May 2020 - Capital City College Group
Accessibility & Translation

How to Use Online Resources Effectively

By Mike Johnson, director of online tutoring platform PiTutor

Online learning is very new to a lot of you. The closest thing to online learning you usually do is when you accidentally learn something from a meme.

Right now you will be getting bombarded with resources from school and expected to learn independently, but where were the lessons on independent learning when you were actually in school?

So it’s understandable if lots of you and your parents feel like your new way of learning presents its own challenges, but with a few key techniques self-teaching online is definitely possible, and to prove it, here’s a few highly successful and self-taught people who did it before the internet was even a thing:

  • Leonardo Da Vinci – learnt to become a world-class inventor, artist, mathematician and more
  • Albert Einstein – left school early to pursue his own ideas
  • Benjamin Franklin – couldn’t afford school but read everything that came into the printers where he got a job age 12
  • Agatha Christie – learnt independently at home which she says made her more creative, and it clearly worked
  • Thomas Edison – well known for learning from 10,000 failed lightbulb attempts before eventually making one that works
  • Malcolm X – educated himself in a prison library before using his newfound ideas and vocabulary to inspire millions
  • Henry Ford – learnt by experimenting with machinery before inventing the production line to make Ford cars
  • Colonel Sanders – self-taught making awesome fried chicken

Here are a two things I have picked up working as an online tutor for the last couple of years:

  1. Don’t be passive

    When you are using resources such as YouTube videos it’s very easy to just watch and learn. “I’m understanding all the material”, you say to yourself – so you’re learning, right? Well probably not.

    The real world is not like the matrix where you just download information and it is then miraculously in your long term memory ready for use. In reality, if you’re lying in bed watching Maths videos on your phone you might be able to answer some questions immediately after but if someone asked you about the content of that video a week later you might as well have spent your time watching memes because, unless you’re Rainman, the knowledge has just slipped away.

    “Why can’t I have a better memory?”, you might ask yourself in despair. You’ve got a perfectly good memory, you just need a better method!

    What you need to do instead is practice active learning. To do this you need to challenge your brain. Think about it from your memory’s point of view. If you’re just consuming information that you understand then there is no strong signal to your brain that this is something you NEED to remember.

    Your brain takes in a crazy amount of data every day. Every second even. Unless something really stands out, and more importantly, has value for the future, why would your brain bother remembering something?

    What you need to do is perform something active that challenges you to think about the content and signals to your brain that this is something important.

    Here’s a few ways you can do this:
    Don’t just take notes. Instead, pause the video every so often and actually try and summarise your understanding of what you just heard. Most importantly, while you do this you must focus on the meaning of what you’re learning.
    Use mind maps for notes to make connections between different parts of the content. Digital mind maps are better because it’s easy to reorganise as new connections appear to you.
    – Include two different ways of thinking about something – for example, written information and a picture
    Practise questions or create your own
    Start a YouTube channel summarising topics. You will remember more of what you teach and you can help other people so it’s a win-win technique.

2. Too much of a good thing

Online resources are great, but if you consume too much of the same content in one go it is very unlikely you are going to remember it.

It feels really productive to watch a whole series of videos, take active notes and then answer a bunch of past paper questions which by the end you are getting correct 100% of the time to the point it’s becoming easy. If I ask you next week you’re probably not going to remember a whole lot.

“But..” you protest, “isn’t that what you said before? I actively engaged in the content by making notes and thinking about the meaning, and then I answered questions to engage my brain and check that I’ve actually learnt the content. What more do you want from me??!!!”

Fair question. Now you are using all the right techniques – which is great – but that’s still not enough. It’s not your fault though! The way that most educational content is organised simply doesn’t agree with how we know your brain works.

Pretty much every textbook that you’ve ever seen is organised by topic, and within each topic, there is a section with information and then there will be a bunch of similar questions so you can put the knowledge you’ve just read into practice. When you practise a lot of the same questions, your brain will be very good at adapting to the method and replicating it.

The problem here is that this is all happening in your working memory. Your goal is basically to get the things you practise from your temporary ‘holding pen’ – working memory – over to your long term memory. The best way to do this is to spread out your practice over a period of time in much shorter bursts.

So let’s put it all together. First, you need to actively engage with online resources by making notes PROPERLY – in different formats while stopping often to think about meaning to make sure you understand. Now you leave it alone for a little while and then you do some retrieval practise using your own flashcards or online quizzes. Just 25 minutes every so often AT LEAST 3 times is good. If you can do both of these; active learning and retrieval practise, you are taking advantage of two of the most powerful learning methods currently known to science!

Online learning is still new and will take some time to adjust to. Hang in there. There is the inclination to see this all as some force of necessity, rather than an opportunity. As we begin to come out of lockdown, we might see our progress with online learning as the (potential) beginning of a new era for general education.

Mastering these tools now carves out another fork in the road, building on the traditions of old and making use of new technology to expand the limits of academia. It may seem a little overwhelming at the moment, but how we decide to learn from this experience will pave the way for new generations to get the most out of school.

So work hard. Focus on active learning and balanced techniques. Find new ways to learn independently and, above all, try to have a little fun with it.

Managing Stress Effectively: A Short Guide

If one positive is to come out of the lock-down, it will be the extra attention given to mental health issues.

In April, the Department for Health and Social Care pledged a £5m grant for mental health services across the country; the impact of quarantine has been rife and hard-hitting, with a number of medical papers acknowledging the significant strains placed on young people and the disadvantaged.

This week coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual, nationwide project aimed at normalising conversation on difficult topics. We spoke to our excellent wellbeing and support teams and collated some of their resources for managing stress while studying through this difficult period.

The 5-4-3-2-1 game

A method of dealing with anxiety, the 5-4-3-2-1 game is a simple resource for grounding yourself during moments of discomfort:

Describe 5 things you can see right now

Describe 4 things you can feel with your sense of touch right now

Describe 3 things you can hear, or your three favourite sounds

Describe 2 things you can smell around you, or that you like to smell

Describe 1 thing you can taste right now, or that you like to taste

The APPLE method

Anxiety UK have devised a simple way of coping with uncertainty or discomfort with the APPLE mnemonic.

AAcknowledge (the uncertainty, be aware of it, be mindful of it and recognise you can’t do anything about it)

PPause (try not to react like you normally do, remind yourself that it’s just the worrying talking)

PPull back (from the worries)

LLet go (of the thought and/or feeling of the anxiety, imagine it floating away in a cloud)

E Explore (the present moment, shift focus of attention to something else externally e.g. your breathing, on what’s happening around you at that moment using 5-4-3-2-1 etc.)

Use technology the right way!

Our team advises practicing mindfulness with apps such as Headspace, Stop Breathe and Think and Calm.  All offer easy, free ways to take a step back for a few moments. But it’s important not to get too far lost in devices, we are reminded: “Limit how much of the news you are consuming – have a time limit to how much you allow yourself each day to see, hear, watch, etc.”

Blurt it Out also recommend an occasional “digital detox”, advising you take the time to unfollow noisy outlets on social media, fill your timeline with positivity and unsubscribe from unnecessary emails and apps that can leave lifefeeling clogged.

Be sure not to lose all contact with family and friends, though; calling a person you trust just to chat can be an important process for shaking off stress when things get too much.

Find something to do – and do it!

Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

Procrastination affects us all, but there are a number of ways to minimise its power. Often, the stress starts with how we work – rather than what we are doing. Our team recommends breaking down tasks into manageable chunks.

Start your day with a checklist and make the first couple of items really very simple – brush your teeth, or make breakfast. Rather than punishing yourself for not doing work, the goal is to stay motivated by the sense that you’re always moving forward. Then make the steps bigger.

‘Just 5 Minutes’ is a similar technique for making big, abstract tasks feel more manageable. Tell yourself you are going to sit and study for five minutes. At the end of the five minutes, see how you feel. You have already accomplished your objective and may feel happy to extend that by another ten minutes – an easier feat than sitting down and expecting yourself to work indefinitely.

And remember to breathe!

When we are anxious or threatened, our body breathes faster and harder to prepare for danger. By slowing your breathing down, you can tell your body you are safe and able to relax.

Relaxed breathing is both slower and deeper than normal breathing, and starts lower down in the belly.

Sit or lie down comfortably and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose to a count of four, and then breathe out at the same pace. Pay attention and ensure that your breaths are smooth and consistent – especially on the exhale. You may want to practice your breathing a few times a day for up to 10 minutes to get back on track.

If you are studying with us and have any mental health concerns, get in touch with our team at

College Alumni Announce Launch of Debut EP in May 2020

London-based indie rockers Charles & the Big Boys proudly released their first EP, Say What You Want, on 2 May, 2020.

Charlie Raphael-Campbell (vox, guitar, bass, lyrics), Owen Jack Turner (guitar) and Léon Bounds (drums) formed the group while studying at our sixth form centre in Angel.

Leaving in 2019, the band recorded the majority of their first EP, Say What You Want, together in Owen’s living room. Drawing on its punk and garage rock roots, Charlie cites Arctic Monkeys, Nirvana and Courtney Barnett as primary influences.

During the pandemic, many artists have chosen to delay releases or find virtual ways to self-promote. Charlie spoke to us about the decision to publish now, and the impact of the lockdown on the young musicians:

“Léon and I are quarantined together so are doing virtual gigs to keep up the hype following the EP. We decided to release the EP now as we did not want to wait any longer and thought it was a good idea to release while everybody was at home, making it more accessible as most people will be on the internet 24/7.

“The EP had a very DIY approach due to our low funds and it being our first project together. Due to the pandemic getting in the way, all the final mixing and mastering had to be done over the internet. We sent the songs to Distinct Recording, who produced the final product.

She added that, under the circumstances, the band were happy with the final sound, but recognised the limitations imposed by quarantine. Having worked on the songs for several years, Charles & the Big Boys were “itching to get something out” and added that it was “awesome to finally have them come to life with such a talented band.”

She continued: “Owen and Léon both studied Music Technology at A Level, and without those skills and knowledge, the DIY side of home recordings and mixing wouldn’t have been possible! It was a great help to have that head start but also to know what you’re talking about when you’re getting another person in a studio to record and mix your music. They were even able to pass on some knowledge to me, allowing me to record and mix my own music – which got me places at uni to study Music Production.

“That level of knowledge from A Levels always does stay with you.”

Stay up to date with Charles & the Big Boys here.

CCCT train TfL Procurement Manager

Neil Barnes is a Commercial Manager at Transport for London. He had been working in this role for 12 months before being signed up for a Commercial Procurement & Supply – Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship at Capital City College Training.

He recently passed his apprenticeship and, although parts of TfL’s network have shut down due to the Coronavirus lockdown, he is still working full-time at TfL on a number of projects. We connected virtually with him to discuss his role and his apprenticeship.

Neil had previously spent 10 years working in the private sector, for Xerox UK Ltd. Wanting a change in scenery, and a new challenge, Neil joined TfL in 2016 and expanded his potential by taking on the Level 4 Apprenticeship.

The work of procurement and supply chain professionals include the process of procurement, or buying goods and services; however, these roles can be much broader than just procurement, they can extend to a huge range of related commercial activity such as influencing policy, financial analysis, engaging in contract law, and developing strategy to deliver services.

Starting in September 2018, Neil had completed his two-year apprenticeship by January 2020, well ahead of schedule. Neil was part of the first CCCT cohort for this apprenticeship and said: “Studying at college one day a week, with structured learning, was great.  It worked for me, I liked it.

“By studying at CCCT I was able to successfully complete my apprenticeship, achieving distinctions in 4 out of 5 exams. Furthermore I was successful in completing the full apprenticeship in just 16 months. Having been one of the first groups to undertake the new End Point Assessment project and interview stages of the apprenticeship, completion of the apprenticeship within just 16 months feels like a significant achievement, and one I am very proud of.

“Studying out of the King’s Cross Centre, I had access to great facilities, and even better teaching and support staff who were always on hand to help, whether in person, or via email/phone. The staff were extremely experienced and knowledgeable, and held classes in an easy to follow and digestible manner. The support staff similarly were always on hand to offer advice on best practice, Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply membership renewals, exam bookings etc.

“Our class was full of different people, some from TfL, some straight out of school, some from other companies operating in different industries and/or sectors. This meant that the classroom produced lots of differing opinions and viewpoints which you wouldn’t get if you were self-studying. We had a good mix of people.

“Since completing the apprenticeship, I have been able to take on more responsibilities within my role, developing my strategies and the way in which I work, to extract greater value and achieve the targets set by senior management”.

Public Services Lecturer Tackles Mental Health Crisis with after School ‘Life Lessons’

Over the last two months, much has been done to address the growing concern for mental wellbeing across the country.

As early as February, The Lancet published a paper outlining the daunting possibilities of long-term isolation, which  anticipated a rise in the reported cases of post-traumatic stress, confusion and anger. In March, the Department for Health and Social Care pledged £5million to bolstering the leading mental health support charities, officially recognising the strain on vulnerable people.

At City and Islington College, Public Services lecturer Nigel Lewis made an individual pledge to help support his students with a series of ‘life lessons’ videos and activities. The aim, he said, was to “find something to take their minds off the current situation.” We spoke to Mr Lewis about the outcomes of his project and the role of mental health support under the circumstances.

“During a tutorial I asked the students how many could cook, and it appeared that many couldn’t,” he said. “So I set about making a video on how to cook an omelette and a simple loaf of bread with no kneading. The response was fantastic.

“It became apparent that the lockdown was affecting some of the students’ mental health. A day has not passed since lockdown when students haven’t contacted me for support or a chat; [sharing extra lessons] has been a brilliant experience for them and for me, and a crucial link for students to talk about how they feel and to get the support they need, or to be signposted to specialist help organisations.

“Some of my students have lost family members to Covid-19 and being able to talk about their feelings on our support link, which I set up to be available from 8am to midnight, has been important to them. For some, we were the first port of call for support, because we are trusted as their mentors.”

Mr Lewis added that students had, for the first time, requested extra learning time during the Easter holidays. The class of 26 were happy to have something to do outside of term-time, with Mr Lewis publishing a quiz and a series of cooking tutorials through the week.

Public Services student Freddie Cook told the college: “During the lockdown, lessons have continued as usual on Microsoft Teams – which is very useful as we are able to finish the school year and get our assignments done. It’s slightly more difficult not having it taught in person, but we are still good to go and finish the school year on time.”

Mr Lewis noted that the switch to online learning has helped prompt a higher attendance and engagement rate in class. The Public Services lecturer has aimed to make the most of the situation, relating assignments on command and control in the public services to the ongoing circumstances.

At any time, but especially during this time, students are encouraged to speak to their tutors or our mental health team if they have any concerns or worries.

You can find more information on student support at

Our Performing Arts Students Prove that the Show does go on

With no lights and no camera, can there be action? Without a stage to perform on and an audience to receive it, can live performance exist? This is the dilemma facing the performing arts industry across the globe during the Coronavirus pandemic. At WestKing, lecturers are tackling this challenge head on by finding new and experimental ways to allow students to hone their craft whilst in lockdown.

The end of year performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream turned in to a nightmare for Year 2 Performing Arts students when the Coronavirus hit the UK. The perfect location at the Story Garden in central London had been found, and since early January hours of rehearsals had been put in. But with theatres and stages across the UK sitting in the dark, and end of year exams cancelled, it all seemed futile.

Positive that there will be light after lockdown, lecturer Rob Alexander regrouped and found a revolutionary way to allow students to perform. Through the camera lens on laptops and tablets, students are now performing a socially-distanced version of the Shakespeare play from their homes via Zoom. Each day an act is practiced, performed and recorded with the entire play being completed within a week. Once restrictions are lifted, the recorded performances will be edited together by our technicians at WestKing’s Creative Arts Studio to produce one seamless performance.

Student Gabriela Madalina said: “Of course, watching your plans fall away is not a pleasant way to finish college. However, as I thought more about it, there’s nothing new here that an actor shouldn’t be ready for and maybe this is the final challenge college will bring upon us. The online meetings turned out to be the perfect solution and allowed us to continue with the performance. Radio theatre has been around for a long time but somehow it is overshadowed by all the performances meant to impress the eye. Now we get to impress the ear. Sure, it’s not what we were preparing for, but that’s what actors do: we improvise.”

Rob Alexander said: “Like playing an instrument, acting is a skill which has to be practised, and exams being cancelled was no reason to become complacent. In fact, it drove our students to dig deeper and much like a radio performance, learn to perform in isolation. They have had to adapt quickly, for example, getting their timing right and waiting for different cues so there isn’t a lag. This is an experience that they would not have had without the lockdown.”

Our Year 1 students have been working hard too. In conjunction with film and theatre company Broken Hearted Youth, they were set the challenge of writing and performing a monologue which could be unrelated to the lockdown but has the underlying theme of isolation. Artistic Director at Broken Hearted Youth , Michael van der Put said: “For a number of years we have had a rewarding collaboration with Westminster Kingsway College. We were in the early stages of planning a theatrical production around the theme of mental health when the lockdown arrived.

“Luckily for us, being a film and theatre company affords us some flexibility in our approach. In planning what comes next, we’re able to look to Rob and the team to see the adaptations they make in teaching and evaluating their students. This in turn informs our approach to the creation of future work. It’s early days in this period of change, but we know the passion and enthusiasm from both Rob and his students will weather the storm.”

Students have come up trumps with a rich tapestry of stories and will perform and record the final piece from their homes. One student, Nami Olivia, centred her monologue on the faults in the American justice system and racism in the 1920’s – 1950’s. She said: “It is focused on a woman called Aubrey Browne who grew up in downtown Detroit and moved to New Orleans where she got caught up in a murder investigation. Despite the fact she was 17 years old and the evidence was in her favour, she was tried as an adult, found guilty and spent 25 years in jail. The monologue is set the day before she’s due to die by lethal injection and she’s reflecting back on her life.”

Another Year 1 student Alexandra-Stefania Chiran said: “I really enjoyed working on this project I think that it’s really exciting that we get to write our own script from scratch. I’ve been working on a monologue about a girl that is isolating herself from all of her friends and family and everyone is starting to get worried about her. They try and get her to talk to someone about how she feels.”

With Patrick Stewart reading a Shakespeare Sonnet a day on Twitter and the Royal Shakespeare Company enlisting help from the likes of David Tennant with homework, performing artists are very much fighting back. The adaptability at WestKing is the perfect illustration that even though we are locked down, things are very much looking up.

Although the regions also have thriving theatre scenes, London is still the UK’s performing arts hub, as it’s home to West End theatres, TV studios and more. Learn with us and your career options after college include TV and film, radio and theatre in areas such as acting, dance, direction and choreography. Please click here to find out more about studying Performing Arts at Westminster Kingsway College.

We speak exclusively to Tes magazine about Coronavirus and its impact

The COVID-19 virus and lockdown is having a massive impact on everyone’s lives, including how we work and teach, and how our students learn.  In an exclusive interview with Tes, published at the end of last week, our Chief Executive Roy O’Shaughnessy explained how the outbreak has galvanised Capital City College Group to face its financial challenges and how we are tackling the unique teaching and learning challenges presented by the lockdown.

In the interview, Roy talks about the stresses of leading a £130 million-turnover college group and explains why he feels that the Group was well-placed to tackle the impact of coronavirus.

We’ve reproduced part of the interview below. For the whole story, read it in Tes magazine.

Despite Covid-19, budgets are on track, says CCCG boss

In early March, Roy O’Shaughnessy, chief executive of Capital City College Group (CCCG), told Tes that 2020 was going to be the group’s toughest year yet.

That was before the true impact of coronavirus on our education system was fully realised – the fall-out has challenged college leaders and staff across the world in a myriad of ways.

But CCCG had been facing huge challenges for months before the virus outbreak. In December 2019, the college group revealed that it was facing a deficit of almost £10 million, instead of the £750,000 surplus it had originally budgeted for in 2018-19. At the end of February, Ofsted rated the group as “requires improvement”.

Still, O’Shaughnessy told Tes that he wanted the group to break even by 1 August this year. And while that was already a huge undertaking, it has since become one that may seem impossible under the circumstances.

“In March we were pretty sure we could probably end up within £2.6 million of where we needed to be. I’m very pleased to say that even allowing for Covid-19, the business-as-usual budget has stayed absolutely on track,” says O’Shaughnessy.

The impact of coronavirus on colleges

But the group is estimating “up to £2 million” in coronavirus-related costs this year: colleges have lost money due to the closure of the popular campus restaurants and a loss of funding to deliver apprenticeships. This, O’Shaughnessy says, is being tracked separately to the already existing deficit.

When it comes to the original deficit, the group is on track to deliver on the promises made. But the coronavirus costs will only get greater next year, he says.

“Next year, we anticipate about £6 million in lost income directly due to Covid-19 because of the apprenticeships, restaurants, commercial and international,” O’Shaughnessy explains. “We’re not really seeing things being close to normal until January of next year. There will be a gradual feed back in, but probably the international will only come back in a year this summer.

“But even allowing for that £6 million loss, that is not guaranteed by the government or anything like that, it is really on our own heads. We are still predicting to break even next year, which I think is a massive accomplishment of the staff.”

A three-part plan

The college group is planning to tackle these predicted losses much in the same way that it is recovering the current debt: with a three-part plan…

You can read the full story on the Tes website:

Student Chef Benji Cooks Up a Treat for the NHS

“It’s been really busy. We’re in week 8 and so far we’re coming up to our 6000th meal.” Trainee chef Benji Nathan doesn’t like to have nothing to do. When faced with the prospect of no work for weeks or maybe even months because of the UK-wide COVID-19 lockdown, some people might be tempted to kick back a bit and relax.

Not Benji. In addition to his online studies with Westminster Kingsway College, he works for his cousin Adam in his catering business Adam Nathan Catering, preparing delicious dishes for the company’s clients. When the lockdown was announced in March, Adam asked Benji if he could help out more, as Adam wanted to continue creating dishes for any of the firm’s clients who still needed them and to help support the NHS at the same time.

A photo of chef Benji Nathan, who is helping to cook meals for NHS workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

As Benji explains: “A friend of Adam’s works at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Central London. She told us that many of the staff weren’t eating properly, because they are really busy and the canteen is closed now, because of the virus. We thought we could help, so whenever we get an order for our meals from a paying customer, we offer them the chance to spend an extra £10 to ‘donate a meal’ to the hospital. With the help of Richard Delow, who trained to be a chef at Westminster Kingsway College too, we’re averaging 130 meals for the hospital each week, which is all thanks to the generosity of our customers.”

A photo of meals for NHS workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

As well as catering for the company’s customers and the donated NHS meals, Benji also bakes for a north London community organisation called You Donate We Deliver, which provides free meals for NHS workers. Since it was started by a north London mum and her daughter at the end of March, You Donate We Deliver has gone from helping a handful people to feeding thousands of staff in hospitals across north London every day, with the help of a small army of delivery drivers and chefs like Benji, coordinated through six ‘hubs’ across the region.

Benji continues: “When I leave college I want to be a chef. I am studying on the college’s Pastry diploma to expand my knowledge and become a more well-rounded professional. So every week at home with my family, I bake around 150 portions – cakes mostly – for my local You Donate We Deliver hub in Totteridge.  It’s wonderful to be able to do what I love, while helping the NHS at the same time!”

But that isn’t all. As well as baking for NHS staff, and the catering work and NHS meals he prepares with Adam and Richard, Benji also has to keep up his Westminster Kingsway college studies, even while it’s closed. He is in his third year at the college and, before the lockdown, was studying at our Victoria campus full-time. Now working at home or from Adam Nathan Catering’s St Albans kitchen, Benji has been able to continue learning and has enjoyed watching the college’s ‘lockdown’ online Culinary Masterclasses series too. “The other chefs in the kitchen and I have watched the Masterclasses and really enjoyed them. The next Masterclass is with Sarah Mountain [a well-known Pastry Chef] and I’m really looking forward to that!”

As you’d expect, Benji’s Level 3 Patisserie Diploma course has many practical elements, so, although he can’t attend college and practice his craft in the kitchens there, he’s definitely keeping his eye in at home. “I am very busy doing college work, plus all the meals I’m doing with Adam, and baking for You Donate We Deliver. I love it and it’s very rewarding!

“I have also been practicing other baking techniques and learning new skills too. For example, I’ve been learning how to make flowers and things like that out of fondant icing, to decorate cakes. It’s my Grandma’s 95th birthday soon and I’m going to make her a cake and hand-pipe some flowers to go on it.  I hope she likes it.”

Click here to find out more about our unrivalled range of culinary and hospitality courses.

PS: Benji’s Grandma loved her cake!

Student Jessica Tunks Shares her Lockdown Experience

Jessica Tunks is a current student at the City and Islington Sixth Form College. Here she shares her experience of lockdown in the UK so far.

“On 23 March, Boris Johnson made an announcement unlike anything the public had ever heard before. The transition into lockdown was gradual, beginning with reminders about washing our hands, social distancing rules, and people working from home, until eventually we were told we could no longer leave our houses for anything not deemed ‘essential’. Now, the government has announced its plans to begin easing lockdown measures as of 10 May. But what will a world post-lockdown look like? Can we go back to the way things were before? Or has all this time indoors taught us something? It’s definitely taught me a few things.

“I have learnt who the real heroes are. Whilst lockdown has been frustrating, with so many of us bored at home, many of us might eventually look back on the coronavirus outbreak as a period of calm. The same cannot be said for the essential workers that risked their lives everyday to do their jobs. The jobs they had become so used to changed overnight, and came with added risks. It would have been impossible to get through lockdown without refuse collectors, delivery drivers, public transport drivers, postal workers, supermarket servers, teachers supporting vulnerable students and of course the incredible staff in the NHS. The people we needed most were not superheroes, billionaires, or celebrities, they were ordinary, caring people, who stayed at work so we could all stay home. Too many of these people have lost their lives to the virus they were protecting us from, and that is a debt we can’t repay. Healthcare workers (many of whom have been separated from their families) are fighting this virus tirelessly on the frontlines, saying goodbye to more patients, and more colleagues, than they have ever had to before. We should remember their sacrifices, and learn to appreciate them so much more in the future.

“I have learnt to appreciate the people around me so much more. Not only has being apart from everyone for so long shown me how much they really mean to me, but the coronavirus has shown that we can never really know when our last moment with someone will be. I’ve seen countless stories of families losing their loved ones to the virus, having been unable to see or speak to them for weeks. This reminded me that it’s important to let people know they matter to you. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to say goodbye to the ones we love, and though that will always be heartbreaking, it stresses the importance of making the most of every second. So far the coronavirus has claimed 30,615 lives, and this number will continue to increase. But it’s important to remember that these people are not just numbers. The victims of this virus are friends, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Hundreds of thousands of people around the country will be grieving, and they will need to heal. In a time like this, we need each other more than ever, and in order to start recovering, we will all need to reach out to remind people they are loved.

“I have learnt that I am luckier than I ever imagined. Being forced to stay at home, away from friends and family, isn’t pleasant for anyone, but some of us were a lot luckier than others. I have a roof over my head, neither of my parents lost their jobs, I can still access my lessons, and we still have enough food. On top of this, I live in a home free from violence, which wasn’t true for many people around the world. Domestic violence incidents skyrocketed, millions of jobs were lost, thousands of families were left without food, and refugee camps have had to tackle the virus without sufficient shelter, soap, and water. So whilst it’s easy for me to reflect on the positives of lockdown, I can’t do so without acknowledging that for many people, lockdown was always going to be a nightmare. As the world slowly returns to normal, we need to learn from this. The coronavirus outbreak has shown us how vulnerable so many people in this country are, and how we have to support them more. We must ensure that everyone is safe in the future, not just those who can afford to be.

“I have learnt that people still know how to come together. Before the pandemic, the media was prone to portraying a modern world turned cold. People seemed divided, communities seemed fractured, and everyone apparently cared more about their phones than each other. But the heartwarming response so many people have had to the coronavirus outbreak tells us differently. People jumped at the chance to set up mutual aid groups to support the most vulnerable people in their areas, millions are being raised for charity, heroic individuals continue to put in extraordinary efforts to make sure children can eat, and every Thursday at 8pm, the entire country comes together to applaud the NHS for getting us through this. It is evident that we are stronger together, and we cannot forget this sense of unity we have gained. Even as lockdown measures are eased, many vulnerable people will still be living in fear, and need our support. The NHS will still be fighting, and many of the workers will be fighting their own battles with their mental health, as a result of everything they’ve seen. We will get through this, but we will need to keep fighting, keep supporting, and keep loving in order to do so.”

Consulting with Arcadis: a Virtual Masterclass in becoming Career Ready

Students on Westminster Kingsway College’s Career Ready Programme were treated to an online masterclass on 23 April with renowned global design and consultancy firm Arcadis.

The Career Ready Programme is a prestigious year-long employability programme for disadvantaged 16-18 year olds, which prepares them for the world of work and their future success. Together with a network of employers, the programme consists of three main parts: mentoring with an experienced professional; access to a series of employability masterclasses; and a summer internship where they apply their knowledge and get real life work experience.  

Due to the current lockdown, the ‘Live Industry Insight’ masterclass took place virtually via Microsoft Teams with Arcadis’ Management Consultant Laura Reynolds, who covered everything from what a Management Consultant does, to diversity in the sector and why working for Google is perceived so well.

A presentation slide about management consulting

The masterclass proved popular with 25 students taking part. Laura spoke about her career to date, how she became a Management Consultant and why academic qualifications are not the be all and end all to forging your way in the industry.

A presentation slide about management consulting

She also discussed her recent project with a technology client, who were looking to roll out new ways of working and deliver a cutting-edge workspace, to be leaders in their industry. Laura explained that the average cost of a single desk space in London today is roughly £10,000 per year. With a large workforce and space challenges in cities, a more worthwhile use of space is to match it to usage patterns by providing more collaborative and creative spaces. Laura talked through the process of finding innovative solutions to maximise productivity and drive down costs whilst keeping the client company’s ‘fun’ ethos.  

During the masterclass students were highly engaged and posed questions on progression in the sector and tips for success. They really enjoyed the masterclass, with one student commenting: “It was good to know about the different jobs you can do and how your qualifications and also interests can help you stand out and have a successful career.” Another student said, “It was really interesting to hear from someone who has been in a position that we will be in and the decisions they made while there. The thing I’ll take from the event is that she did the degree she loved and then found a job she enjoyed.”

Afterwards Laura told us: “I had a fantastic time hosting the first session for WestKing’s Career Ready’s Virtual Masterclass series. As a management consultant working at Arcadis, I hoped to give the students a flavour of what it is like to work in a fast-paced, client-facing environment for a leading engineering consultancy. I volunteered because I wanted to challenge stereotypes that might exist in students’ minds about what “type of person” a management consultant is. The students were incredibly engaged and responsive, posing challenging questions and displaying to me that they really connected with the essence of what management consulting is and that they had a sincere passion to grow their own careers.”

Carlo Liu, Employability and Progression Lead at WestKing said: “Now more than ever, young people – especially those who are disadvantaged – need to be able to boost their employability and showcase their talents, which is why we are continuing to connect our learners with employers and industry with live activities like this. The Arcadis team were involved in planning the session, to ensure our learners had an interesting and insightful masterclass. It was a great live session!”

Driven by its success, the Employability Team aim to host a masterclass for each curriculum area during the lockdown period, ensuring that as many students as possible can benefit.

If you would like to find out more, please contact our Employability and Progression Lead, Carlo Liu, at

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