Leeds Conservatoire students doing environmental recordings. Credit - Cat McEvoy

Conservatoire students are ‘going wild’ for sustainability

Leeds Conservatoire students have been recording the sounds of nature as part of a sustainability push by Yorkshire’s higher education (HE) institutions.

The Conservatoire initiative is featured in a new Yorkshire Universities (YU) report which describes an array of sustainability projects that are being undertaken by local HE providers.

The Good Practice Guide for Engaging Students with Sustainability through Service Learning also highlights how the regional HE sector’s collaboration efforts with external partners are helping students obtain real-world opportunities to use their skills to address local sustainability issues.

The guide is designed as a blueprint that can be used by other institutions wishing to drive student engagement with sustainability. It is the culmination of a 15-month, £20,000 pilot project funded by the UPP Foundation which included an audit of the extent to which the 12 YU member institutions embedded sustainability in their curricula.

Learning from the great outdoors

As part of the pilot, all 12 YU member institutions were given £1,000 to use towards boosting Sustainability Service Learning activity and providing experiential learning opportunities. Leeds Conservatoire enabled its students to carry out environmental field recordings and the feedback was very positive.

One said: “I really enjoyed exploring Leeds through a new lens and perspective, as well as having the opportunity to take field recordings through a variety of types of microphones which included zoom, shotgun, hydrophone and contact.

“I found exploring the way the natural world changed as we drew closer to the centre of the city especially interesting, and the discussions that it provoked were highly useful in creating a greater understanding of our relationship with nature.”

A further £3,000 was assigned as prize money to a Multi-University Challenge Day, organised in December 2023, which brought together 36 students – with a diverse set of skills and backgrounds – from across the 12 regional institutions.

The students were asked to form groups and develop ideas on how to engage more learners with sustainability – a topic that directly aligns with the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission Regional Climate Action Plan. The winners were then invited to give a presentation at the annual Student Sustainability Research Conference.

An inspirational pilot to engage more students

Monika Antal, Assistant Director at Yorkshire Universities, said: “YU is proud to have led this pilot and we hope this guide will inspire other institutions to learn from what works in our experiences across the region.

“The project demonstrated there is significant value for universities working in partnership to address sustainability challenges through Service Learning, which benefits communities as well as offering students valuable real-world opportunities and experiential learning.

“We also discovered that community partners benefit from a diverse range of student perspectives and small amounts of funding can help to engage a wider range of students who would otherwise not have got involved.”

Richard Brabner, Executive Chair at the UPP Foundation, added: “Embedding local sustainability projects within the curriculum is great news for the towns and cities universities are from, great news for students who learn vital skills for the workplace, and great news for universities as it improves their reputation. We were proud to fund this project and warmly welcome the report. We hope it inspires more student sustainability initiatives across the higher education sector.”

Leeds City College and Leeds Sixth Form College joins forces with Leeds Rhinos Netball to boost young people’s wellbeing

Leeds Rhinos Netball has partnered with Leeds City College and Leeds Sixth Form College, both part of Luminate Education Group, to offer more young people opportunities to play netball and boost wellbeing.

Players from the team will be ambassadors for the college, where they will attend events to promote its new Netball Academy as well as offering advice and motivation for young people who are looking to pursue their sporting ambitions. The partnership will also see the Leeds Sixth Form College logo featured around the court and on the team’s dresses for their second Vitality Netball Superleague season. 

Opportunities for pupils to volunteer at Superleague games will be offered, including the club’s upcoming match at the city’s first direct Arena. The club’s official charity, Leeds Rhinos Foundation, will also lead a health and wellbeing development day for Leeds City College staff. Pupils will have the opportunity to gain experience working on some of their many health and education projects.

Leeds Rhinos Foundation and Leeds City College also run the Leeds Rhinos Foundation Development Academy, which provides all students with the opportunity to study full-time while representing Leeds Rhinos at a post-16 level, both in rugby and netball.

Dan Busfield, Franchise Director for Leeds Rhinos Netball, said: “It is fantastic to once again have the support of Leeds City College and Leeds Sixth Form College, so we can work together to enhance the sporting opportunities on offer for young people in our city. I think now more than ever, after long periods when we were unable to play team sports and attend sporting events, we appreciate the importance and positive impact sport can have on people’s lives. This partnership will help promote those benefits and hopefully lead to an increase in participation.

“The Leeds City College Rugby Academy has also been a huge success and we hope to develop the Netball Academy further so more people can continue their studies alongside playing. We are excited about how this partnership will help open up more opportunities for students from all backgrounds to engage with our sport, either through playing or through the many volunteering opportunities available with the club and our charity.”  

Ryan Grant, Deputy Principal Leeds Sixth Form College, said: “It’s a privilege to be working with Leeds Rhinos Netball for the second time. By working alongside Leeds Sports Connect, which provides a link between professional sports clubs, local colleges and young people, through the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, we can ensure our students receive top-quality training and elite coaching, without sacrificing an outstanding education.

“This partnership has a key focus on enhancing wellbeing through encouraging students to participate in enriching volunteering and social action project opportunities, where they can become active members in society and act as positive role models. We’re passionate about developing underrepresented sports, and are committed to inspiring the next generation to discover their sporting potential.”
Students at the college can pursue netball while studying full-time as part of the Leeds Rhinos Development Academy.

Students encouraged to dream big at Next Gen event

Last month, parents and students across North and West Yorkshire had the opportunity to explore post-16 options at the Next Gen: Choices Fair. 

Organised by Luminate Education Group, the event saw representatives from 19 local education providers, employers and training companies come along to showcase the wealth of opportunities open to young people following their GCSEs.

The aim of the event was to support students in making the right choice for them and make them aware of an increasing number of post-16 options.

By hosting a range of different providers under one roof, students were able to explore the various routes available, from continuing into further education at a sixth form or college to vocational options such as apprenticeships, employment or volunteering.

The occasion also provided an opportunity for employers to meet students from across the region, inspire the next generation of talent and promote their organisation. 

Clare Fitzgerald, Head of Stakeholder Engagement & Growth at Keighley College said, “It was great to meet so many Year 10 and 11 students from across West Yorkshire.

“There was so much ambition and motivation amongst those that attended, and it was great to hear their aspirations and offer advice on how they can achieve them.

“I’m delighted that the very first Next Gen event has been so productive and would like to extend my thanks to everyone involved for making the day a success.”

Throughout the event, those who attended were encouraged to be aspirational when thinking about their futures. 

Students added their ambitions to a ‘dreams wall’, which created an inspirational montage of careers and passions they wanted to pursue, and their plan to achieve those goals.

Take a look below at some of the responses students gave.

Festival of Learning

Leeds City Region partners join forces to prioritise adult learning

Luminate Education Group has teamed up with partners across the Leeds City Region to host a series of free short courses for adults, as part of the national Festival of Learning.  

The group is working alongside local organisations and education providers to get adults in the region back into education, following the challenges of the pandemic. 

Now in its 29th year, the Festival of Learning (formerly Adult Learners’ Week) was launched to celebrate adult students and encourage others to participate in lifelong learning. 

Cllr Jonathan Pryor, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education at Leeds City Council, said: “Over recent years, although Leeds has continued to prioritise adult education, we’ve seen it become less of a priority across the country. A lack of confidence amongst adult learners due to the pandemic, paired with historic funding cuts and reduced support, has resulted in the lowest adult participation in a decade. This partnership aims to celebrate the important role learning can play in adult lives and encourage them back into education.

“Skills are very high on the agenda for business recovery and growth post-pandemic. The partnership reflects that adult learning is available at all levels and stages of life; whether that’s starting from scratch with a new skill, brushing up and updating knowledge or taking it to an advanced level.”

As part of the Festival of Learning, adults will be encouraged to develop skills, enhance their employability and improve wellbeing through a range of taster sessions, residential days, virtual seminars and open days.

Yultan Mellor, Principal and Chief Executive at Northern College, added: “The festival is a superb opportunity for us to shine a spotlight on the different expressions of adult learning across the region, including community, college, home and residential settings. Our collaborative activities aim to showcase the benefits of adult education, including flexibility, financial support, personalised experiences and positive wellbeing outcomes.”

Festival of Learning

Launched in July, the Festival of Learning activities started with an Introduction to Digital Photography and Editing two-day residential course on 14 and 15 July at Northern College. Additional events included ‘An Introduction to Student Finance’ webinar from the Lifelong Learning Centre, University of Leeds on 14 July.

Ann-Marie Spry, Vice Principal of Adults at Luminate Education Group, commented: “Adult education is central to the rebuilding of our economy in a post-Covid environment. Therefore, we are working with key stakeholders in the area to demonstrate how lifelong learning can better equip learners to adapt to unexpected change and enhance their skills, in order to suit the ever-changing job market.

“This partnership brings together experts across the region to identify how we can work together to achieve shared objectives to raise the profile of this vital agenda. Drawing expertise and insight from our partners helps us to understand the current climate, allowing us to overcome barriers to learning and champion adult education.”

In the next academic year, the partnership will be encouraging learners to take part in ‘Have a Go’ activities, providing adults with the opportunity to try different courses and discover their passion. Rebuilding relationships with the community will also be a key focus for partnership activities, including taster sessions in local community centres.

The group, including Leeds City College, Keighley College, Harrogate College, White Rose Academies Trust and University Centre Leeds, is working with partners including West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Leeds City Council, Bradford Council, West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges, University of Leeds, The Prince’s Trust and Northern College, to deliver shared adult learning objectives.

This dress is part of the sustainable fashion window display created by Leeds City College students for John Lewis, Leeds

Students make an impact with sustainable fashion at John Lewis

Students from Leeds City College have created a ‘stunning’ sustainable fashion display for one of the city’s highest profile stores.

The striking window exhibit at John Lewis features clothes, and art pieces, that have all been created by Fashion and Textiles students out of previous garments or recycled materials.

The students produced the clothes through their Make an Impact Project which, as the text on the window display explains, is all about pursuing upcycling and sustainability in fashion.

That scheme received a major boost after refugee support charity Yorkshire Aid got in touch to offer some donated clothing that it had been unable to use.

The college then jumped at the chance to team up with John Lewis – and the students are now ‘buzzing’ at the results.


Visual and Digital Arts teacher at the college’s Quarry Hill campus, Amelia Johnson, said: “The students’ brief was called Make an Impact, and they have done just that!

“They have been buzzing and are feeling very proud about seeing their work in the store’s windows on their walk into college.

“They are eager for more opportunities like this and it has clearly motivated them after what has been a very challenging time in their education.

“Some students also gained work experience through dressing the windows, and the John Lewis staff were very supportive while allowing them creative freedom.”

Leeds City College students outside their sustainable fashion window display at John Lewis
Leeds City College students outside their sustainable fashion display at John Lewis

Laura Prince, from the college’s Events team, said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity to showcase the Make an Impact project in our city’s John Lewis store, giving our textile learners the chance to both design and dress the windows.

“We are thankful to the John Lewis staff for helping and mentoring the learners during the window dressing, and for supporting their work from the offset. It has helped our students feel proud of their designs and accomplishments.”

Partner & Events and Marketing Coordinator at John Lewis Leeds, Natasha Whalley, was full of praise for the students’ efforts.

She said: “The team was really grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with Leeds City College and exhibit its Make an Impact Project.

“It was a pleasure working with the students and we hope the experience they had installing their work gave them a real insight into working in a live retail environment.

“They worked in a professional manner and contributed to the creative aspect of the installation, which ultimately resulted in a well executed window.

“The sustainability message ties in with our brand vision and has gained great feedback from our customers and partners. We are excited for future opportunities to collaborate with Leeds City College.”

Yorkshire Aid collects items to send to asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in need.  For more information visit https://yorkshireaid.org/

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