the visual arts and hospitality and catering. These pilots will work until the summer and their feedback will help to shape the approach for other curriculum areas.

Here is a quick update on the work done so far.

The visual arts PLC has:

  • adopted University of the Arts London as the new awarding body for visual arts across the group from September
  • identified external companies/agencies/creative individuals to act as an external employer-endorsing steering group
  • created a group-wide planning framework including setting out the modules for delivery by programme/level/pathway; identifying common themes or modules that would lend themselves to mass/online development and delivery. Cross-college teams will be developing these projects to include preparing common teaching schemes, resources, assessment schedules and assessment material

The hospitality PLC has

  • set up an employer advisory board to test curriculum initiatives and co-create elements of learning activities, for example project based learning or unit sponsorship
  • created a single career pathway for hospitality by remapping the local pathways from the three colleges
  • confirmed the awarding bodies/qualifications and potential unit structure that will provide a consistent set of options across the group and achieve economies of scale for planning
  • reviewed existing online learning packages and agreed specific elements of the programmes that would be suitable for online learning
  • shared existing practices including learning companies, catering outlets, learning zones and staffing resources

Arts project creates a buzz for biodiversity

The plight of the bumblebee and the erosion of Britain’s biodiversity have inspired an innovative arts project.

Bees & Weeds is being led by not for profit arts-science collaboration Pale Blue Dot, and features work by art and design students from Banbury and Bicester College.

The project, based on research results from UK environmental scientists, including those from Oxford and the University of Sussex, highlights a dramatic loss of wildlife in our countryside.

Through exhibitions and arts interventions - including covering hundreds of Oxford bicycles with specially-designed seat covers – the team hopes to raise awareness of declining wild bee populations and the impact on landscapes and food production.

Students on the Foundation Degree, BA (Hons) and Foundation Diploma Creative Arts courses at Banbury and Bicester College have been developing a range of art and design pieces inspired by the issues, and based on British wild flowers and bumblebee species from the collection at Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Their work includes a series of calico bicycle seat covers, printed with images of wild flowers, used in a cycle seat bombing on 16 March. The intervention was supported by volunteers from Oxford Friends of the Earth, who are leading their own campaign to make public spaces more pollinator friendly.

Other events include an exhibition at Blackwell’s Bookshop until 31 March, to coincide with the Oxford Literary Festival. This precedes a talk on 24 April by Professor Dave Goulson, from University of Sussex, about the perils facing bumblebees in the 21st century.

A range of items including printed homewares, gift cards and artworks – all produced by students from Banbury and Bicester College – will also be displayed at The Old Fire Station gallery in George Street and sold in the gallery shop from 23 March to 25 April. The exhibition opens with a private view on Friday 27 March.


Bicester Technology Studio

Public consultation for the new Bicester Technology Studio is set to start by the end of April.

Activate Learning has been given government approval to develop the proposal for the 300-place school, which will specialise in sustainable construction technologies and business logistics.

Final approval and the funding agreement will now depend on the results of a public consultation. This will run for up to six weeks and will include a series of drop-in information sessions and the opportunity to respond to online and printed questionnaires.

If final approval is given, the aim is to open the school in September 2016. Look out for more information.

Meanwhile Bicester Community College will re-launch as The Bicester School, an Activate Learning Academy, this September.

UTC Oxfordshire update

Oxfordshire’s first UTC is rapidly taking shape.

UTC Oxfordshire will open at Didcot’s Great Western Park in September, to prepare 14 to 19 year olds for careers in science and engineering.

Activate Learning is the lead sponsor for the UTC, which is supported by MINI Plant Oxford, UK Atomic Energy Authority, RM Education, University of Reading and Royal Holloway University.

The school’s walls and roof are now being fitted to the steel frame, with the window units due to make the building watertight by the end of March. You can keep up to date on the build progress and watch video walkthroughs on the website.

The UTC is already proving popular with applicants. Growing demand for Year 10 places has led to an increase in planned student numbers for September, from 60 to 90. We are adjusting staffing to account for the increase in places.


Report measures social impact

The first report into the social impact of college learning companies has been produced.

The report, produced by City of Oxford College, sets out to quantify the opportunities created by learning companies in terms of work and commercial experience.

Among the report findings, learning companies at City of Oxford College have created more than 102,000 real customer interactions and 60,000 hours of work experience outside the classroom in the last year.

The companies based at City of Oxford College are:

  • Oxford Lifestyle Centre
  • Studio X1
  • TeamworX
  • The Waterside Restaurant
  • The Shop

To find out more read the report here.

The inside track on careers in childcare

Health and social care and childcare students from City of Oxford College got the inside track on their future career thanks to an event held by The Co-operative Childcare Group.

The organisation held an ‘Employability and Skills’ day on 10 March focused on getting ready for employment.

The session included workshops on interview skills and preparing a CV as well as a look at childcare issues such as safeguarding.

The day culminated with the Co-operative Group promoting more than 20 job vacancies, offering immediate progression routes into employment.

The ‘Employability and Skills’ day builds on an existing partnership with The Co-operative Childcare Group which has sponsored an early years suite at City of Oxford College and provides industry master classes.

Eco-powered bid to win racing championship

Motorsport engineering students from Banbury and Bicester College are to design, build and race their own electrically-powered car in a national championship.

The Greenpower IET Formula 24+ championship pits teams over a series of 60-minute races, including a final round at Goodwood Motor Circuit. All cars will have to perform using only a 12volt battery unit, supplied by Greenpower.

Just like Formula 1, teams can outperform their competitors with innovative technology, aerodynamics, engine power, strategy, team work and invention. But unlike Formula 1, the team from Banbury and Bicester College must achieve this with very little budget and fit it around their studying.

By using the facilities at the Bicester campus, the trio of students - Chris Cousall, Lewis Mackenzie and Keaton Church - are well into the design phase of the project, with concepts and individual components around the car already drafted.

Look out for more information on their progress.

Pupils have designs on new school furniture

Primary school children are enjoying the great outdoors thanks to some new garden furniture designed and made by Reading College students.

The project, completed by students on the foundation pathway in construction, involved recycling old wooden pallets to create a range of practical furniture for pupils at Trinity Christian School in Glebe Road, Reading.

The students developed a range of designs before creating a prototype to test with the schoolchildren and finally made three tables and 12 stools, which have now been painted in colours requested by the pupils.

Naomi Mobbs, head teacher at Trinity School said: “We are so impressed with the students for designing, planning and making some well-crafted tables that are practical and eye catching.

“The children were thrilled with them and were particularly pleased that the students had taken into account their ideas when doing the research at the beginning of the project. As soon as the students left we all took our lunches outside and enjoyed a picnic at the new tables.”

As well as recycling old wooden pallets the students covered the cost of new materials by selling Christmas decorations.


Activate Enterprise wins gold

The Activate Enterprise team won gold at the Apprenticeships 4 England annual awards.

The award was made for a partnership project with Oxford City Council to train seven young people in business administration and specialist trade roles. The scheme is playing an important role in achieving the council’s objective to develop the next generation of talent in key wards and reduce youth unemployment.

Peter Sloman, Chief Executive of Oxford City Council said: “The City Council has increased its investment in apprenticeships because we want to give local young people opportunities to train for jobs that serve the communities they live in. We believe ensuring local young people get these opportunities to work locally further connects the council to our community. Our apprentices have turned out to be first class and talented young people who we are very proud of.”

Awards celebrate young apprentices

Four Activate Enteprise apprentices were among the winners of the annual Freemen of Oxford awards ceremony at Oxford Town Hall.

Now in its eight year, the Freemen awards recognise young people who are helping to shape Oxford’s traditions, trades and crafts. Our winners included:

  • David Sawyer (Meta Vision Systems) – Apprentice of the Year
  • Jamie Short (B&N Motors) – Best Apprentice in Motor Vehicle
  • Jamie Collins (RB Gas Solutions) – Best Apprentice in Building Trades
  • Germain Morris (Sodexo) – Best Apprentice in Catering

Congratulations to Reading College

Reading College was among those shortlisted in the prestigious TES FE Awards, which took place at the end of February.

The college was a finalist in the ‘outstanding use of technology’ category, for its work to develop use of browser-based technologies such as Google + and Google Communities to support teaching and learning.

The team missed out on the top spot, which went to Heart of Worcestershire Colllege, but helped to raise the profile of the group as a national finalist.

The college is continuing to explore new uses of digital technology to help realise the group’s aim of enabling students to learn anytime, anywhere.

Latest projects include:

1) Digital Orientation – a project to provide all of new students with an online digital orientation programme which they will be required to complete as part of their learning journey over the summer.

2) English and maths – development of part of the Pass It On site to provide digital resources for English and maths

3) Pass It On – working with a Banbury-based company ‘Gravy for the Brain’ to explore converting aspects of Pass It On as a learning and development model into online courses.

Four projects are also underway to utilise Google Glass wearable technology in areas including pluming and hospitality and catering.