Colleges Week 2020 – Activate Learning at the centre of supporting people and communities

As part of College Week 2020, Activate Learning are celebrating a different theme each day. Today, we look at how all of our colleges have been at the centre of supporting people and communities this year.

We’re so proud of all our staff and students and the incredible work they continue to do to support their local communities. 

Activate Learning support Oxford unemployed back into work during Covid-19

Activate Learning’s Project Teams are working innovatively and creatively to continue to support the unemployed throughout Oxfordshire, despite the coronavirus crisis.

Activate Learning support those looking for work across various government, Lottery and European Social funded projects to ensure people in the local community can find new jobs.


Learning for Leisure team welcome the wider creative learning community in Berkshire and Oxfordshire

The Learning for Leisure faculty offer a wide range of courses across our Berkshire and Oxford campuses, enabling the local community to be part of a creative learning community. Learning for Leisure courses are not only a place of learning and fun but support adults who may often have mental health issues or be elderly and isolated. Adults who access the Community Learning Fund can attend a selected number of courses for free, therefore widening the opportunity to learn and be part of a creative community.

In addition to the Learning for Leisure courses, Activate Learning offer other diverse projects which aim to bring creative learning to a wider sector of the community, including The National Saturday Club which gives 13–16-year-olds across the country the opportunity to study subjects they love at their local university, college or cultural institution, for free. These courses are offered at Banbury and Bicester College and Reading College, with hope to expand into the Surrey campuses at Activate Learning.

Other Activate Learning projects aimed at adults include:

  • Online courses and workshops
  •  NHS Social Prescribing within Oxford and Berkshire
  •  AEB courses aimed at reskilling adults to work within the Creative Industries sector

Royal Institution science show at Banbury and Bicester College wows local community

In October 2019, Banbury and Bicester College partnered with the Royal Institution to invite families to take part in free and interactive science shows during half-term.

The Explosive Food Show was packed with fiery biology, physics and chemistry demonstrations, revealing the explosive potential of the food we eat.

The one-hour scientific show, suitable for five to 14-year-olds, presented interesting facts through fun, interactive and exciting demonstrations in morning and afternoon sessions. The show has been a great way to inspire young people to learn more about science and visit colleges in their local community.

Activate Learning hopes the show will return to in Spring 2021 at Reading College.

The GIFT project – generations interacting and having fun together

Activate Learning runs an intergenerational project called The GIFT (generations interacting and having fun together) at Banbury and Bicester College and Reading College.

At Banbury and Bicester College, health and social care and early years students meet monthly at Green Pastures Christian nursing home and plan and provide a variety of fun activities for the residents to take part in alongside children from the Hobby Horse college nursey This unique project brings different generations together in a fun, relaxed and supported environment.


Reading College culinary arts students create digital recipes and cook for the Reading Town Meal

Level 1 culinary arts students from Reading College recently took part in the Reading Town Meal by creating recipes which local residents could download from the Reading Town Meal website, gave out free fruit and veg to local residents and took part in a live radio broadcast on RG2 radio where three students cooked their dishes.


Prestige collaborations with Activate Learning

Our Creative Industries students worked with the National Trust in December 2019 to celebrate Christmas at Basildon Park in Pangbourne.

Students studying Level 3 art and design and performing and production arts programmes collaborated to produce a scheme of work inspired by the Victorian era, steampunk and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which culminated in an exhibition of their work alongside performances.

Other Prestige collaborations have included:

Reading College at Basildon Park

Merrist Wood College at RHS Wisley

Merrist Wood College at Guildford Castle

City of Oxford College at the Ashmolean Museum

Work and Health Programme helps local people find employment in Oxfordshire

Martyn, one of the participants on the Work and Health Programme, has recently secured a brand-new role as a Sortation Operative.

Martyn and Grace Johnson, Project Recruitment Coach at Activate Learning, have been working together since June and have spent Martyn’s weekly appointments, updating his CV, applying for multiple roles, liaising with key employers and agencies and working on Martyn’s confidence, mental health and well-being.

In August of this year, Sam Pruden who works as an Employment Progression Coach for SeetecPluss, identified some suitable employment opportunities for Martyn and Grace encouraged him to apply. Alongside this, Ana McIntyre, Employment Adviser at Activate Learning, played a pivotal role in coordinating the interviews and required paperwork, lending to Martyn successfully securing one of the positions.

Fast forward to today (and to the picture above), when asked what securing employment meant to him, Martyn said: “Not having the motivation to find work, made me have a low mood. Being on the Work and Health Programme has helped motivate me to look for work and helped me all the way to getting a job. Now, I’m in a more positive mood and I look forward to going into work.”


Community learning in Berkshire – a community hub

The ability to offer courses and support to adults in the Berkshire area is extremely important with Woodley Hill House and Waingels Adult Centre being the complete definition of a community hub.

From these two satellite sites, Activate Learning offer everything from modern foreign language courses, through to art, photography, pottery, yoga, mental health support and everything in between.

Students really see us as the hub of the community, a place to bring together like-minded people to share experiences and the opportunity to socialise with a cuppa all whilst learning a new skill (sadly pre-Covid). What’s not to like!

Tutors are proud to be able to say they know most of our learners by name and always welcome new students to our sites with the same enthusiasm shared with them.


Reading College supports Food4families

Food4families is a community-based Reading project for local residents which aims to enable them to manage land in their own neighbourhoods. This is to ensure the sustainable growing of food for their own consumption, to encourage healthier eating and lifestyle habits and to develop understanding of the broader environmental, cultural and economic aspects of sustainable food production.

Activate Learning support five community gardens based in Whitley, Earley, Coley and Caversham, with another two sites being added after Christmas 2020.

Fortunately, Activate Learning have been able to continue to support this initiative with the help of our horticulture teachers during the current pandemic giving much needed support to those who may not have a garden or outside space of their own.


Reading College support crafting at St Nicolas Church, Earley

Crafting courses at St Nicolas Church in Earley is another example of our most successful groups.  Learners have been creating anything from greetings cards to hanging decorations using supplies that have been upcycled and donated through the church community.

The chruch originally contacted Reading College as they had just opened a new community café space which they felt was underutilised. It was decided to run one group on a Thursday evening to start with but, due to the popularity and amount of learners, another was set up on a Friday morning.  Activate Learning are pleased to say that both sessions are extremely popular.

Most learners who attend have suffered with mental health issues or felt isolated within a community where English is their second language, but all have enjoyed the ability to socialise and meet regularly with like-minded people.

During lockdown, tutor Helen kept in touch with students via email and social media, providing information on simple crafts that can be made at home.

Feedback is always positive: “I attended my first community craft workshop with Helen this week. She was very welcoming, and I loved decorating my positive affirmation jar with glass pens. It was a really friendly, relaxing evening and I’m looking forward to next week.”


Wellbeing in Mind in Bracknell

Run in partnership with Wokingham Borough Council’s Adult Education Service, the free Wellbeing in Mind courses at Activate Learning are designed for people aged 19+ with issues such as stress, low mood, sleeplessness and mild to moderate mental health issues.

Students are offered courses and support via a qualified counsellor on subjects such as stress management, low mood and depression and anxiety.  All have provided a vital lifeline to our students especially during these uncertain times.

Other courses offered by the Wellbeing in Mind project include yoga, mosaics and photography.


Modern foreign languages at Activate Learning

Activate Learning offer a range of 15-week courses for languages at all levels from beginners through to advanced including French, Italian, Spanish and German.  Many students have been coming for years and are always very happy to return to college after the summer holidays.  This year has been different with the introduction of online delivery, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that more face-to-face teaching can be offered over the next few months.

Reading Rep Theatre launched free online drama sessions for neurodiverse young people

Reading Rep Theatre, one of Activate Learning’s partners, launched free online drama sessions for neurodiverse young people aged 14-25 years old in May.

The hour-long online drama sessions took on Saturday mornings from 11am-12pm and were be run by specialist practitioners. The sessions included drama games, encouraging participants to connect with each other and make new friends, learn how to improvise as different characters and use their imagination.

Christie O’Carroll, Associate Director at Reading Rep, said: ‘We are delighted to be able to pilot free online drama sessions for our neurodiverse participants.

“Lockdown has been tough on us all, so we have worked hard to provide a means to be creative during this time.’

Guildford College health and social care students fundraising success for local charity

Earlier this year, a group of Level 3 health and social care students at Guildford College raised a whopping £1,250 for local mental health charity Oakleaf as part of an assignment on Team Activities. The group, consisting of 15 students, were tasked to organise a team activity as part of their course and decided that a class fundraising exercise fit the brief perfectly!

The group split into small teams and each planned various fundraising activities including cake sales, pub quizzes, raffles, sponsored cycle rides and walks. As a class, they agreed to choose Oakleaf as the worthy recipient of the funds raised.