The SEND Review: Why can’t the Government get it right?

The Government’s SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper and subsequent consultation, published in March 2022, are a missed opportunity for improving SEND and Alternative Provision.

The proposals are quite vague, but the fundamental problem with them is that they are more focused on changing the current system for children, young people and their families.

On the face of it, that may seem like a good idea, but as we see it, the current system is not the problem – it’s how it is implemented that is our main concern.

For example, the Green Paper makes proposals for developing new national standards to ensure improved outcomes and experience for children and young people. However, there is already a clear national SEND framework in place. The problem is local authorities do not fulfil their legal duties in providing the adequate support and assistance required of them. What difference will a new national standard structure make, where many local authorities already struggle to deliver the current one? How will they be held accountable for their failures to prevent thousands of families who are forced to go to tribunal every year?

We have 3,239 (10.8%) students aged 16 plus with SEND, with 600 learners with an education health and care plan (EHCP), and we’re proud of our provision. We work with 35 local authorities, which refer young people with SEND to us. The quality of the EHCPs that we get from local authorities – which are a vital component of their referrals – varies. Some of them are great, while others are less so. So, we know that accountability is key to improving the SEND system. What we need is an accountability framework which will force a change in local authorities. The Green Paper’s acknowledgment of accountability is poor at best – of the 22 questions in the consultation, not one addresses accountability. It also fails to offer ideas for what additional measures need to be put in place to ensure the accountability procedure is sound.

There are a range of ways that local authorities can be measured and held accountable for how they support children and young people with SEND in their areas, but the Government are looking to providers for ideas. Will Quince MP, Minister for Children and Families, has admitted that the Government must improve accountability but urged responders of the consultation to push him further on this and suggest additional approaches.

Clarity and consistency are essential – the SEND system will never work unless all local authorities deliver their legal duty. What we need is a cultural change; from teachers and local authorities to the general public, and that starts with the Government. Attitudes to SEND must change to ensure that there is a universal understanding of the lived experience of people with SEND so that their needs can be properly met.

The Green Paper also proposes a national banding system to education provision and its funding, but the proposal is incomplete and doesn’t go far enough. What about those students with the most complex and multiple needs, how will their requirements fit within a banding system? Care needs to be taken to ensure that any national banding and tariff system is flexible and does not cap support for children and young people with the most complex needs. The name says it all – ‘special educational needs’ – it is special. It is unique. It is individualised. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work.

The Green Paper discusses supported internships. These help SEND students into work and we think they are really valuable, as long as they are properly run and managed. We run fully-funded supported internships with good quality employers (read about supported intern Otis Smith here.), where SEND students get support from a job coach – this is a very good model for employers to follow and would help more SEND students make a successful transition from college to work.

However, not enough people with SEND benefit from a supported internship. Employers can claim £1,000 for taking on an apprentice, but nothing for a supported intern, so, to make supported internships more popular, we think that employers should be similarly rewarded.

The purpose of the SEND system is to ensure that children and young people with SEND are prepared for adulthood, – the Green Paper is too school-centric and as a further education college group this raises significant concern. In the 100-plus page document, only 2 pages mention further education and the preparation of children and young people for adulthood. This is disappointing as the country’s colleges play an important role supporting 16-25-year-olds with SEND and helping many get ready for the world of work.

Further education has long struggled with a lack of funding relative to schools, but they must be given the same backing and investment as schools to ensure they can best meet the needs of all their students, especially those with SEND.

Many further education colleges also run alternative provision, educating school-age children who would otherwise be excluded from school or be in a pupil referral unit. We feel that its focus should be on attempting to understand why a child cannot stay in a mainstream school, rather than managing behaviour which may have been as a result of their SEND needs not being met. We strongly feel that no child should be excluded or moved to alterative provision without first having a full education health and care assessment of their needs and the right provision made for them.

We feel that this would significantly reduce the number of exclusions from school, because those students – with an EHC assessment of their needs – would instead be able to receive the funding and support they need to remain in a mainstream setting. This is a stated aim of the Green Paper.

But as with many elements of current SEND provision, the primary challenge to alternative provision is that the frameworks in place are not being consistently monitored and adhered to. Any new frameworks must be rolled out nationally and supported by a monitoring and measurement regime which holds local authorities and providers to account.

It’s this measurement, monitoring and accountability – and how it is implemented – which hold the key to SEND success. Rather than the Government attempting to cover the cracks of the system, they need to address the root causes of the issues – particularly better monitoring and accountability, and the need for better and earlier intervention. These will only be achieved if local authorities and health care professionals and schools have the necessary knowledge and resources.

Ultimately the Green Paper leaves more questions unanswered than answered. We hope the Government listen to children and young people with SEND and their families, to understand what they need from the system, and not just use these reforms as a way to cut costs and continue to let down those who need it most.

See Capital City College Group’s response to the SEND and Alternative Provisions Green Paper here.

CCCT and CONEL highly commended in Women into Construction awards

Capital City College Training (CCCT) and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) have been highly commended in three Women into Construction awards.

Both education providers were named runners up in the Partners with Purpose Award, for their work running a five-week programme to help women find on and offsite jobs in the industry.

Jasmine Anthony, 39, from Islington, who undertook the Women into Construction programme with CCCT in August 2020 was also highly commended in the Women’s Champion of the Year Award.

Rutuba Zala, Delivery Manager for Adult Education, and Shiv Emmimath, Head of Employability and Trade Union Education, collected the awards on behalf of CCCT and CONEL respectively.

Rutuba said: “We always look to go the extra mile to help people realise their dreams regardless of their background, race or gender. Women into Construction is a perfect example of this, which has helped give many women the opportunity to enter the industry and start new careers.

“This programme enables women, who otherwise would not get the opportunity, to pursue and acquire skill that  set them up for success in an industry where women are still under-represented.

“Women make up just 11 per cent of the construction workforce in the UK, but this number is only set to rise with more women gaining the skills they need to progress in the industry.

“CCCT is a very proud partner of Women into Construction, to help bring about this change.”

Shiv added: “We’re delighted to be highly commended by Women into Construction. At CONEL we’re committed to working with developers and contractors to support women from our communities to get the skills and support they need and help change the face of construction by getting more women into the sector.

“The programmes we’ve delivered for Women into Construction are a fantastic way to help improve women’s job prospects and for employers to find new workers with each programme, aligned to actual job vacancies.

“Women on these programmes are fully supported with skills training and given the opportunity to spend valuable work experience on sites with different employers with a range of vacancies.

“In this way, we have been able to shape our programmes to deliver a positive impact on women going into this sector. We’re very pleased to be recognised for the work we have done.”

The Women into Construction programme includes 15 days’ work-focused training followed by two weeks’ work experience.

This includes five days’ construction-related training leading to a Level 1 Health and Safety Level 1 Diploma and a CSCS card test which they need to pass to work on site. The women also receive support with overcoming barriers to employment, writing CVs and interview skills.

Jasmine began working as an electrician for BW Electrical Contractors after impressing on her placement at a 1,000-home development in Bromley-by-Bow being built by Henry Construction.

At the time, she said: “Working as an electrician was always something I had a passion to do, but I never saw it through until now. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, but the programme gave me the confidence I needed. When I was told I’d got a job, I couldn’t stop smiling. I didn’t think it would happen so quicky.”

Jasmine added that she had been “treated with a lot of respect” by her male colleagues and urged women not to hold back and to join the programme.

The awards were presented at Women into Construction’s Celebration Event attended by 200 guests at Carpenters’ Hall in the City on 15 June.

Women into Construction has now supported more than 1,000 women into jobs.

Find out more about the Women into Construction here.

Apply for Construction and Plumbing courses at CONEL here.

AAT President inspires future accountants to ‘achieve your goals’

Aspiring accountants gained an invaluable insight into the career of the President of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and the benefits of joining the industry body.

Heather Hill shared her experience of working in the sector and her role at AAT with students and apprentices at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

AAT is the leading professional membership body for accounting technicians with 125,000 members and students worldwide. AAT is also an awarding organisation that is recognised globally as being the gold standard for anyone wanting to gain technical accounting skills.

Heather studied for BTEC National Certificate in Business and Finance and then an AAT Level 4 qualification while working in local government finance, which allowed her to gain full AAT membership.

She said: “It wasn’t easy at times. I was grateful for the support of my tutors who dedicated their time and effort to ensure I understood and learned the syllabus, as I know your tutors do for you.”

Heather later moved to Wiltshire and set up her own accountancy practice, which she ran for 24 years providing services to sole traders, companies, partnerships, charities and other organisations.

During this time, she studied for her Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) qualifications to expand the services she could offer her clients.

Heather, who has been a member of the AAT for more than 30 years, joined her local branch of the association and is now a Fellow member of both the AAT and ATT.

Joining the AAT branch gave her the opportunity to network, share experiences and gain experience from other like-minded professionals while continuing to develop her skills.

“Branch meetings provide opportunities to learn about other areas you may want to specialise in and to receive valuable continuing professional development to update our existing knowledge and skills. They also enable you to receive support from others who have already developed their careers further, such as attaining chartered accountant status,” she said.

Heather, who was previously chair of the Swindon branch, joined AAT Council in 2016, and is now Chair of the Council and is a member of the Management Board, Nominations and Governance Board and Remuneration Board. She was elected Vice President of AAT in September 2020 and became President of AAT a year later.

She said: “AAT is working hard to create an inclusive community, to help people to get a start in our great profession, and to then support them throughout their career. I hope you will progress your studies and become a member of AAT.

“AAT is not just a valuable qualification, it is a community of people who support one another and who share the same ethos.”

Wishing students and apprentices good luck with their studies, Heather added: “Don’t regard setbacks as failures, they are all learning opportunities and building blocks to a better future.  Believe in yourself and you will achieve your goals.”

Business students capitalise on private equity firm Primera visit

Business students at CONEL invested in their future when they visited global private equity firm Primera.

The group, who are studying for a Business Level 3 Diploma, were given an insight into business and investment at the company’s UK office in Pall Mall.

They heard about the growth of the private equity market, how Primera operates, the markets it invests in and how it makes decisions on acquisitions, while also learning about fund management and investor relations.

The students also took part in a practical workshop where they had to look at the performance of three different businesses and decide which company to buy.

Employees at the company then shared their career journeys and took questions from the students on career choices and gave them advice and guidance.

The visit was arranged by Career Ready, a charity which works with educators and employers to prepare young people for work and help them fulfil their potential.

Apply for a Business course

Kareen Lawrence, Regional Account Manager at AAT, also shared more about how becoming an AAT member demonstrates a commitment to exceptionally high standards and ethics in accounting, as well as CPD opportunities available for AAT qualified bookkeepers and members.

This included using the AAT’s Knowledge Hub to keep updated on the sector including articles, podcasts and webinars, as well as it’s e-learning platform, employability advice and other events.

Riccardo Maserati, 22, and Leah Hughes, 23, have both completed an Accounting Level 3 Apprenticeship with CONEL this year and are looking to continue their studies.

Riccardo, who is taking his apprenticeship with The Scout Association, said: “I enjoy the managerial side of accounting like how to make more profit and how to cut your cost them kind of things. After my level three I will look to do my ACCA to try and get involved more in manager accounting but apart from that I’m quite open with my future.

“Meeting and hearing from a senior face behind the AAT was really inspiring. I’m going to use the AAT website a bit more to my advantage for my next exams.”

Leah, who is training at recruitment firm NP Group, said: “I learnt a lot more about the AAT’s networking events and the resources on their website, which will help with my further studies and to eventually become a chartered accountant.

“I started my apprenticeship because I needed to work. It was the perfect opportunity to earn money and get a qualification. The college helped prepare me for my interview and I’ve really liked the teachers I’ve had. They take the time to explain everything really well and are always there if I needed any advice.”

CONEL’s Accounting courses and apprenticeships from Levels 2-4 including a 14-week AAT Level 2 Pre-apprenticeship that leads to a full AAT Level 3 Apprenticeship, with apprentices spending four days a week training in a paid job and one day studying.

Jacqueline Dyett, Head of School for Business, Accounting and Travel and Tourism, said: “It was wonderful having Heather visit CONEL and talk to our students and apprentices. It gave them the chance to put a face to the qualification they are studying and hear about Heather’s inspiring journey from similar beginnings to where she is now, as well as hearing about the benefits of the AAT.

“It was a good opportunity for them to realise the significance of the AAT and what lies ahead for them along with giving them that added impetus to keep going as the qualifications get tougher and to get into their future careers.”

If you are good with numbers and problem-solving, a career in accounting could be for you. At CONEL we work with top employers to give you the skills and experience needed to work in this huge sector.

Apply for courses here and apprenticeships here.

CANDI students feature in STEAM special in Islington Tribune

CANDI students feature in STEAM special in Islington Tribune

Students from City and Islington College (CANDI) have shared their views on education in science and engineering in the Islington Tribune and Camden New Journal.

Cheyanne Kusi, Nikolas Vasilev and Ali Girgin appeared in an eight-page special focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) this summer.

They featured in two articles in the pull-out, which was sponsored by MSD, Google, SOAS, SOAS University of London. Camden Council, Camden Learning and Camden STEAM.

Both articles also appeared on the Islington Tribune and Camden New Journal websites.

Cheyanne, 16, who is studying A Level Physics, responded to recent parliamentary debate on why there has been a decline in female students taking the subject.

She said: “I imagine girls are put off the subject because they mostly see white middle-class men as the figureheads of the subject. If you only see people like them doing the subject and not people that look like you, you’re probably less likely to want to do it.”

Her comments were taken from an earlier article on the CANDI website after similar concerns were highlighted to MPs here: ‘We need to be spreading awareness of more female scientists’

Read the Islington Tribune article here: STEAM: Don’t ‘fancy’ science? I’m afraid you couldn’t be any more wrong

Nikolas and Ali, both 18, have just completed an Engineering Level 3 Diploma and are heading to university this September.

They explained why they chose a vocational course as an alternative to A Levels.

Nikolas said: “In a way A Levels are considered more difficult because they are exam-based. With BTECs you have assignments that you can improve on and resubmit them after two weeks. So you can end up with higher grades and still go to the same university as someone who did A Levels.”

Read the Islington Tribune article here: STEAM: BTECs aren’t what you think – they got us on the path to university

Whether you are more suited to A Levels or vocational qualifications or unsure which pathway to take, at CANDI we’ll help you make the right decision to have the best chance of success at university and your chosen career.

Apply now for A Levels here and Engineering courses here.

CONEL students ‘build confidence’ in literacy with Reading Ahead challenge

More than 160 college students, including many whose first language is not English, have successfully achieved this year’s Reading Ahead challenge.

Certificates were presented to students of the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) who completed the challenge set by the Reading Agency to read and review six books.

The Reading Ahead challenge is run through colleges, learning providers, libraries, workplaces and prisons, and reaches around 30,000 people each year. It’s run by the Reading Agency, a national charity that promotes the benefits of reading to children and adults.

Most of the students who took part are studying English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses, while others have been improving their literacy skills on Functional Skills in English courses.

All students who participated were entered into a prize draw to win one of five £25 Tesco vouchers, which were won by Gul Akarcorten, Zaid Emueru, Valentina Vasquez Soto, Gunel Yukselir and Lisa Zangari.

Assistant Principal Hilary Moore presented certificates and prizes to the students at the college’s Learning Resource Centre, whose staff organise the programme each year at CONEL.

Pavla Jonasova, Curriculum Manager for ESOL, said: “Reading Ahead is a great initiative to encourage ESOL learners to read. Many read with their children, and some develop a real passion for reading.

“Our students read a variety of books and sometimes listen to a CD that accompanies the books, so they can hear the correct pronunciation as well as developing their vocabulary and spelling.  Reading is also very good for mental health and students’ wellbeing as it builds their confidence. 

“Each year we encourage all our students to participate and each year we see an increase in the number of students who complete it”.

If English is not your first language, our ESOL courses are ideal for you. We’ll help you learn how to read, write and speak English to improve your education or help you get a job. Apply here.

CANDI students and staff enjoy fun day to celebrate cultural diversity

Students and staff at City and Islington College (CANDI) celebrated their differences when they enjoyed a fun-packed culture day to mark the end of the academic year.

The vibrant and colourful event was suggested by students as part of the college’s You Said, We Did initiative and took place at its Centre for Lifelong Learning in Finsbury Park.

Many students and staff came to college dressed in the traditional costumes of their home countries or cultural background and performed national dances.

They also played games and posed for pictures in a giant photo frame and enjoyed tasty treats including popcorn, cupcakes and fruit kebabs.

The day also included a raffle for Children in Need with 16 prizes up for grabs.

Student Engagement Officer Roz Miah said: “The weather was beautiful, everyone had lots of fun. My special thanks to the students and the members of student services team who supported and helped to create the event.”

CANDI offers a wide programme of enrichment activities throughout the year.

Find out more about Student Life at the college here.

Al Jazeera news producer shares her advice with students on getting into TV news

Students had the chance to question a TV news producer and reporter about careers in broadcast journalism when she visited the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

Michelle Gooden-Jones from Al Jazeera English shared her experience and advice at the college’s Creative, Computing and Media End of Year Show.

Michelle, who has also reported for US media including NBC News, explained how she studied TV journalism at university and did an internship at Al Jazeera, aided by a friend’s mum who was a presenter and introduced her to an executive producer.

She said: “You need to study media or journalism, but you also do need to get yourself out there and telling stories. It’s also about connections as well, so network and make sure people know that you’re interested in working in the industry because then they’re more likely to help you.”

Al Jazeera’s main headquarters are in Doha, Qatar, with Al Jazeera English located at The Shard. The channel broadcasts to 80 million homes in 100 countries and its reporters come from all over the world.

Michelle admitted it can be harder for under-represented groups to find work in the industry but with the right mentors and determination it was possible to succeed.

“As long as you go in there and you’re confident in yourself and you have stories and you do the work, there’s nothing stopping any of you from achieving in news,” she said.

The End of Year Show celebrated the work created by students across the college’s Creative Media, Computing and Music courses, and saw this year’s best performing students presented with mini-Oscar statuettes and certificates of achievement.

CONEL invests in new £30k music recording studio

Students on Music courses at CONEL will be able record and mix their own tracks in a new £30,000 recording studio at the college’s Tottenham Centre this September.

The studio is kitted out with leading industry-standard equipment and features a live recording area, control room, microphones, mixers, synthesizers and digital software.

CONEL runs Music Performance and Production courses from Level 1-3 led by lecturers who have many years’ experience working in the music industry.

Our teachers have worked for major music companies alongside top artistes, been influential on the club scene and recorded music for TV series.

Apply now to start composing and recording your own tracks on one of our music courses.

Apply for a music course

Creative Media Level 1 Diploma student Daniela-Elena Moise, 19, was presented with this year’s award for Best Photographer.

She said: “I’ve enjoyed everything about the course. I’ve taken photos, learnt how to do a promotion and make a documentary, and created layouts for magazines and leaflets. My teachers have been amazing, I’ve never had teachers like this. They’ve really helped me and have made it a lot of fun in class.”

The show featured showreels of students’ work during their studies featuring clips of film trailers, short films and music videos as well as video games, 2D and 3D animations and graphic design.

Toan Phan, Curriculum Manager Computing Creative and Media, inspired students at the show when he shared how he came to the UK as a Vietnamese refugee but later graduated from university despite being dyslexic, before working as a web designer and a teacher at CONEL.

IT Diploma students Mario Busato and Alex Gomeniuk spoke about a project they worked on with an actual client to design a website called Key London Walks providing information on walking tours around north London.

There was also an esports competition where students played computer games against each other with the chance to win a £30 Amazon voucher, which was won by Creative Media Production student Glen Miguel.

Students also posed for photos against a VIP backdrop with various props including a picture frame and silly disguises as a memento of their time at college.

Laila Hassanzadeh, Head of School for Computing, Creative and Media, said: “This academic year students have produced some amazing pieces of work, which has been reflected in their high achievement rates this year.

“The End of Year Show was a wonderful way to showcase their work and celebrate the successes of all our wonderful students.”

If you’re looking to get into the media or IT, CONEL’s courses will give you the knowhow to work in these fast-growing and exciting industries.

Apply now for Digital Media and Creative Computing courses here and ICT and Computing courses here.

CONEL joins forces with Building Heroes to train ex-military personnel for new construction careers

The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) has teamed up with Building Heroes to offer free construction training to former members of the Armed Forces.

Since April, 22 ex-military personnel have completed a five-week course with the college in partnership with the charity and construction giant Regal London.

Building Heroes was established in 2014 and works with the education sector and employers to provide construction skills training and employment support for service leavers, veterans, reservists and their families.

CONEL is providing onsite training for a Construction Skills Level 1 Diploma an a Health and Safety Level 1 Diploma along with training to gain a CSCS card, which they need to be able to work on building sites.

Training is taking place at a Regal London construction site in Clarendon Road, Watford, where a new 25-floor residential development comprising 168 homes is being built.

The first two groups completed their training in May and July, with a third group expected to start in September.

Ade Jerry, 40, joined the Army in 2004 and served for 10 years but left on medical grounds, which included severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I wanted the opportunity to learn new skills and better myself in life. I received full support from the Building Heroes team, which really helped me in finding a new direction,” he said.

“The tutor was fantastic and provided me support in both the theoretical and practical side of the course. The academy provided me some experience working on site and a fresh perspective.

“Both Building Heroes and CONEL helped me with any difficulties I had and helped me create a different perspective within myself. It has left me feeling positive about the future.”

Ross Gordon, 21, left the Army after deciding it was not the right career for him. He turned to Building Heroes having gained some construction experience during his service, building the first NHS Nightingale Hospital during the pandemic.

He said: “The course content enabled me to practice different skills and work out what areas I liked/didn’t. It pushed me in the right direction. I couldn’t have asked for a better tutor and felt fully supported throughout the duration of the course.

“I enjoyed the variation of the course content and the extra extended projects. We were able to see other sites and get some perspective of all the trades we were learning about.”

Both Ade and Ross have both gained contract work with Regal London and are looking at other courses to advance their skills and careers.

Last month, to mark Armed Forces Week from 20-25 June, the most recent group won a Construct a Cake competition, set by Building Heroes, to make a cake out of building materials.

Gary Lee, Curriculum Manager for Construction, Plumbing and Electrical at CONEL, said: “Our Armed Forces do so much for our country, and we felt it only right that we give something back to those who have served in conflict or more recently assisted and provided support during the pandemic.

“Regardless of their starting point and the challenges they have faced, all the ex-services personnel who have signed up have all shared a military attitude and determination to achieve.”

According to Building Heroes, 15,000 people leave the Armed Forces each year, with the percentage of working age veterans expected to increase from 37 per cent in 2016 to 44 per cent in 2028.

The Construction Industry Training board (CITB) has reported 217,000 new workers are needed in the construction industry by 2025 to meet the demand for new housing in the UK.

Brendan Williams, CEO and founder of Building Heroes, said: “Building Heroes is excited to be working with CONEL at our new Regal London onsite training academy in Watford. 

“The college’s flexibility in finding a way to support us and the quality of leadership and tuition has been exceptional, and we’ve received excellent feedback from our first cohort of learners. 

“We look forward to continuing this relationship and looking for innovative and exciting ways to extend this partnership.”

If you are a former member of the Armed Forces interested in how Building Heroes can help you get the skills for a career in construction, you can find out more here.

CONEL also runs Construction courses in brickwork, carpentry, plumbing and electrical installations at its centres in Tottenham and Enfield, and has partnered with leading industry employer Ardmore on the London Welding Academy in Enfield.

Find out more and apply here.

CANDI teacher set to carry the Queen’s Baton and officiate at Commonwealth Games

When former Team GB weightlifter Dyana Altenor received a call inviting her to carry the Queen’s Baton for the Commonwealth Games as part of the Platinum Jubilee, the memories of her career in what was considered a male-dominated sport at the time came flooding back.

Unfortunately, Dyana was judging a weightlifting a competition in Albania and was unable to join the royal celebrations, but to her surprise the opportunity presented itself again when she was invited to carry the baton at Tonbridge Castle in Kent on 7 July ahead of the Games, where she will be officiating in the weightlifting later this month.

Dyana, from Tower Hamlets, is a Lecturer in Public Services at City and Islington College (CANDI), which includes providing fitness training to students looking to get into the Armed Forces, emergency services, security, prison service and other related careers.  It’s not too a far cry from her start in sports development, supporting teams of boys to take part in the London Youth Games.

Determined to prove that she too could excel as a weightlifter, she sought advice from coach George Manners, who represented Great Britain at the 1960 Tokyo Olympics in the light-heavyweight category. After speaking with him, he told her, “Go for it, give it a go.”  

In 1962 and 1966, George had won silver medals at what was then called the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Having the backing of someone who had competed at the highest level was a huge boost and Dyana wanted to emulate George’s success and bring home the medals.

Forty years ago, weightlifting was a predominantly male environment, and any female donning a weightlifting belt was often called a body builder. They were simply not recognised as a weightlifter, let alone a potential Olympic contender. Official forms of female strength sports didn’t come to the fore until powerlifting started in 1978. Women were only allowed to compete at the World Weightlifting Championships for the first time in 1987.

Undeterred, Dyana stepped forward to make her mark in the sport, and prove she was ready for the big stage. At times it was psychologically challenging, and the training was relentless, six days a week, whilst holding down a day job.

When Dyana competed in the Commonwealth Games in 2002, it was the first time women had competed in weightlifting in the Games. Now, 20 years later, she is heading back to officiate in Birmingham where 72 nations will be hoping to take home a clutch of medals.

After Dyana retired from competing she naturally progressed into officiating. Several colleagues, coaches and even the team doctor often suggested she do the training, which takes five years to become an international referee.

Armed with the weapons to succeed, not least her vast experience and knowledge, it was the obvious next step. Her passion, dedication and love of the sport never waned, and she knew her life would always feature weightlifting in one way or another.

“Officiating is incredibly exciting, from the moment you arrive at the venue you can sense the anticipation hanging in the air, and the atmosphere when the crowds get involved is something I will never forget,” she said.

“Each competitor has three attempts at the snatch, and the clean and jerk for each of the weight divisions. If their arms are bent, and not fully locked out, it’s a no-lift.  Any overruling must be decided by a jury to ultimately make the final decision.”

Dyana is looking forward to refereeing in Birmingham later this month, the third Commonwealth Games to be hosted in England following London in 1934 and Manchester in 2002. Team GB have some impressive female talent in the weightlifting, and Dyana is hoping to see the likes of Emily Campbell, Fraer Morrow, Zoe Smith and Deborah Alawode on the podium.

“They’re a young team, but we have Emily leading the pack, I think they will do well for us,” she said.

Being back at the Commonwealth Games will be an emotional occasion for Dyana, a flashback to her first Games in 2002 when she couldn’t quite understand how she had got to that stage. She recalls that she had an overwhelming feeling of doubt – could she do it and was she good enough? She remembers realigning her mindset, telling herself she could do it, she had put in the hours, done the brutal training regime, and deserved to be there.

On being invited to carry the Queen’s Baton, Dyana said: “I was surprised when I received the call. I had been nominated, although the nomination was anonymous, I will never know who put my name forward, but it’s such an honour and I will carry the baton with pride.”

After a couple of challenging years enduring the pandemic, Dyana is ready to snatch the chance to be back in front of the weightlifting stage, doing what she does best.

Dyana is also a proud member of our Public Services lecturing team – helping students learn the skills to secure well-paid jobs in the public services. These are some of society’s most essential roles, including the police, ambulance, paramedics, the fire service, the prison service and the Armed Forces. 

Our courses provide a comprehensive overview of how these services are run, giving you the knowledge and skills needed to work in the sector.

Find out more about Public Services courses and apply here.

Future fashion designer enjoys ‘creative freedom’ at WestKing

Westminster Kingsway College student Bella Morley hopes to become the biggest star in fashion to come out of Croydon since supermodel Kate Moss.

The aspiring designer travels from her home in south London to the college’s King’s Cross Centre every day, where she is studying for a Fashion and Textiles Level 3 Diploma.

Bella, 18, said: “I’ve always been very creative and interested in fashion from a young age. I really like the art and design aspect of it and the course at WestKing really appealed to me.”

Bella explained how one day she will be learning about textile design and printing, and the next she’ll be creating her own fashion collections and gaining the skills to make her own clothes.

“I enjoy fashion illustration and experimenting with different textiles and printing techniques to create imagery, learning different sewing techniques and using lots of different materials,” she said.

“I didn’t know any of these things before. I had an interest in it, but never really went into it in any depth. It was completely alien to me, but now it just comes naturally.”

Bella initially studied A Levels at sixth form but soon realised that she preferred the practical side of a more vocational course.

She said: “The course is more focused on what I want to do and more hands on. At school it’s more about learning by writing about it, but personally I find it easier to learn when I’m doing something.

“The facilities at the college are much better than other places I’ve been. You’re really free to use them as you like, which I’d not really experienced before. I like having that creative freedom.”

While at WestKing, Bella has joined in various activities including an art session at Central St Martins where she will be studying for a BA (Hons) Fashion Communication in September.

“The teaching has been really great. All of my teachers have been lovely and really helpful. I could call them on any day to get help with my work. There’s a lot of guidance and support to develop your ideas,” said Bella.

“I definitely want to do something in the fashion and design industry. I don’t think I could do anything else.”

If you have creative and artistic flair and like Bella maybe want to work in fashion, apply now for our Art, Design and Fashion courses here.