Your round-up of news from across the group - July 2014

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To the July edition of the Activate Learning staff bulletin, designed to keep team members up to date with news from across the group.

One of our group values is connectedness – and this bulletin is just one of the ways of sharing news, achievements and developments from across the Activate Learning community. Each bulletin includes some news highlights from parts of the group.

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Group news

Principal Designate appointed at UTC Oxfordshire

Owain Johns has been appointed Principal Designate at UTC Oxfordshire.

Mr Johns has extensive experience in education. Having graduated from the University of West England, he went on to teach design and technology in Oxfordshire before moving into school leadership roles in Buckinghamshire.

He played a key role in a girls’ grammar school achieving an ‘outstanding’ rating by Ofsted and has led two successful school building projects.

Mr Johns will start his role at UTC Oxfordshire in January 2015, ahead of the school’s opening in September 2015. He said: “I am excited about leading what will become a world class educational experience. It is a first for Oxfordshire and the challenge will be to ensure that young people are equipped with the key life skills for success in the world of work, in particular science and engineering.”

UTC Oxfordshire will offer a new statutory education option specialising in science and engineering, for pupils aged 14 to 19. Activate Learning is the lead sponsor for the UTC, which is being delivered in partnership with leading local employers including Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, MINI Plant Oxford and RM Education. Educational backing is provided by Royal Holloway University and The University of Reading.

BCC announces preferred academy partner

Bicester Community College has announced Activate Learning as its preferred sponsor, as the school prepares to re-launch as an academy.

The school’s Interim Executive Board (IEB) chose the group following a competitive tendering process.

We will now work with the IEB on a period of consultation and due diligence, with a view to re-launching the school, subject to agreement, as an academy in the first quarter of 2015.

The news comes after Ofsted confirmed that BCC has been removed from special measures, having been ranked as ‘good’ in its latest report. The inspectors praised a “complete turnaround” in ethos and culture at the school in the last 18 months and recognised that pupils have made “rapid progress”.

Headteacher Tony Rushworth said: "I am delighted that we have secured Activate Learning as the preferred sponsor for BCC. This is excellent news for us and the town.

“As a result of this agreement, the students of BCC will now have enhanced opportunities to pursue educational pathways matched to their interests and career ambitions. It is also fantastic news for our staff, who will be able to share ideas and good teaching practice with other colleagues across the Activate Learning group."


As you may know, we have been investing in the development of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool which will underpin how we work with learners, businesses and stakeholders in the future.

Our development journey has been going on for a little while, but we are starting to see benefits in the work of Learner Services teams and colleagues within Activate Enterprise. Our ambition for CRM is that we are able to be more intelligent in our promotion of courses and qualifications to prospective learners, more effective in converting enquiries through to enrolments and improve our ability to match the demand from business with the supply of young people from our colleges.

Colleagues outside of Learner Services and Activate Enterprise will start to get more involved with using CRM towards the latter part of 2014. In the meantime, this is the first of a series of short updates to share knowledge across the Group with regard to Project:CRM.

Activate Enterprise

Classic vehicle restoration apprenticeship launches

A new apprenticeship in the restoration of classic and historic vehicles has been launched to help meet a growing skills gap.

Activate Learning, working in partnership with Banbury and Bicester College, has been chosen as one of only two providers in the country to offer the landmark apprenticeship, which has been developed by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC).

On June 24 employers, members of classic vehicle clubs and potential apprentices attended the launch of the scheme at Bicester Heritage, one of the apprenticeship sponsors.

Research by FBHVC has identified a need for close to 1,000 apprentices over the next five years, to help replace an ageing workforce in the classic and historic vehicle industry.

Reading College

Teaching and learning conference

On Saturday 28 June, Activate Learning hosted its first teaching and learning conference at Reading College. The day included talks and workshops with professionals from across FE.

The keynote speaker was Jackie Rossa, author of The Perfect FE Lesson. Jackie said: “I was blown away by the energy and enthusiasm of all the people I met. It really did renew my faith in the future of education to meet so may passionate and committed people.”

Delegates spent the conference in three interactive and informative workshops as well as enjoying lunch provided by The Kitchen. Lots of people took to the event’s official hashtag #ReadTL14 to express their enthusiasm of the workshops:

Cheryl Pennington, Assistant Principal Teaching and Learning at Reading College said: “It was inspirational to meet so many colleagues from different colleges and schools and to share good practice in teaching and learning.

“The conference brought together our core business of teaching and learning together with creative and innovative technologies. These are aspects that Reading College and Activate Learning want to develop a national reputation for.”

Growth Deal investment

Reading College is to benefit from a share of a £96.9m investment announced by Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

The LEP announced the funding as part of a Growth Deal with the Government. The deal is set to create up to 17,000 jobs, 10,000 homes and encourage public and private investment in the region.

Part of the funding will go to create a ‘Solutions Lab’ within Reading College’s engineering department. The improvement to the environment and facilities is designed to equip young people with the science, technology, engineering and maths skills needed to support local tech-focused businesses and the new Thames Valley Science Park. It will also bring businesses, the college and its students together to shape curriculum so that it meets the needs of tech-based businesses.

City of Oxford College

Furniture graduate makes his mark

A young furniture graduate is making his mark in the industry with two successes in his first year.

Tom Parfitt completed the BA (Hons) in Furniture Design and Make at the Rycotewood Furniture Centre, part of City of Oxford College, last summer.

On Friday he returned to Oxford to see his designs for a range of outdoor seating at The Queen’s College installed in the medieval Drawda garden. Tom’s designs – featuring aluminium frames and solid oak slats – were chosen by the college in a competition for furniture undergraduates.

Completion of the Queen’s project comes as Tom has also been selected as one of five graduates to have his work sold and displayed by top-end retailer Heal’s.

The company runs an annual competition, Heal’s Discovers, to uncover the next generation of British design talent.

Tom’s product - side tables made from concrete block inspired by Soviet era modernist architecture - will now be sold at Heal’s store and showcased at the London Design Festival in September.

LEP announces £4.5m grant for STEM centre

Blackbird Leys is to become a centre of excellence in technology and innovation as a second bid to fund a new skills centre is approved.

In April the group was awarded a £1m grant by the government to develop a new training centre in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The project will create new buildings and refurbish existing facilities at the Blackbird Leys campus of City of Oxford College, to provide an engineering centre complete with learning zones, workshops and modern design and fabrication spaces.

Following a further bid, we have now been successful in attracting £4.5m, this time from the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. The money will support an expanded range of facilities and enable more new building to take place at the campus in Cuddesdon Way.

Facilities have been designed to meet the skills and training needs of local STEM employers, identified as a priority by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Banbury and Bicester College

Project supports schools partnerships

A ‘come dine with me’ style challenge has helped to forge links with new schools in the Banbury area.

Hospitality and catering staff and students worked alongside pupils from St Joseph’s to help them prepare, cook and serve a three-course meal for VIP guests.

The initiative offered pupils the chance to experience working in a commercial kitchen and restaurant as they think about their future careers.

Clare Smith, head teacher at the school, said: “We have received a huge amount of support over the past 18 months from the local authority, partnership schools, parish and Diocese and we wanted to say a big thank you to them all by inviting them to share a meal with us.

“This has been an exciting project which has also given the pupils an opportunity to work as a team with new people, discuss nutrition, identify ingredients, shop on a budget and provide hospitality in a realistic situation.”

The event followed an ‘aspirations day’ when children from four local primary schools visited Banbury and Bicester College to sample college life and try their hand at new, vocational skills.

Stonehenge comes to Banbury

Stonehenge found a temporary home in Banbury in June, as families created a Stone Age-inspired artwork.

Around 60 people, of all ages, worked together to create a cardboard version of the iconic structure in the grounds of Banbury and Bicester College.

The installation included cardboard caves, complete with cave paintings, and was created by members of Bishop Carpenter CE Primary School art club and the local community.

Carol Wild, who runs the art club, said: “The high point of the art club year has become a summer art extravaganza.

“It was fantastic to be able to use the space at the college, particularly as so many of our members live in the area around the campus. It provided the perfect setting for some very striking and engaging community art.”

The event took place as part of the month-long showcase of creative arts, called We're Here Now, which took over spaces in the town centre.

UTC Reading

Principal speaks at education summit

UTC Reading Principal Joanne Harper spoke at The Sutton Trust Higher Ambitions Summit on 8 and 9 July 2014. Other speakers included Ed Miliband, Matthew Hancock and Sir Michael Barber.

The summit set out to explore approaches to apprenticeships and vocational education in the UK and ways in which more opportunities can be given to young people to equip them with skills that are needed by British businesses.

Thoughts from the day can be found on Twitter via #HigherAmbitions and the summit’s report.

Joanne was also filmed by Pearson speaking about UTC Reading and how students are being prepared for the workplace.