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Celebrating our Alumni and Inspiring the Next Generation – one Tweet at a Time

By Gary Hunter, Vice Principal of Westminster Kingsway College

The foodies among you may have noticed something a little different these past three weeks on your Twitter and Facebook feeds. In addition to the usual action videos of chefs and their teams hard at work in the kitchen and the amazing photos of delicious-looking dishes, you may have spotted that we have been running the #WestKingCulinaryWorldCup – a series of public votes on our WestKing Twitter and Facebook pages.

In it, we’ve pitted 16 of our famous culinary alumni, including Sophie Wright, Ben Murphy, Jeff Galvin, Ruth Hansom, Ainsley Harriott and Jamie Oliver, against each other in a series of head-to-head winner-takes-all ‘battles’ – where the public decided who went through to the next round by voting for their favourite former student.  Now after 3 weeks and over 2,500 votes from fans and the public, we have a winner – chef Ben Murphy, the Head Chef at Launceston Place restaurant in Kensington. His prize will be top billing on the Alumni page on our website, not to mention bragging rights over his fellow chefs forever.

It’s supposed to be a bit of lighthearted fun, but looking at the comments and banter on social media, it’s clear that none of the chefs wanted to get knocked out – especially by one of their peers!  For us, regardless of how many votes they got, all our alumni are winners and we’re very grateful to them all for their involvement in the competition.

As well as giving our social media followers and the wider public the chance to have their say, there is a slightly more serious side too. Colleges like Westminster Kingsway train a lot of the country’s hospitality and food service industry workers – not just the relatively small number who end up as head chefs in the finest restaurants and hotels, but people who work as sous chefs, commis chefs, sommeliers, waiters, mixologists, food scientists and in countless other related roles. By raising awareness of the college and showcasing some of our most famous alumni, we also hope that we’ll shine a light on the important role that colleges play in preparing hundreds of young men and women to work in our industry every year.

However, this work is under threat, as government funding cuts bite ever deeper and more and more colleges face financial pressure. Only last month, the Foxholes restaurant at Runshaw College was forced to close for lack of funds – denying their students the chance to gain immensely valuable experience of working and learning in a realistic working environment.

We run two public restaurants and have seen for ourselves the huge difference that working in the kitchens and serving the public at table, has made to our students’ confidence, skills and employability. But the year-on-year cuts to Further Education funding make it extremely difficult for colleges to operate their own restaurants and, while our restaurants are trading well, we fear that Runshaw’s will not be the last college restaurant to close – denying a generation of students the opportunity to work in one and only making it harder for the industry to recruit the trained and work-ready staff that it needs.

So, please spare a thought for your local college which is busy inspiring and training the next generation of young chefs. If you are a chef or a supplier, think about how you could support them – maybe by offering work placements, sponsorship or your expertise. Maybe you could offer to speak to their students about your role and how they could follow in your footsteps. There are a hundred and one ways that you could reach out to your local college and help them to continue their vital work providing new talent for our wonderful industry.

A Guide to Clearing: Planning Ahead for A Level Results Day

We’ve always been told ‘prior preparation prevents poor performance’, so ahead of A Level results day on Thursday 15 August, here are our top tips on preparing for the big day, whatever the outcome.

If you miss the grades you need for university – or have done better than they expected – you may be able to apply for another through UCAS’ Clearing system. Clearing runs through UCAS between July and September, offering students the opportunity to fill vacant spaces at other universities. If you have already applied for a university through UCAS, you may be eligible to apply to others through clearing if you meet UCAS’ basic criteria.


Prior to getting your results, ensure you have a backup option you are happy with. Take the next few weeks to research other universities, campuses and programmes. Note that requirements may be slightly lower for Clearing, as universities are keen to fill spaces.

Research which courses you could see yourself doing well on should you not get your first or second choice options. 83% of students who apply through clearing report themselves to be satisfied with their decision.

Importantly, it will stand in your favour if, on the day, you call universities not sounding like this is a rushed or uninformed decision. Having a good idea of why you are suitable for a particular course will make the interview run much more smoothly and, crucially, make you a more desirable candidate than somebody who hasn’t really thought about their options.

Keep your details together

If you find yourself in the position of applying to universities through clearing on Results Day, come prepared with your UCAS Clearing Number, which you will find on your Track page. Keep a list of phone numbers for universities and call early to ensure you do not miss out on limited spaces.

You have until 22 October to sort everything out, but stand a better chance of getting onto the course you are most interested in if you waste no time phoning up Admissions and getting straight to the interview.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

When you get through to your preferred university, you will likely need to go through a 15-20 minute interview, talking about yourself and your eligibility for the course.

Aside from sharing your details, this is your opportunity to sell yourself as a strong and interesting prospective student. Ahead of results day, form an idea of who you are and what sets you apart: what courses do you like? What are you good at? What work experience have you done? In short—how has your experience so far prepared you for this course?

Own the situation and speak confidently about why you are still well-suited to the life and programme you are applying for.

Feel free to save and share our resource for interview planning ahead of Clearing in August:

Clearing Interview Flowchart

Talk to us

The college has professional careers advisors with one hundred success stories of helping match students with a happy alternative. On Results Day, you’ll find us walking around offering free advice. It’s our job to help you make informed decisions during times like these. Your teachers will also be on hand to offer advice on resits, should that be the best next step.

If you have done your research, called universities and still not found an option that suits you, speak to us in person and we will endeavour to help you find an option that you will be happy taking.

Don’t forget Capital City College Group offers a range of Higher Education qualifications that could be just right for you. Our career-focused courses have lower tuition fees than university and offer highly supportive, expert teaching with small groups and one-to-one support. Take a look here or speak to the college’s careers advisors.

“I want to give back to the country that said ‘you’re scared – come here and be safe.”

Syria-born student Nasrin Trabulsi has just sat her English Literature GCSE at City and Islington College. Having left her troubled country two years ago, Nasrin comes from a media background and hopes to continue working in her sector here in London.

“When you have to learn in a new country and you can’t go back home because of war, you have to feel safe to continue your life. This wasn’t easy for me but when I came to CANDI it was the start of the change of my view from pessimistic to optimistic.”

The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing conflict that has displaced some 6.7 million refugees outside of the country’s borders since 2011. An estimated 500,000 have died as a result of the war. Nasrin left Syria in 2017 with the aim of rekindling a career in journalism, taking the first step to integrate fully into her new community by enrolling on a college course.

The writer is perhaps best known for her work as a presenter on Kuwaiti television, and for her reviews and literature critiques in Arab newspapers”

“I am a Syrian writer. I write newspaper articles and have written four books. Three of them are short stories and one is a book of poetry. When I came here, I had to work on my skills in English because I had to start all over again with a different language. If I want to do the same thing I used to do – with my mother language – I have to have strong basics, a strong floor to stand on. That’s why I am studying here.

“I like London. They never judge you. They never judge my clothes. They never judge my mentality. This city is a real cosmopolitan city that accepts people no matter who they are, where they come from. They just want you to do your job as a part of society. I’ve learnt a lot.

“I was surprised to learn that people have been living in London for as long as ten years and they don’t speak any English words because they’re still stuck in their native communities. If you want a career, if you want to make new friends and grow with the city, the language is the first step. Read the newspaper. Talk to people. Study.

“Language is the beginning of communication, of real exchange between people. Now, I have the ability to offer my Arabic to people who can offer me English. We can transfer and grow our understandings of the world.”

Nasrin studies at the Centre for Lifelong Learning in Finsbury Park. The centre specialises in adult learning with a focus on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Literacy & Numeracy, IT and Teacher Training. With a clear goal in mind, Nasrin states her interest in keeping her academic career going upon the completion of her English GCSE at the centre. 

“I started with a functional skills course and was advised to study English Literature GCSE to develop my creative writing skills in English. I have an amazing teacher. The CANDI environment is very comfortable. Teachers are well-qualified and give lessons with their whole heart. 

“When I pass my GCSE exam, I hope that I can continue classes of English language at Candi because it’s helped me so much. I will go to volunteer in organisations also because I want to give back to the country who said, ‘you’re scared, you have war in your country. Come here and be safe’.”

Centre for Applied Sciences Develop New Sustainability Programme

City and Islington College has announced plans to develop an innovative sustainability plan in collaboration with the Green Schools Project.

The Green Schools Project (GSP) develops environmental programmes in schools, currently working with 250 students and affecting circa 19,000 young people. This will be the first time the organisation has worked directly with a dedicated Further Education institution and presents an exciting opportunity for the college to learn from the GSP’s unique reach.

Starting in October 2019, students at the Centre for Applied Sciences will be able to volunteer to conduct an environmental audit of the college, with the support of an undergraduate studying a relevant degree at a top London University. The aim of the programme will be initially to identify projects deserving of attention across the college – for example, plastic use and recycling, energy efficiency and recycling options.

City and Islington College identified support for the programme following student campaigning across Islington earlier this year. In March, students from the Sixth Form College collected signatures as part of the Friends of the Earth outreach programme to change local attitudes to plastic use. The college has embraced the ethos of its students, since introducing fountains and switching to paper and recycled plastic cups.

Programme leader Lucy Chapman, Lecturer in Dyslexia Support and Inclusive Learning at CAS, said: “The Green Schools Project is an opportunity to develop a culture of enrichment at the centre. Students care about sustainability and there is a lot of research into this across the college, so modelling that into a formal project-orientated programme is the goal.

“Our Animal Management courses already have modules on sustainability, and Engineering has to look at where materials come from and go, so not only is this ethically a nice idea but gives students experience relevant to their studies, too.”

City and Islington College hope to extend the project to other centres across Capital City College Group if the pilot year is deemed a success.

CANDI participates in Somerstown Festival

City and Islington College are happy to announce their involvement in this year’s Somerstown Festival in Camden.

Now celebrating its 21st consecutive year, the Somerstown Festival aims to represent the culture and community of “every country on Earth”, bringing together thousands for a free one day event on Charlton Street, near King’s Cross. This year, the British Library is giving up their Piazza for the festival, making space for three stages across the grounds.

Built around the borough’s famous live music scene, the festival also draws on Camden’s eclectic mix of talents, hosting poetry and comedy stands, street theatre, art, international cuisine and funfair, as well as film screenings and niche markets.

City and Islington College will be appearing alongside its Capital City College Group partner college Westminster Kingsway College, offering free information and advice on Further Education and selling hand-made jewellery. Staff and students will be volunteering to help throughout the day, offering valuable insight into working with young people and adults, and speaking in a public space.

Sara Siddiqui, Lecturer in Childcare at Westminster Kingsway College said: “It’s great to have the collaboration of students from both colleges at this event. Somerstown Festival is a good opportunity for students to see the role of their colleges in the community.

“By talking to members of the public about their courses, students are also able to reflect on why they chose their course; an event like this allows students to verbalise how their college experience fits into their life plans.

“Many students will also be going off to university or into work after the summer, so the Somerstown Festival event is a chance at legacy; it’s the chance for our current cohort to impart and final words of wisdom before leaving the college and going on to bigger things.”

City and Islington College student Naveena Dhera told us: “At City and Islington you get these opportunities to see how different businesses and projects run, and the different roles within them.

“It really helps in making a choice in your future career. I think this is a good chance to share with the community my experience and to help others find these opportunities.”

Students and staff from City and Islington College will be in the Information Area of the festival between 9am and 6pm on Saturday.

CCCG Launch ‘visionnaires’ Programme

It seems that everyone wants to be an entrepreneur these days.  And London is the dominant force in UK entrepreneurship, with over 216,000 new businesses registered in greater London in 2018 – that’s almost one-third of all new startups in the UK. 

Many prospective new business owners need help before and after they start their businesses – practical help with managing their cash flow, the legal pitfalls of running a business, and assistance with applying for affordable finance to get things going, but also help with turning their dream into a reality.  So, Capital City College Group are launching ‘visionnaires’, to inspire more successful start-ups, being specialists in helping new businesses succeed.

Founder and CEO, Pablo Lloyd OBE, talks about visionnaires below:

The visionnaires programme starts by asking budding entrepreneurs a series of key questions about their idea, their commitment and what support they think they need, and then teams them up with a mentor who provides support and guidance. Mentors have a wealth of experience in supporting start-ups and some of them have shared their top tips here:

Arit Eminue – “There are always tasks, related to your goals, you really don’t want to do. Set just two of these tasks to action every day, like brushing your teeth. Small daily action leads to big results.”

Colin Crooks – “Test the market before you start. Research the competition, talk to customers, find out who will really buy and why.”

Sharon Saxton – “Define a purpose, not just a product. Maybe help your customers stay healthy or protect the environment.”

Pablo Lloyd – “Questions are one of the best and cheapest tools. Ask everyone about your idea, product, price, then decide.”

Find out more at the visionnaires website.

CONEL Helps Plan & Run Pan London Youth Day 2019

Almost 70 CONEL students on our Public Services and Media courses have played a key role in the successful running and planning of this year’s Pan London Youth Day at Alexandra Palace, which was held on Thursday 13 June.

Organised by the Metropolitan Police’s Engagement and Inclusion Unit, The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, and Haringey Police & Community Amateur Boxing Club, CONEL students have helped run the event for the past six years.

This year saw the collaboration of Public Services and Media students, supporting on security, catering, media and maintaining a press office. A total of 65 students were responsible for ensuring everything ran smoothly for the attending 5,000 secondary school students.

Handpicked for the role by CONEL Public Services teacher Brendan Berry, the students helping to organise the event ranged from Level 2 to 5, many returning from previous years to take on new responsibilities and sharing their wisdom with younger students.

Brendan Berry added: “The Pan London Youth Day enables our HNC and HND Learners to showcase their skills by working with the Metropolitan Police and other sector professionals to bring a “One Stop Shop” experience to the young people of London every year. The event has matured over the past six years to what it has become today and it is becoming London’s second biggest careers and youth event for school children from schools and Colleges within the M25. 

“Our students work with the Metropolitan Police from the earliest stages of the event, attending the initial meeting to discuss the budget and venue, site set-up and logistics to final delivery. The day itself is demanding, students assist in setting up the exhibitors, welcome visitors, provide lunch for visitors and exhibitors, and ensure the event closes and breakdown all the equipment with the exhibitors. This event enables both courses to consolidate their Event Planning and Continuous Personal Development Units and no other college can claim that their students work on an event such as this to consolidate their portfolio. It’s a huge responsibility, which they meet with maturity and dedication.”

2019 marks the eleventh anniversary of the event, which provides young people with career insight and the opportunity to interact with key figures in the community. Martin Hewitt, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, writes: “Young people have a chance to meet and discuss opportunities that are available academically, culturally, socially and career-wise, in a safe environment, with organisations from the private, public and voluntary sector, as well as the chance to meet people with a history of achievement in their chosen field of work.”

Media Level 2 student Pauleen Lijertwood said: “There are CONEL students from all different levels here, representing the college and what it has to offer Londoners. Today we’ve been promoting the college and courses that are running for all students. We’ve also been promoting our course – media – and its different aspects.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to understand the value of our own course a bit better by promoting it to potential new students. It’s a great lesson in confidence and talking to people, too.

“As a mature student who’s done Level 1 and Level 2 and grown through the college, I’ve found it very inspiring to work with other students at different levels and on different courses. We’ve supported each other and shared skills – I’ve enjoyed myself, and I’m confident that I’m going to build up my portfolio through these opportunities, so I’m happy.”

As well as gaining valuable work experience in event-coordination, planning and delivery, students had the opportunity to explore career options for themselves. Stands included various sections of the Armed Forces and the police, as well as Health and Wellbeing paths and educational advice charities. Students were also able to learn about the work of social enterprise Reach Society, headed by Capital City College Group Governor Dr Dwain A. Neil, OBE. Dr Neil attended the event and said:

“There are a good range of exhibitors here, and if students don’t know what they want to do, it’s good to talk to every single exhibitor, because that will trigger something that they perhaps haven’t thought about yet. I think that’s a real benefit of today. This event has been set up to offer a wide range of opportunities in an environment where students can find the time to think about their futures.”

Tristan Taylor, owner and CEO of Swinley Bike Hub, said: “In our second year supporting the Pan London Youth Day it was fantastic to see the event grow once more with a diverse selection of organisations from the Armed Forces to Sportsable. The reason we are so passionate about supporting this event is that it helps us to engage with colleges around London to encourage those colleges and students that there is a diverse world of opportunity outside of the City of London.

“Swinley Bike Hub is based in a 2,500 acre forest less than an hour from London. Working with Colleges inside London we host pupils in the forest and allow them to experience being outdoors, working together outside the usual working environment and to transfer some skills; the obvious being bike handling, the less obvious is the experiential side which allows students to reflect and think of what is possible. The sessions break down boundaries even within same classes and really brings people together. The Pan London Youth Day allows us to connect again year on year with colleges to add this experiential learning into the curriculum year ahead. Swinley Bike Hub loves attending and the students remembered us this year with our portable pump track so they could all have a go – it is fantastic seeing them ride bikes!”

Adam Latrache, Managing director at SFE Academy added: “The London Youth day offered an opportunity for secondary school learners from London and the Greater London area to get up close to the public services who serve their community so well. Some of the learners in attendance by their own admission had only seen some of the public services on display on the day on TV and YouTube. So the London Youth day would have been their first encounter with them. It was nice to see young adults get inspired when they heard  the stories of heroism from the London Fire brigade or experience what our paramedics do in an emergency situation. 

“SportsAble and Sport, Fitness and Exercise Academy (SFE Academy) were heartened to see so many young adults interested in disability sport. We had queues of people wanting to learn more about Boccia and wheelchair basketball and many got to try it out for themselves! 

“We had many individual conversations from learners to teachers and even some politicians about what we had to offer and our unique role within the community. Helping people with a range of sensory and physical disabilities overcome their difficulties through the medium of sport and our unique educational courses and qualifications. 

“If our aim was to increase awareness of disability and the Power of sport… we certainly achieved our aim.”

WestKing says ‘Thank You’ to employers

Last Thursday 4 July 2019, Westminster Kingsway College’s Kings Cross campus hosted the college’s firstever employability ‘thank you’ event.

WestKing has relationships with in excess of 100 companies including ITNSalesforce, Havas, Property Developers Argent, The Ritz, HarrodsDar Group and FrameStore – the Bafta and Oscar-awarding winning creative studio.

We work with them to provide a wide range of employability support for our students, including work experience, work placements, Internship, mock interviews, assessment centres, support with applications and CVs, and mentoring schemes.

The opportunities our partner companies provide, give students the transferable skills they need for the world of employment, and for many of them, it gives them the vital experience and skills that they need to submit a really strong application and get through employers’ rigorous selection processes to land a good job.

The event started with networking and food and drinks. The delicious food was prepared by students and staff from our School of Hospitality and Culinary arts in Victoria. One of the students, Siobhan Bangura, has recently completed their Professional Chef – Level 1 and is starting Level 2 in September.

Jasbir Sondhi, Director of Learner Experience, opened the speeches by thanking everyone for attending and explaining the importance of work experience and the effect it has on students and their futures. “At Westminster Kingsway, we want to give as many of our learners as possible, the support and opportunities that they need to inspire them to achieve their full potential.”

Toreanna Sumner, Careers and Employability Adviser/T Levels Lead, explained how our partnerships work and introduced Jenny Barber, Director of Careers and Talent at Investment 20/20. Jenny was a vocational course student herself, started her career working in Further Education and believes passionately that Further Education changes people’s lives for the better.

You can hear all the speeches in this video:

The, two students who have participated in our employability programme – Andre Escarigo and Joseph Odukoya – spoke about their amazing experiences at their respective work placements.

“My time at Willmott Dixon was such a great experience that allowed me to build on my confidence and supported my studies in college. I would recommend other employers and students to take part in industrial placements to offer other students like myself this opportunity to learn.” – Joseph Odukoya

This event was a great opportunity for WestKing and the participating students to thank these companies and build relationships that will benefit the colleges’ future students. The event was rounded off with more networking and drinks.

If you want to be part of this amazing programme next year, please contact us. For employers/work experience/placements, contact 

For employers/employability, contact

CANDI bridges gap for home-schooled students with Home Education Hub

City and Islington College has confirmed its plans to go ahead with the Home Education Hub in September 2019. 

The innovative new programme aims to support home-schooling across Islington and beyond in partnership with parents and carers helping young people transition into the mainstream education system, regardless of background, in order to prepare them for post 16 education.

The Home Education Hub is aimed at people between the ages of 14 and 16, and will offer the opportunity to gain the equivalent of five GCSE qualifications for 12 hours per week in college. This will ensure that they meet the entry criteria for the College Level 3 A Level or Vocational provision creating a pathway to university or into work. Students will be able to benefit from the resources of the College specialist centres and expertise of subject-area professionals.

City and Islington College, part of the Capital City College Group, is leading the way locally with this new programme. Fewer than 50 colleges nationally accept home-educated under-16s, and there are fewer than five in the London area. City and Islington College is keenly focused on developing a curriculum offer that meets the needs and aspirations of those in the community it serves.  It will be the first Further Education institution to offer such a programme in the borough.

The college has benefitted from the assistance and support of independent Advisory Teacher Helen Simon. Helen’s experience working with students with special education needs and disability (SEND) informs the project to deliver the highest possible level of care for inbound students of all backgrounds. She told us:

“We were approached by some parents initially asking ‘would we be able to set up a Home Education Hub?’ After a few meetings with senior leaders, the college asked me to run it because I knew one of the parents. We’re still finalising exactly how it will run, but are confident and happy to have backing.

“We expected around thirty people to attend, and were very happy to see a full hall full of people.”

Graduation 2019

On 26 June, the College of Haringey Enfield & North East London hosted their annual Graduation ceremony for adults on Higher Education courses, Access to HE courses and Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships.

The evening saw over 100 learners who had successfully completed their courses and apprenticeships in 2018-19 graduate from the college.

The ceremony took place in the college’s Tottenham Centre and was hosted by Rev Nims Obunge, member of the CONEL Local Advisory Board, with certificates presented by Kurt Hintz, CONEL’s Interim Principal.

The ceremony was opened by two The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London performing arts students Karola Korczewska and Keisha Akinyemi who sang Ben E King’s classic “Stand By Me.”

Karola Korczewska and Keisha Akinyemi

Attendees were then inspired by alumni student Stanislav Ivanov’s story. Stanislav was working 9-5 and wanted to change what he was doing. He re-entered education at CONEL studying on our Computing Access to Higher Education Diploma which he got a distinction in. This allowed Stanislav to progress onto King’s College London University, where now in his third year, he’s planning to be a software engineer.

Stanislav told us: “Without the teachers, I wouldn’t have passed the course and be where I am. I am so grateful.”

Last year Stanislav returned the favour to CONEL and returned to help coach students doing the course he studied while here.

The awards were then presented. Congratulations to all of our Graduates.

Graduate, Magdalena Siwek, who studied PGCE Level 7 teacher training last year, said “Tonight was really good. It was nice to have a ceremony just after we handed in our final work and see all of my class friends so happy. It was a blast.” 

Kurt Hintz presenting award

Interim Principal Kurt Hintz said “Our Graduation Ceremony is one of my favourite nights of the year.

“It is an opportunity to celebrate all the hard work our students have put in and remind ourselves of the impact that education has on our lives.

“I’d like to congratulate all our graduating students for their fantastic achievements and wish them all the best in their future careers.”

Queen's Award for Enterprise