• News

    Our latest news.

  • News

    Our latest news.

Leeds City College and University Centre Leeds  awarded Sanctuary status

Leeds City College and University Centre Leeds have been nationally recognised for their commitment to supporting refugees.

University Centre Leeds has joined a growing Place of Sanctuary network, whilst Leeds City College has become the only fourth college in the region to be named as a College of Sanctuary. 

The status is awarded by City of Sanctuary to recognise good practice and provision in supporting refugees and people seeking asylum. Both centres were found to have taken positive action to embed concepts of welcome, safety and inclusion through their curricula. 

Ann Marie Spry, Vice Principal for Adults at Luminate Education Group, said, “As a group, we pride ourselves on being a safe and welcoming place for all, especially those seeking sanctuary.

“We have worked hard to embed a culture of belonging, addressing barriers to refugees and asylum seekers and helping them to achieve their potential in an understanding and welcoming environment.

“Throughout the past 18 months, we have successfully implemented staff and student education programmes to share understanding of the importance of sanctuary, the difficult journeys our refugees and asylum seekers have been through and their value to our society.”

Staff in both organisations have held listening sessions with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students to better understand their college experience, including what they need and what they don’t want from college.

A training programme has also been introduced for staff that explores common misconceptions about asylum seekers and refugees.

Meanwhile at University Centre Leeds, a wellbeing walkway has been opened to provide a welcoming outdoor area for all. It has been used as a safe space to share stories and encourage inquisitiveness and a sense of belonging.

Sara Trewhitt, Director of Operations at City of Sanctuary, said, “We had the pleasure of visiting Leeds City College and University Centre Leeds, and it was so wonderful to hear from such a wide range of staff and students.

“They were so inspiring, and it was encouraging to see so much aspiration and dedication in our discussions.”

Colleges are key to re-engaging Covid’s ‘lost generation’ in education, employment or training

Colleges are the obvious one-stop-shop for re-engaging disenfranchised young people after Covid and bridging the UK’s skills gaps, says Karen Johnson

It’s a little over three years since the beginning of a wave of lockdowns to combat the Covid pandemic. By now many of us are back to business as usual. But for a whole generation of young people whose education and early career opportunities have been stifled the journey has not been quite so smooth. 

According to a recent report from City & Guilds, there are over 800,000 young people in the UK who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). While this figure is shocking to some, we educators know all too well that young people have been among the hardest hit by the devastating aftershocks of that period. 

In response, we need nothing less than a seismic shift in how we think about education. It’s no longer a case of retaining our students, but of reintegrating them and offering them a much-needed second chance. 

Implementing programmes nationally to capture the nearly 16 per cent young people currently classified as NEET is not without its complications. The government’s spring budget recognised the role that economically inactive people could play in filling the 1.3 million vacancies in our economy today. However, consistent underfunding means that existing services and programmes are already under immense strain, and not operating at the scale required to solve the problem.

One such programme is NEET re-engagement programme at Leeds City College, which aims to improve young people’s skills while helping them prepare for their next steps. Further education colleges are unique in their ability to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ for careers advice, pastoral support, education and work experience. Other organisations offer some of these services, but it’s rare to find one that has it all.

Our bespoke programme helps students aged 16 to 24 to develop skills in essential subjects, particularly maths and English, all while engaging them in enrichment activities and supporting them with progression. 

The move to online learning during the pandemic deepened the chasm of access to quality education. For some of our most vulnerable young people, the amount of lost learning was substantial, leaving them wholly unprepared for further education or employment. In crafting and delivering our programme, we focus on removing such barriers.

We need a seismic shift in how we think about education

It’s not just in the classroom that young people are facing struggles. Mental health charity, Young Minds reported in 2021 that 67 per cent believed that the pandemic will have a long-term negative effect on their mental health. Issues of low self-confidence have been directly linked to long periods of social isolation; I’ve had countless young people tell me they simply don’t feel up to the challenge of employment. 

One of the young people on our programme had always dreamed of pursuing a career in creative arts, but was too anxious of being around so many people after lockdowns to pursue their ambition. This example is repeated everywhere across the country.

We often think of young people as highly social, but in reality the thought of stepping back into a classroom for the first time in over two years has been undeniably overwhelming. We are fortunate enough to have a smaller facility that can host our programme, and have implemented shorter session times to make them more manageable. 

But by far the most common barrier is finance, with the rising cost of living meaning many young people are undertaking temporary, part-time work at the expense of their studies. As part of the programme, students are offered meal cards and free bus passes to minimise cost and support with their responsibilities outside of the programme. 

Even in its infancy, I’ve seen this programme make a real difference to those who had nowhere else to turn, and with 14 new referrals already this month, it’s clear there’s demand. Like many others across the sector, we are proud of the work we’re doing and we know more needs to be done.

Put simply, the UK’s labour market cannot afford to disregard the potential of so many. Colleges are a natural place to invest in the multi-faceted work this challenge requires, and failure to reengage those who do not currently have the resources to fulfil their potential constitutes a huge missed opportunity for policy makers.

Luminate Education Group secures STEM Assured award

We have received recognition for our work to promote and enhance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects within the region.

We were awarded STEM Assured status; an accreditation granted by the UK STEM Foundation, in recognition of  advancing and promoting STEM education and careers. 

The group was praised for its dedication to providing high-quality STEM education opportunities to students and offering a diverse range of STEM-based courses designed to inspire and prepare them for the ever-changing job market.

The report highlighted that the group’s STEM provision is of a high quality, and is aligned with current and anticipated needs of the labour market.

It also said that the provision is committed to continual improvement and innovation and that there are clear engagement processes with employers and key stakeholders both at local and national level.

Ann Marie Spry, Group Vice Principal Adults, said: “We are committed to raising the profile of STEM across the region and addressing the skills gaps to drive economic growth. 

“This achievement is a testament to the hard work of our staff and reinforces our position as a leading provider of quality STEM programmes. It also demonstrates our dedication to equipping our students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in STEM careers.” 

The STEM Assured standard and framework benchmarked the college’s STEM provision in several category areas including: strategy and planning in relation to STEM economic priorities; as well as collaboration and consultation with stakeholders and delivery of STEM education.

STEM Foundation’s Chief Executive, Prof Sam Medhat said: “Luminate Education Group demonstrated distinctiveness in how STEM teaching and learning is approached. 

“Its active engagement with employers has resulted in the development of innovative programmes in areas such as  engineering, health, digital, bio pharma and environmental sustainability. 

The group joins only a handful of colleges in the region to achieve STEM Assured status.

For more information about Luminate Education Group, visit luminate.ac.uk.

Leeds City College's Assistant Principal Creative Arts, Richard Lee

Insights into STEAM power

Leonardo da Vinci once gave this piece of advice: “To develop a complete mind: study the science of art. Study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else.”

Of course not everyone can grasp the intricacies of diverse disciplines as exceptionally as the great Italian renaissance polymath. But we all, in more modest ways, draw upon mixtures of creative thinking and scientific, mathematical or technical knowledge in everyday tasks.

Leonardo’s quote is more than 500 years old but it has not really been heeded. In the worlds of education and funding, for example, the ‘interconnectedness of everything’ is far from being universally accepted, with ‘art’ and ‘technical’ subjects still fenced off into distinct areas. That old-fashioned view, particularly due to its funding implications, is harming students, innovation and the economy. Which is why we need to talk about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Maths).

A barrier to access and innovation

At our Quarry Hill campus, the arts are a vital part of what we do, with around 1,800 students pursuing creative subjects. But I’m an engineer, I have a BSc and have spent much of my working life in the backstages of theatres. Most of my time has been spent ‘doing maths’, even though I’ve been working in the arts.

When it comes to funding for courses, however, we still have this weird dichotomy based on divisions that really aren’t that clear-cut. At our campus we do have artists, like musicians and actors, but all around them, making it happen, are craftspeople, engineers, technicians and designers who need to be specialists in all kinds of science and maths.

And a number of subjects which have grown under the creative arts umbrella, like music production and photography, are also actually STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects. Then there are fields like computer game design that require deep and complex technical knowledge but are still classed as arts courses, because there is a reluctance to see past outdated categories.

That way of thinking is problematic because it inhibits innovation and collaboration, encouraging people to ‘stay in their lane’. It also results, far too often, in funding help not being available to anyone aged over 18 if their chosen field is deemed to fall on the ‘arts’ side of the line. That has damaging implications both for potential students – by effectively financially blocking older learners – and a performing arts industry that is screaming out for qualified theatre technicians.

Fighting for progress

We have actually just received some great news on that front from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which has approved adult funding for our BTEC National Foundation Diploma in Production Arts Practice course. 

That is a real win, but backstage theatre is just an extreme example of a much wider problem. We need an understanding at the highest level about STEAM, and how the arts and STEM constantly overlap.

Rethinking the economic argument

Instead, the focus tends to be all about the value of purely technical subjects. Of course we do need more engineers and scientists, but that message is often accompanied with the idea that creative courses are somehow less useful.

That’s a dangerous concept, and inaccurate: the arts industry is one of the biggest and fastest growing in the UK, and we don’t want young people to think they can’t be creative.

Where would STEM professionals be without those alternative thinkers that help provide that spark of innovation? Look at a company like Apple, which is known for pioneering new designs –  it exists and flourishes because two people came together with very different, but complementary, skill sets.

Such success stories are perfect examples of STEAM in action. Our funding bodies, and politicians, would do well to learn from them when it comes to deciding which courses are worthy of financial support.

This thought piece by Richard Lee, our Assistant Principal of Creative Arts at Leeds City College, was recently published in The Yorkshire Post.

Leeds City College praised for being ‘welcoming and inclusive’ by Ofsted

Leeds City College is celebrating after an Ofsted inspection found that it has made significant progress around safeguarding since its full review.

The focus of the visit was safeguarding for 16-18-year-olds at its Printworks campus and the Skills Programme for its 14-16 learners based at Park Lane campus.

The report praised leaders for taking safeguarding very seriously and added that the college has invested in a wide range of resources to enhance how it monitors, records and reports on safeguarding.

Ofsted also noted that the college has put significant and effective arrangements in place to ensure that learners aged 14 to 16 are safe. The report also highlighted that learners with high needs work positively with peers during small-group projects and are positive about their interactions with others.

Bill Jones, Executive Principal of Leeds City College said: “This is the best possible outcome for us and shows how we have consistently grown and developed our approach to keeping our students safe across the college. 

“Safeguarding is our number one priority and we are continually reviewing and putting systems in place to make sure that all learners feel safe and integrate well into the wider college.

“The report is a testament to the hard work of our staff who ensure our students get the best possible opportunities in an inclusive & safe environment.”

Carol Layall, Director of Quality of Education added: “Our learners’ safety, wellbeing and personal development are central to our culture and form part of our wider strategy to  delivering quality education across the communities we serve. 

“Through the work we do, we ensure that classrooms are welcoming, feel inclusive and that students have a place where they can thrive and progress.”

For more information, visit Leeds City College.

Leeds City College and Keighley College have received funding to boost adult numeracy levels in West Yorkshire

Funding to boost adult numeracy skills in West Yorkshire

Two of our colleges have secured nearly £480,000 to boost adult numeracy skills in the region.

Leeds City College and Keighley College will receive just under £434,000 and £45,500 respectively via the Department for Education-led Multiply programme.

They will use the money to fund a multi-pronged push to raise standards among adults who don’t have a Level 2 qualification – roughly equivalent to a GCSE grade 4, or the old C grade – in maths.

The work will involve supporting learners through putting on new, flexible courses designed to fit around their lives, and training more staff to teach numeracy.

A practical focus

The focus will be on functional, rather than theoretical, maths to show how useful it can be in real-life situations ranging from budgeting for shopping to understanding borrowing, credit and interest.

Leeds City College’s Director of Adult Curriculum, Joanne Dye, said: “Everyone talks about how simple budgeting is, but many people find it hard even though it is an essential skill – and especially important now while we face a cost of living crisis.

“We are delighted to have secured funding to deliver this vital programme. We are committed to improving access to numeracy skills for adults in our region, and this programme is an important step in that direction.”

Addressing a costly skills gap

A 2022 report found that more than half – 52% – of adults in West Yorkshire were at ‘entry level and below’ in terms of numeracy. National Numeracy’s research, meanwhile, says low numeracy skills could be costing the UK up to £25 billion a year.

The Multiply programme – which is being funded over three years, with West Yorkshire Combined Authority distributing the finances – will seek to address the issue locally by reengaging adults with maths.

Leeds City College and Keighley College are already piloting a project that asks English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students to take on tasks like banking or supermarket shopping.

The programme will also open up new work and educational possibilities for participants, and take them a step closer to being able to benefit from further support such as the Lifelong Loan Entitlement.

Making maths accessible to all

Luminate Education Group Vice Principal Ann Marie Spry, said: “We need to support those who still need to get Levels 1 and 2 in maths, and have a fear of the subject, to thrive in their personal and professional lives.

“Offering bespoke support, this programme will also help English for Speakers of Other Languages students who struggle with language barriers.

“We hope that through delivering the programme we can help adults in all walks of life develop improved financial skills; from planning their meals, or creating shopping lists and budgets, to understanding taxes and pensions.

“This will enable them to create a system to feel more financially secure, now and in the future.”

Multiply’s aims are part of a wider push by the government to improve and extend maths skills across the country, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announcing his ambition to get everyone studying maths until the age of 18.

Website designed and built by Web Phizix