March 2021 - Capital City College Group
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Lawyer Urges Students to Challenge Society On Racism and Sexism

A lawyer has urged CONEL students to challenge society’s views on race and gender after highlighting the barriers she faced as a black, working class woman.

Denise Stephenson shared her journey from growing up on a council estate in Harlesden to becoming a partner in a law firm during a live chat to celebrate International Women’s Day. Under the title ‘Overcoming Despite the Odds’, she shared her story in an online video chat.

Denise worked for Sharpe Pritchard Solicitors for 14 years and has also been employed in planning and legal teams at Royal Mail’s Legal and Compliance Team, Camden and Westminster Councils and at RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP.

She told how her headteacher at school encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer, but the route to law for Denise was a ‘painful process”, where she encountered bullying and racism.

She said: “If you’re from a lower socio-economic background and/or a black woman you will come across a lot of adversity and barriers, so you’re going to have to dig in and find your resilience.”

Denise recalled how on one occasion, whilst she was a partner, a colleague tugged her braided hair extensions and asked if it was rope, and at another time, during a training session of Commissioners, one of the attendees openly asked whether she was a tea lady.

She said: “What happened to me really highlighted the problems that exist within law firms and barristers’ chambers, where they recruit people who are reflective of them, and I just think ‘How is this right?’”

Her experience prompted her to launch her own charity ROK (Reach Out 2 Kids) to support and encourage children and young people from BAME and low-income families, in their career aspirations.

Denise said: “There is a volume of talent out there and companies are missing them, which is part of the reason I set up ROK. I don’t want young people to have to go through the pain I and many people like me, went through just because of where they come from.”

She recalled how when she first attended planning inquiries (equivalent of court proceedings) she was almost always the only black person in the room and while much had changed, there is still a long way to go.

“We have to keep pushing and challenging the order of things and keep standing firm and saying I’m here and I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

Denise concluded by referring to this year’s International Women’s Day theme of Choose to Challenge and urged students to challenge the status quo. She asked them to question why there are not more women in the boardroom and why children from black and low-income families do not get the same opportunities as many of their white peers.

She said: “We can make such a difference, each and every one of us, both men and women, but I think as women we need to be encouraged to do that and have the strength and character to do that, by tapping into our inner selves and believing who we are and what we can do.

City and Islington College to Offer A Levels at CONEL’s Enfield Centre

City and Islington College – one of London’s largest further education colleges – is offering school leavers the opportunity to study A Levels in Enfield this September.

A first for the area, CANDI’s new Sixth Form Hub will be based at the Enfield Centre of its sister college, the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London on Hertford Road.

Students will be able to study A Levels in English Literature, History, Psychology, Sociology, Maths, Chemistry, Biology and Physical Education along with an Extended Project Qualification worth half an A Level.

They will also have the option of studying two A Levels at Enfield and one of 20 other A Levels at CANDI’s Sixth Form College at Angel in central London, timetable permitting. 

Alternatively, they can study for an A Level plus a vocational qualification at Enfield, such as an Engineering Level 3 Extended Diploma – these are worth up to three A Levels and are accepted by many universities for degree courses. Further information about these options will be provided to applicants at interview.

Lessons in Enfield will be taught by highly qualified teaching staff from the Sixth Form College where 100 students from Enfield are currently studying for their A Levels.

CANDI A Level students Nellie Castara and Yanique Edwards, who are both 17 and live in Enfield, said they would have applied to the Hub if it had been available when they left school.

Nellie said: “I am really enjoying all my subjects at CANDI. It’s going really well. The teachers are friendly and very supportive and give me extra help if I’m struggling. If I could have studied with CANDI in Enfield, I would have.”

Yanique added: “I would definitely have taken my A Levels with CANDI in Enfield as its closer to home. The teaching and support I have had from the college has helped me a lot.”

As well as offering its new range of A Level courses, the Enfield Centre boasts superb sports facilities including a floodlit all-weather football pitch, grass pitches, sports hall, fully equipped gym and changing rooms.

It is also home to CONEL’s Football, Martial Arts and Basketball Academies run in partnership with Fulham FC, Spiral Sports and the London School of Basketball, which have produced championship winning teams and medallists in national competitions.

Students at the new CANDI Sixth Form Hub will be able to join these academies and benefit from the sports facilities at Enfield. They will also be able to benefit from both colleges’ enrichment programmes including careers advice, student ambassador scheme, clubs and societies, internships and mentoring opportunities, fundraising campaigns and celebratory events.

Executive Principal Kurt Hintz said: “We are really excited to bring CANDI A Levels to Enfield. Our research told us that many CANDI students who live in Enfield were keen to study at CONEL because of its excellent sports academies, but turned the college down because it did not offer A Levels.

“We’ve been considering this for some time and are delighted that we can now offer CANDI’s excellent A Levels at the CONEL Enfield Centre. Students will have access to the same high-quality teaching and enrichment, and can even split their time between Enfield and Angel to get the best of both centres in the mix of A Levels they choose.”

Father of Five Secured University Place after Returning to College

A dad of five has told how he returned to college to finally fulfil his dream of going to university after giving up education to look after his family.

Karl John-Jules, 35, is studying for a BSc (Hons) Computer Science at the University of East London after completing an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Computing at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

When he left school, Karl enrolled on an IT course at college but did not complete it. By the time he was 18 he had switched courses to study for a sports diploma, during which time his girlfriend gave birth to a baby girl in the summer of 2004.

“When I started the IT course it was always my intention to continue my education at university,” said Karl.

“But my plan to go to university changed dramatically when I felt the responsibility of being a father and having to provide financially for a baby. I managed to complete the sports course after a year of many up and downs when my daughter was born.”

The couple had a second child, another girl, two years later and they continued supporting their young family while on a low income. They later split up but continued to share the financial and emotional responsibility of bring up their two children.

Karl said: “Living away from them was difficult, especially financially because it meant supporting two homes. But I always maintained that even if I am old and grey, I would continue my education one way or another.”

Karl, from Dagenham, met his current partner Sabrina in 2012 after buying his first house with financial support from his parents.

The couple were working for different high street banks and Sabrina already had a child from a previous relationship. They set up home together and had a son of their own two years after getting together and had another child in 2017.

Sabrina was now working for the Financial Ombudsman Service. She decided not to return to work after maternity leave and returned to education. Karl was working in housing at Hackney Council at the time and supported the family during her studies.

Karl proposed to Sabrina while visiting her sister on holiday in Thailand in 2019. One night in Bangkok she asked if he still wanted to pursue his dream of going to university and they began looking at universities and undergraduate courses.

“I was hesitant and very anxious as I was so used to taking care of the bills and going to work, but Sabrina assured me we’d be okay just like we had been when she relied on me,” he said.

Karl discovered he did not have the academic or work requirements to enrol as a mature student on a degree course and so he quit his £30,000 a year council job and applied for the Access to Higher Education Diploma at CONEL – starting his course in 2019. He completed the course and returned to CONEL to study a free short course in cybersecurity alongside his degree in 2020.

He said: “I looked at several courses and although there was a college on my doorstep, CONEL won my heart from the beginning. The college arranged for me to sit the required entry tests around my work hours and from that point on I’ve never looked back.

“The teaching was first class. The tutors would open up the class to debate, which was so important for our learning. It enabled me to embed the knowledge so deep and meant I already knew a lot of the things when I started university.”

Karl is expected to graduate in 2023 and hopes to work in software engineering and development and later become a consultant on cybersecurity.

“I have had many stresses and challenges – kids, mortgage, bills – like everyone else, but I always believed in myself and I am now studying for a degree at university. My only regret is not doing it sooner.”

Access to Higher Education Diploma courses provide adults without traditional qualifications with the skills and knowledge to study at university.

Kalpesh Sagar, Lecturer in ICT, said: “Karl was an excellent student. He was committed to the course and encouraged his peers to do the same. He took on the added responsibility of being his class representative and naturally led groups in project work. It was clear his hard work and dedication would result him achieving high grades, which have earned him a place at university.”

and I am delighted is continuing to do well a university and wish him every success in the future.”

Click here for Access to Higher Education Diploma courses.

Click here to apply for IT and Computing courses.

‘One of a kind’ College Chef Who Taught Jamie Oliver Retires

A chef who taught Jamie Oliver has hung up his apron for the last time after a teaching career spanning nearly three decades. Simon Stocker, 55, has retired from Westminster Kingsway College where he spent more than 27 years training hundreds of aspiring cooks including the TV chef and restauranteur.

He leaves his role as an Advanced Practitioner and Lecturer in Culinary Arts at the college’s Victoria Centre having originally joined WestKing as a part-time lecturer in September 1993.

Simon said: “I’ve enjoyed my years at the college and teaching our wonderful students. I taught Jamie Oliver in his last year at college and my first year of teaching. I feel very proud to have taught him and so many other chefs who have gone on to have fantastic careers.”

Simon had wanted to become a chef from the age of 11. He grew up in a family of publicans and his father was an Army cook during his National Service. His paternal grandparents ran a B&B and café and his step-grandmother on his mother’s side was a cook in Spain.

He studied for a Diploma in Advanced Cookery at Highbury College, Portsmouth, before moving to London in 1985 to work at a French restaurant. He continued training at Westminster College, which became Westminster Kingsway College following a merger in 2000. Over the next decade he carved a career at restaurants, clubs and casinos across London, moving up the ladder from commis chef to chef de partie to head chef, before joining WestKing.

During his time at WestKing, Simon met HRH The Prince of Wales at the college’s centenary celebrations in 2010, led a successful student team at the Culinary Olympics in Germany and travelled with students on trips to explore cuisines in other European countries.

Simon has also been a judge for many cookery competitions and won awards himself including the Craft Guild of Chefs Education Chef of the Year Award in 2009.

He said: “Cookery has changed a lot since I started in 1982. Everything we learnt was very much the French way with nouvelle cuisine very much in vogue. The range of ingredients we have at our disposal now is huge. Young chefs today are so lucky to be able to mix and match different cuisines.”

Simon lives in Surrey with his wife Claire and has two grown-up children. The couple will be moving to Gosport, Hampshire later this month.

He said: “I have been lucky enough to have worked with many fantastic chefs and colleagues throughout my career. I have learnt something from all of them and want to thank everyone who helped and supported me along the way.”

WestKing is part of Capital City College Group, London’s largest college group, and one of the country’s leading colleges in hospitality and culinary arts.

Gary Hunter, Deputy Executive Principal for the Group, said: “Simon is one of a kind, in the true sense of the term. A dual professional, he is both an innovative and engaging teacher plus a talented and knowledgeable chef. He has inspired countless alumni for 27 years and epitomises the values of hard work and dedication to the culinary arts.

“There will be many chefs in the industry today who are indebted to Simon’s mentorship and teaching, and we wish him all the very best in his retirement from teaching and for the future.”

Beware the Acting Talent of March! Drama Students Perform Shakespeare on Twitter

Young actors at Westminster Kingsway College have been performing short video monologues of Shakespeare’s plays on Twitter during lockdown.

Every day throughout March students studying Performing Arts diploma courses are retelling all 37 of the Bard’s plays – doubling up some days to include all of them.

The students are each performing videos of two reduced synopses of a play on the WestKing Arts Twitter page in no more than 280 characters, the maximum number for the social media site.

They have been researching plots to Shakespeare’s plays and coming up with their own scripts and then recording themselves performing them in a character and style of their own choosing.

Asha Perera, 18, from Camden, who gave an abridged version of Henry VI Part I in the style of Lady Whistledown, the unseen, snooping narrator from hit Netflix series Bridgerton.

She said: “The project was exciting and refreshing. Not only did it allow us to use our creative freedom in lockdown, but it also challenged us to look at Shakespeare in a new light.

“I decided that it would be amusing to relay the play from an outsider’s perspective as they observe and sneer at the drama as it unfolds rather than becoming wrapped up in it, which to me resembled the role of Lady Whistledown.

“I chose to write my script in the form of a poem and learnt it by recording myself saying the lines, which gave me time to play around with my character’s body language and become more comfortable with her way of speaking, so I was ready when it came to performing it.

“Before coming to WestKing, my performances were not authentic because of how shy and doubtful I had become when it came to acting, but being around a group of supportive and like-minded actors and friends has helped me rediscover my love of performing.”

Stevie Kerr, 16, from Barnet, decided to tell the story of The Taming of the Shrew through the eyes of Bianca, Baptista’s youngest daughter in the play, and focusing on the sisterly bond with Kate that turns to sibling rivalry and jealousy.

“I had a lot of fun with this project, I’ve always liked Shakespeare so be able to work so closely with some of his work was a great experience,” she said.

“I carried out research into the plays, finding out the synopsis and information about the characters, their purposes and how they were originally played, so I could refer to his work and mine to really honour his intentions when writing my script.

“I finally came up with a script that I was comfortable with and then began rehearsing to find the best technique to portray the character.”

Shakespeare has played a big part in Performing Arts courses at WestKing over the years including performances in parents’ living rooms and at tube stations, as well as a production of The Tempest where some students performed in their native language.

Lecturer in Drama Rob Alexander said: “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to use Shakespeare on our courses and thought this would be a fun and contemporary way to make his plays accessible and exciting for our students and showcase their talents in lockdown.

Shakespeare has played a big part in Performing Arts courses at WestKing over the years including performances in parents’ living rooms and at tube stations, as well as a production of The Tempest where some students performed in their native language.

Lecturer in Drama Rob Alexander said: “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to use Shakespeare on our courses and thought this would be a fun and contemporary way to make his plays accessible and exciting for our students and showcase their talents in lockdown.

“They’ve really impressed me with the way they have each interpreted the Bard’s work and used their creativity to retell his plays in short narratives, and how they have brilliantly brought their characterisations to life in their performances.”

Click here to apply for Performing Arts courses.

Personal Trainer Jumps into New Career as College Tutor

A personal trainer says “it’s never too late” to return to education after being inspired to become a college sport and fitness tutor when her business was forced to close during the pandemic.

Paulina Ungurianu, 39, ran Elite Sports Rehabilitation at The Lansdowne Club, a private members club in Mayfair, for two years before it was hit by the impact of the COVID crisis.

The single mum provided personal training, injury rehabilitation and sports massage once a week at the club while also working as a Physical Activity Co-ordinator at Homerton Hospital in Hackney.

Despite moving much of the business online, she decided to change careers and is now studying for a Professional Graduate Certificate in Education and Training at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

As part of her course, Paulina has been working as a part-time Lecturer in Sport at the college where she has been teaching free short courses in massage, physiology and nutrition.

She said: “Business was good until the pandemic came along and it had to close. However, I was able to teach from home and do personal training and rehabilitation sessions on Zoom to help pay my mortgage and provide a decent lifestyle for my children.”

“I am passionate about sports and wanted to inspire others. I wanted to give something back and share my knowledge by teaching the subject I know best. I love seeing people succeed and improving their lives, and my tutors at CONEL have given me the confidence that I can do it.”

Paulina, who lives in Romford, came to the UK from Romania in 2005 and married three years later. She began studying a fitness instruction course while working as a waitress and pregnant with her son Luca.

In 2011 she had had a second child, Victoria and studied to be a personal trainer and would run fitness sessions in evenings and at weekends while her then husband looked after their children.

Paulina progressed to an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Sport and secured a place at the University of East London and took out a student loan to cover the cost of her studies.

Despite the break-up of her marriage while at university, she went on to gain a first class honours degree in Sports Therapy, and was named Sports Therapy Student of the Year in 2017.

During this time Paulina was still working long shifts and weekends in her role with the NHS and as a Personal Trainer at Aquilla Health and Fitness at The Rembrandt Hotel in South Kensington.

“It was very difficult as I was having to pay my mortgage and for a live-in nanny, and in the final year of my degree my mum moved to the UK to help with looking after my children,” said Paulina.

“There were days when I was only sleeping three hours a night. I knew the hard work and tiredness would not last forever, and when I graduated my family’s life would improve. I wanted to be independent and be able to support my kids financially, take them on nice holidays and be a good role model to them.”

While studying at university, Paulina volunteered to provide sports massage for the London Marathon in 2016 and at the IAAF World Championships and World Para Athletics Championships at the London Stadium in 2017.

She also undertook a work placement as an Assistant Sports Therapist at Hornchurch Football Club.

After graduating, Paulina began volunteering physiotherapy support for the charity Football Aid, which has given her the chance to meet sporting legends including Chelsea and Italy forward Gianfranco Zola.

“I think it’s never too late to return to education and mature students should be encourage and helped to do so, and I would encourage anyone to do the same, even if you’re a mum with kids” said Paulina.

“We often underestimate the power of mentoring and guidance. Just the simple fact that someone believes in you and gives you that chance to prove that you can do it, can make such a difference to your future.

“I am extremely proud of what I have achieved and looking forward to the challenges ahead. I feel fully equipped to cope with whatever comes my way. I hope my story will inspire others and help them achieve their goals. If I can do it, anyone can.”

Click here to apply for Teacher Education courses.

Apply for Sport and Fitness courses.

Performing Arts Student Stars in new BBC Three Comedy

Performing Arts student Pia Somersby drew on her own experience after landing a role in a new BBC Three comedy about a group of teenagers in pupil referral unit. 

The aspiring actor, 20, who is studying at City and Islington College, appeared in the pilot of PRU on 2 March, which has been commissioned for a full series.

Click here to watch Pia Somersby in PRU.

She told BBC Online how she spent time in care and got into trouble at home before being kicked out of school and spending most of her teenage years in a pupil referral unit.

Pupil referral units provide education for children who cannot go to mainstream school.

Pia, who lives in Hackney, said: “My behaviour wasn’t good but I would say I was actually really misunderstood in school. I just feel like no-one understood me and they all just thought I was a problem but no-one was listening to what I was going through.”

She attended Wac Arts College, which provides alternative education for 14-19s through creative arts and mentoring, before joining CANDI to study an HNC Performing Arts.

Pia landed the role of Belle in the sitcom after spotting a casting call on Instagram and was among 200 people who auditioned for parts.

“I kept feeling like I needed to pinch myself, like, ‘Is this really happening?’,” she said.

“All my life I wanted to be an actress and even though there’s been a lot of setbacks, I’m glad I never gave up pursuing acting because that was my outlet for such a long time.”

Click here to read the full interview on BBC Online.

Tim Chaundy, Curriculum Leader for Performing Arts and Music, said: “This is a fantastic moment for Pia. It is a strange but wonderful irony that she was once a troubled teenager in a pupil referral unit herself but has now been able to use it to her advantage and show herself to be a very talented young actor.”

Apply now for Performing Arts courses.

Westminster Kingsway College Students Scoop Jack Petchey Achievement Awards

Six students from Westminster Kingsway College have been named among the recipients of this year’s Jack Petchey Achievement Awards

Each year the Jack Petchey Foundation recognises around 12,000 outstanding young people aged 11-25 from schools, colleges and youth organisations across London and Essex.

Awards were presented to the following students – Savanna McCarthy-Daniel, Nilton Pimenta, Jasmine Duckworth, Marquis Coker, Alianna Bonifacio and Olzan Mustafa

Savanna McCarthy-Daniel

Savanna, 20, from Hackney, impressed with her professionalism and manner while on work placement at Whittington Hospital as part of her Health and Social Care diploma. Her high level of commitment earned her superb feedback from clinicians in every department she worked in who described her as an asset to the hospital.

Nilton Piment

Nilton, 18, from Westminster, is a Student Governor who is taking A Levels in Media Studies, Sociology and Spanish. He was described as an academically gifted student who has worked hard and shown tremendous courage and resolve, along with a real commitment to achieve.

Jasmine Duckworth

Jasmine, 19, from Camden, studied A Levels in Chemistry, Biology and Psychology. She showed herself to be a highly capable student with a mature attitude to her learning and was a positive influence on her peers. Jasmine also received Special Recognition in the STEM Student of the Year Award in the Career Ready Awards 2020 for her outstanding participation in the scheme.

Marquis Coker

Marquis, 18, from Camden, came on leaps and bounds while on a work experience on reception at the college’s King’s Cross Centre, as part of his employability course. He showed himself to be a bubbly, confident individual who was eager to take on more responsibility, offering to help out beyond the requirements of his placement, including at enrolment later in the year.

Alianna Bonifacio

Alianna, 18, from Hammersmith, is studying A Levels in History, Media Studies and Sociology, and hopes to study digital media at university. Described as an exemplary student, she heads up a student newsletter group and recently represented the college at the YoungPOWER Conference where she read a heart-warming poem on the theme of feminism and body image.

Olzan Mustafa

Olzan, 18, from Camden, who is studying for a Creative Media Production diploma, received an award for his hard work, dedication and outstanding work. He was praised for his attendance and passion for games design and animation that has resulted in him producing outstanding work during his studies.

The award ceremony was streamed live on YouTube:

The award ceremony also officially recognised WestKing’s Enrichment Officer Esther Dahan who received a Leader Award from the Jack Petchey Foundation in November.

Each of the award winners was nominated by college staff and their peers with the winners receiving a certificate, badge and a grant of £250 for a college project of their choice.

Congratulating the recipients, Jane Evans, Grant Officer for the Jack Petchey Foundation, said: “Now more than ever we need to take time to celebrate achievement and the hope this brings to us all.

“The hard work and determination the award winners have shown to achieve this award is a credit to them and their school, and we are very proud of each and every one of you. It is so important that we recognise the achievements of our young people and we continue to support and encourage them along the way.”

Nilton and Marquis along with students Orla McLaughlin and Shorif Miah have also been named among the winners in this year’s Camden Youth Awards.

Click here to find out more about student life at WestKing.

A Level Photography Students show Great Resilience in Producing Outstanding Work from Home

Since the Autumn term, Year 12 students at our Sixth Form Centre have worked on their second practical project of the course, putting together a variety of responses to the theme of still life. 

Due to the lockdown, some students were unable to get into the studio to produce their projects and have shown great resilience in producing outstanding work from home. Here we celebrate just a few of the images our learners have developed since last term!

Visual Arts Lecturer Jan Evans shared how ‘The Year 12 students began a skills-building project in December of 2020, exploring the theme of Still Life. Within the project they researched several approaches to the genre, considering traditional modes of representation such as Vanitas through to more contemporary ways of interpreting the theme, looking to find still life in domestic spaces and considering how still life can take on sculptural qualities. Unfortunately, the majority of the shoots were undertaken at home as the January lockdown meant students could no longer access the studio facilities in college. We have been incredibly impressed with the imaginative and resourceful responses the cohort have produced. Each student has worked hard to find creative solutions to the problems working from home can present resulting in a brilliant body of work’.

Below are some of the ‘working from home’ photos taken by our first year A Level photography students. If you want to learn more about the range of skills our learners aquire on the course, find us on Instagram at @candicollegephotography


If you want to learn more about the range of skills our learners aquire on the course, find us on Instagram at @candicollegephotography.

Queen's Award for Enterprise