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CONEL Football Team Undefeated in Spain

From 25-28 May, 15 academy players from CONEL’s men’s football team went undefeated on their annual end-of-year football tour to Catalonia in north-eastern Spain. CONEL were invited by the prestigious Academia de Futbol de Catalunya and played in two showcase games in front of scouts from La Liga clubs Barcelona and Espanyol.

The group had an action packed four day trip. Arriving on Saturday 25, the group settled into their hotel rooms before eating dinner together and watching the Copa del Rey final, Spain’s equivalent to England’s FA Cup.

On the Sunday morning the team faced their first opponents, Club Deportivo La Floresta, Tarragona’s leading football school and community club – which recently signed a collaboration agreement with Spanish La Liga side Villarreal. The game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.

On Monday morning the squad trained at the Academia De Futbol de Catalunya and in the afternoon they played their second match vs triallists from the Academia, which also ended in a one-all draw. The Academia De Futbol de Catalunya has a range of excellent training and match pitches, and provides a ‘gateway’ to Spanish football, right from youth football and schools teams seeking tours or tournaments, to elite players who are looking for assistance breaking into the professional ranks in Spain.

Coach Josemar Santos said, “It was an amazing trip! The boys conducted themselves like true professionals. This was a great team building exercise, which will help us going into next season’s fixtures and may be the only opportunity that some of our students will have to play abroad.”

Student Romans Andrejevs, who played centre back on the tour, joined CONEL’s Charlton Athletic Football Club Development Squad in 2017. Romans said: “Josemar has helped me understand the game better. CONEL has outstanding facilities, the teachers are excellent and I’d fully recommend anyone looking for a career in sport to come here.”

Earlier this year, Romans signed with top Portuguese club Maritimo and will be joining them in the future. Meanwhile he is continuing his studies at CONEL and is excelling in his Sports Diploma.

Apprenticeships offer the best of British – Have #FaithInFE

By Jackie Chapman
Operations Director, Capital City College Training

I am proud of having been involved in apprenticeships for over 20 years, but over the past year or so, I have found myself joining the ranks of the moaners.

Without realising it, I started to listen to the bad press linked to FE, Independent Training Providers, and apprenticeships in general. I even started to moan about the ongoing changes in funding requirements and the seeming conflict between compliance and quality.

But now I am, once again, a champion of apprenticeships and proclaiming loudly my support for them.

What has brought about this change?

Last week, I had the privilege of visiting China. I met some wonderful people, including a group at Sindhu College, who had visited our Westminster Kingsway College campus three years previously. They were very impressed with the culinary provision and in particular, they highlighted how much they had learnt about the levels of employer engagement with the curriculum. It was clearly a light bulb moment for them as education and industry acted in silos in China.

On their return to their college, they immediately implemented a plan to engage their local large employers into their provision and took the best examples of partnership. Three years later, their 3-year Culinary Major has significantly grown in numbers and reputation and is used as a model for other schools on how to effectively involve employers and maximise employment opportunities for students.

I met two other colleges and in each case they had studied our apprenticeship provision and were keen to learn more. They have compared our system favourably with those in Canada, New Zealand and Australia. They appreciate ours the most, due to the robust systems, processes, formal qualifications and quality checks that we have in place.

I have learnt to remember all the positives about our apprenticeships from my Chinese hosts.

Yes, the bureaucracy regarding compliance can be frustrating, but without it, how could we ensure that funding is used appropriately?

Yes, quality checks by Awarding Bodies and Ofsted can be challenging, but without them how would we maintain a high-quality system and be certain what good looks like?

Yes, the restrictions on 20% off-the-job training requirements involve a lot more commitment, but without the requirement for substantive learning, how would be able to ensure apprenticeships add real value, rather than simply accrediting current competency?

Meeting all of these requirements is a challenge but they are essential to ensuring that our Apprenticeships have the right value to us, the Apprentice and the Employers.

Many of us will remember the days of Train to Gain. Whilst the intention of the offer was absolutely right (to support everyone to improve their employment and careers through Learning in the Workplace, the reality turned into something else entirely. When restrictions in eligibility were removed, thousands of individuals who were already competent in their jobs, were enrolled, assessed and certificated, without any development of skills etc. We need to ensure that the lessons are learnt and not repeated.

It is difficult to do what is right, to the level required within an unstable funding environment. I am fortunate. I work for a large FE Group which has a Not-for-Profit ethos and has sufficient income and reserves to support the Apprenticeship programme through periods of change and uncertainty, which seems to be constant!

FE Apprenticeship Provision has changed significantly over the last 5 years. Historically it was an addition to the main provision and had to ‘fit in’ with the rest of the academic provision. This linked closely with set academic years and often new apprentices only starting in September – clearly not very employer responsive.

The introduction of the Levy and the change in rules requiring subcontracting have forced many colleges to look closely at their provision and revise their strategy.

Now, in many cases, FE College provision is as flexible as that of ITP’s. The temptation for some has been to cover everything an employer may require, however, we are starting to see the creation of specialisms across many colleges. Some are linked to key sites, like our own Culinary Apprenticeships on our Victoria site for Westminster Kingsway College, and Rail Engineering Apprenticeships at our Enfield site for CONEL. However, colleges have also evolved their provision to include much more blended learning and increasing the geographical boundaries for their provision. An excellent example of this is the Grant Thornton Leadership Academy with Activate Learning – employers and FE colleges working together on a national provision which is fit for purpose.

What we haven’t cracked yet, is working as a collegiate group, to improve Apprenticeships and to promote the positive impact and outcomes.

It is time to shout about what we do and drown out the negative and the naysayers with the numerous examples of where good quality apprenticeship provision has changed individual lives.

We need to remember to value our education, not to take for granted the reasons for the quality of provision.

Islington photography competition awards

On Wednesday 22 May, City and Islington College students were presented with awards for their contributions to the ‘One Last Thing’ photography competition, an external event aimed at changing the narrative around death.

Organisers Gentle Dusk ran the competition in conjunction with Age UK, with funding from Islington Council as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week. The weeklong event is arranged by Hospice UK to take place annually in May, and invites people aged 16-19 living, studying or working in Islington to participate. A number of City and Islington College students made winning entries, preparing photographs inspired by the theme of death.

Amel Boukabous, Level 3 Health and Social Care student at the Centre for Health, Social Care and Childcare, won the People’s Choice award for the photograph that proved the most popular with the public. She told us: “Usually I’m good at generating ideas, but at the beginning I was struggling with the concept. I decided to focus on the human senses as they can be the last things we use before death. Small things like holding hands can be a lasting memory for many, especially those unable to use their other senses.

“My grandfather was leaving for Bangladesh at the beginning of May. He is old and has early stages of dementia. I don’t know when I’ll see him next because life is unpredictable. I asked him and my mum to hold hands so I could capture the sense touch; I wanted to display old and young together.

“Photography has allowed me to freeze moments in time; this allows me to look back and remember the good times, you can’t relive a moment the exact same way, but photos can hold more significant meaning. I’ve been doing photography for about five years now; I started when I lived abroad in Egypt. The country is so diverse in everything — the religions, cultures, scenery and lifestyles. I wanted to capture it all, as well as the memories of my friends I made.”

Several students picked up awards for their submissions, including Merlin Bernardini, 18, winner of the Judge’s Vote in the Young Photographer category: “Death has always been a touchy subject and it bring about emotions when talking about it. Taking part in this project, I became more confident in myself and talking about death.”

Centre Director for the Centre for Business, Arts and Technology Nick Day attended the event, closing the awards ceremony with a frank speech on the importance of talking about death: “I would like to thank Gentle Dusk and Age Concern UK for the wonderful opportunity that this project has given to our students. These are very challenging images dealing with a powerful topic – death. This project is vital, because death is the destination for all of us eventually.

“There’s a key idea in Buddhism that you really need to understand death in order to know how to live. It’s really important, I think, that as young people we can think about it, but also think about it positively. Death is, in its own way, a rite of passage, and something we all ought to consider.”

Dying Matters Awareness Week ran from 13 – 19 May and saw contributions from individuals and organisations all over the UK.

Students attend Islington Town Hall for reading competition

City and Islington College students took part in a Reading Ahead Challenge event on Wednesday 22 May, an initiative organised annually by college centre libraries in tandem with Islington Libraries to promote recreational reading. 

Students who took part in the challenge read six books, poems or articles and completed a reading diary culminating in May with a ceremony at the Islington Town Hall. Participants were presented with a certificate by the Mayor of Islington and entered into a prize draw. 

This year’s ceremony saw an encouraging turnout of students at the Town Hall, including an entire Level 2 Creative Media class from the Centre for Business, Arts and Technology accompanied by tutor Angela Slocumbe. Library team leader Claudio Oyarzun said, “It has been great to see the students enjoying the experience and being proud of their achievement.

“This year the ceremony was particularly nice with a good attendance of proud students who completed the challenge. This a flexible project so students of different levels and age groups can take part in it.”

For the second year running, students were among the prize draw winners, with Centre for Lifelong Learning catering student Hasina Hossain and creative media student Freddy Ray Burton each receiving a Kindle. The college libraries will also be handing out their own certificates and prizes to Reading Ahead participants after half term.

Centre for Lifelong Learning library team leader, Simon Nelson said, “We are delighted that our students across college continue to take part in Reading Ahead through the libraries. The recognition they were given at the Town Hall was thoroughly well deserved for the commitment they have shown.”

‘How to…’ Videos with Our Award-Winning Plumbing Tutor

CONEL’s award-winning plumbing tutor, Paul Oatham, has worked at the college since October 2016. Paul has started using videos as a new and exciting way to teach and engage his students. This not only helps students revise before exams but offers the opportunity to re-watch classes they may have missed or not fully understood.

How to Centre Bend

How to Draw a P13

‘Discipline, not Violence’ – Looking at MMA

There are massive misconceptions and stigmas that surround the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Here at The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London, we challenge these by having an MMA Academy which installs discipline and respect within our students.

Alay Asghar has been in the world of MMA for 11 years, working at CONEL for the last three of those as Head Coach of the MMA Academy.

From competitor to coach, Alay has learnt a lot during his time in the sport. He said: “MMA is a sport which in my opinion instils discipline and character into the individuals who participate. There is a big misconception that MMA is all about promoting violence and fighting however in practice it is actually a great way to help the students channel their aggression within a controlled environment.

“MMA has many disciplines that have a deep-rooted history. Many of these have their own traditions dated hundreds of years based around respect for themselves, their opponent and life in general. I introduce and implement these ideologies amongst my students straight away which I hope will benefit them not only in the classroom but also in the outside world. These traditions consist of bowing, shaking hands and respecting the authority of the coaches and teachers.

“As well as these life skills, MMA is a great form of exercise for people of all abilities and backgrounds offering a unique path to bettering themselves physically and mentally.”

Brandon Wilkins is one of Alay’s top students. During his time at CONEL Brandon has won:

  • Wikf European championship open weight 16-17 years. 
  • Basel open 16-17 years +68kg 
  • English champion 16-17 years -68kg 
  • British champion 16-17 years -68kg 2017 & 2018
  • Central England champion 2017 and 2018 x2 16-17 years -68kg and open weight

Alongside the MMA Academy, Brandon studies Sports Fitness and Coaching which he hopes will assist him in pursuing a career in Karate. 

Brandon Said, “My training has to be very specific for Karate so I mainly focus on that at my own club but the college has helped me build up my fitness in the gym with the equipment that is there.”

Capital City College Group means Business!

Building a business is not rocket science, it’s about having a great idea and seeing it through with integrity.” – Richard Branson

If something is important enough, or you believe something is important enough, even if you are scared, you will keep going.” – Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, and serial entrepreneur.


Every economy needs entrepreneurs. And, as Britain prepares to leave the EU and enter an uncertain world of go-it-alone trade deals, the UK economy is going to need business and entrepreneurship skills – and an entrepreneurial spirit – more than ever before.

According to figures from Virgin StartUp, budding entrepreneurs bring a massive £196 billion boost to the UK economy.  Virgin’s report also says that more than a third of all active enterprises in the UK are start-ups and were launched in the last three years.  It also reveals that UK start-ups employee 3.24 million people nationwide, accounting for 12 per cent of all employment in the country.

As a leading provider of business and enterprise training in London, the Capital City College Group is always looking to stay one step ahead of emerging trends and provide the best possible training to the entrepreneurs of the future.

So, hot on the heels of our successful Maths and English conferences, the Group’s three colleges – City & Islington, the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) and Westminster Kingsway – have recently come together to share ideas and best practice, as well as to help shape the Group’s Business and enterprise course offer.

The conference – held at Westminster Kingsway’s Victoria Centre – was a hit with staff, with 85% of attendees agreeing or strongly agreeing that they learned some practical strategies to help support students with their business, and that they now had the tools to review their strategy to design their Business curriculum.

We’ve also produced a video that neatly summarises the day:

Otis is living his dream at the British Library

Otis Smith is on our Supported Internship programme, for young people with additional educational needs. Otis lives with autism and has other diagnoses too, and, thanks to his hard work and the Supported Internship programme, has been working as a Facilities Assistant in the Alan Turing Institute at the British Library for the last seven months.

Otis has always been open with other students and college staff about his background, and, despite being anxious about returning to education, got involved straight away with enthusiasm in every lesson. He worked hard towards achieving a maths and English qualification, and participated actively in any discussion and group activity. Due to his commitment, his ability to listen and his positive attitude, he quickly became a point of reference for other students and was elected faculty representative.

You can read more about Otis and his journey in this piece, on the Knowledge Quarter website (both the college and the British Library are Knowledge Quarter members).

Our Supported Internship programme is a work-based scheme for people aged 16-25 with Special Educational Needs and/or mental ill-health. Students are based in college 8 hours a week to develop their English, maths and employability skills. They then spend a minimum of 5 hours each week on a work placement where they are assisted by a job coach who supports both them and their employer. Support is tailored to the students’ needs and can range from mentoring to hands-on support.

CANDI students progress to Fashion Futures final

Five City and Islington College students have been listed as finalists for the Fashion Futures Summer School 2019, an opportunity organised by young people’s charity Fashion Awareness Direct (F.A.D).

F.A.D is an educational charity that provides young people with the skills and experience to succeed in the fashion industry. Since 2005, the organisation has run their Fashion Futures programme, helping to “foster key professional skills” ahead of the London Fashion Week final in September.

Alumni of the programme have gone on to work at brands such as Tom Ford, River Island and Fila.

Over the last decade, City and Islington College has built a strong relationship with the charity, many students passing through its programme and going on to success in the industry. CANDI alumni Philip Luu and Clara Clarke Osbourne have since gone on to work for the charity itself. Subject Leader for Textiles at City and Islington, Dionne Sparks, tells us that this year has been extraordinarily successful for the college, however, with a record number of student finalists.

“F.A.D is an incredible, vibrant organisation that offers fantastic opportunities to young people. We have been working with them for years and our students who take part in the Fashion Futures project gain great skills and networking opportunities.

“They grow in confidence, become ambitious in their goals and gain great research, technical, communication and presentation skills. Their experience really complements and enhances their work on the A Level Textiles course at CANDI, and the expertise they gain filters through to other students on our course.”

Nine CANDI students were initially selected for this year’s programme, which ran from January to March and offered 70 talented young Londoners the opportunity to spend their Saturday mornings with F.A.D’s specialist tutors and industry mentors. They spent their weekends learning the fundamentals of fashion, and preparing a portfolio to present to a panel of industry experts, who selected the 20 most promising participants to progress onto the final part of the programme.

The panel chose five CANDI Sixth Form College students to join the other finalists in F.A.D’s Fashion Futures Summer School, where they will now prepare garments for exhibition in September at a professional London Fashion Week catwalk at Fashion Scout.

Creative Director of Fashion Awareness Direct, Joanne Matthews, said of the students: “The students from City & Islington are hard-working and committed – they have been open to new concepts and ideas, and they have developed new fashion industry skills.

“The CANDI students have taken diverse creative approaches to the project brief, HumaNature, and have generated innovative design proposals which reflect their individuality and personal design identities. We’re excited to see the garments they’ll produce for the runway in September.”

Sixth Form Centre students Ana Sofia Rodríguez Fajardo, Mariamawit Hailemichael Teshome, Alicia Vetrano, Maria Joao Fernandes Silva and Allainah Berry are expected to now develop their drafts into complete garments for final presentation at the London Fashion Week.

Balancing college with work at the Francis Crick Institute

You don’t always know what you want to do until you do it. When Fatemeh and Tasnim left education, they couldn’t have foreseen themselves working at the Francis Crick Institute. One year in, they’ve found a home at London’s state-of-the-art research centre.#

Tucked away behind King’s Cross St Pancras station, the Francis Crick Institute blends in with every other uber-modern building touching the clouds across London. But there’s a difference. ‘The Crick’ takes its name from Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. Inside, some 1,500 staff develop cutting edge biomedical research with the intention of better understanding living organisms and tackling the diseases of the day.

Currently employed full-time at the Crick Institute, Fatemeh Abolverdi and Tasnim Ali are on a day release programme, balancing working life with one day per week of further training at City and Islington College.

Fatemeh tells me that she didn’t always intend to take this route. “I went to university in 2011, to study Pharmaceutical Science. Unfortunately I couldn’t finish my course, and started looking for a job in science. All of my experience was in the sciences, but I needed a qualification. Then I found this apprenticeship. I wouldn’t have believed that somewhere like the Crick would have apprenticeship programmes, but they cater for all levels and pathways.”

One year into the Camden Council-organised apprenticeship, Fatemeh has accepted a full-time role in Cell Services and spends one day a week brushing up on her theory at the Centre for Applied Sciences in Angel. “There’s a lot that you learn on the job,” she explains, “but the college has been great in giving us a proper foundation for scientific knowledge. It means we can go into new things with confidence of the basics. Now, staff come to us for training on things like the use of safety equipment because the College has helped us get the essentials right.

“Today, even though our colleagues all have top degrees from top universities, we’re treated as equals on our apprenticeship because we’ve shown we can do the job to the same level.”

We speak about the apprenticeship and how Tasnim how she knew it was the course for her. Not knowing exactly what she wanted after completing her further education elsewhere, the apprenticeship gave Tasnim a chance to feel her way around the sector:

“For me, this was a better option than university. You don’t just learn the theory and get thrown into a job; this option let me earn while learning and gaining experience, which made it possible around other obligations.” But it goes beyond the job. “Getting into that nine-‘til-five routine, learning to talk to different kinds of people, adjusting to different shifts; you find out what kind of person you are and work out how to play to your strengths.

“When I was applying for the apprenticeship, one of the labs I worked in was the fly lab. When I started, I realised how much I enjoyed it, despite how I initially felt about working with flies. You don’t know what you’re going to like just by reading the textbook. You have to go and do it.”

Fatemeh elaborates: “A lot of people go to university because they think that’s the only way, and the name ‘apprenticeship’ gets a bad look. At university I went on a placement and realised that the theory I was learning was totally different to what I wanted to do in the workplace. On this apprenticeship programme, what I learn on my day release at City and Islington College is built around what I’m already doing here day to day. So I know that what I’m learning is relevant and I know that this is something I want to do, because I’m doing it.”

After a tour of the facilities, the pair are keen to tell me about some of the recent work they’ve been doing. “On one occasion,” they explain, “we provided antibodies to a scientist for them to use in a research project. The project had been running for a couple of years and our sample allowed them to finish their work. An awarding body gave them an award worth two to three million pounds. That gave us a good reputation in the Crick; it’s great seeing our work going beyond the office and having an impact we can be proud of.” 

Before heading back to work, Fatemeh and Tasnim take a moment to reflect on their position as women working in what may be considered a traditionally ‘male-dominated’ field. Tasnim tells me there’s no place for discrimination in their experience.

“Whatever background you come from, it doesn’t mean your ability to do the work is any different to anybody else. This is a really hot topic at the moment; we just did a photo-shoot to raise awareness for women going into STEM subjects, and want to encourage people that science is open to everybody. It’s about equality of opportunity.”

The de-stigmatisation of the apprenticeship has done much for people like Fatemeh and Tasnim, looking for a way to up-skill without education becoming an obstacle. On International Women’s Day, Fatemeh worked with Camden’s apprenticeship programme as a role model for young women considering STEM careers. “I said that as a woman, you can go as high as you want to go. If anything, women get more support going into the industry, I think.”

“I don’t think there is a barrier.” Tasnim summed up. “I do think that your hard work pays off. However hard you want to work, that’s what you get out.”

Fatemeh added: “If you want to learn and progress to the next level, your manager will help you find a higher level course with a connection to the Crick. We started as Level 3 apprentices and received a raise within a year. If we want more from our work, we know how to get it. And our manager always asks for our input on things – that helps.

“There is no limit stopping us from getting a higher position.”

Queen's Award for Enterprise