CCCT’s Managing Director Jackie Chapman speaks to Parliamentarians on Apprenticeships in the House of Commons

Jackie Chapman, Managing Director of Capital City College Training (CCCT), spoke at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Apprenticeships meeting in the House of Commons on Tuesday 14 June.

The meeting examined flexible working and apprenticeships, looking at the lessons learnt from remote apprenticeships. Jackie, alongside fellow industry speakers, discussed the challenges that apprenticeships faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how a hybrid model of working has enabled new opportunities for apprentices. She also called on Government to make changes to the Apprenticeship Levy.

What’s an APPG?

All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal, cross-party groups formed by MPs and Members of the House of Lords who share a common interest in a particular policy area, region or country.

Although they are not official parliamentary committees, these groups can be influential because of their non-partisan and cross-party approach to an issue. In addition, the fact that APPG usually have both MPs and Peers in them makes them uniquely representative of both chambers of Parliament.

Parliamentarians interested in the education sector can join a number of APPGs, including for Further Education and Lifelong Learning, Digital Skills, Adult Education, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), and Skills, Careers and Employment, as well as this one – on Apprenticeships.

CCCT is the largest further education apprenticeship provider in London, training more than a fifth of apprentices in the capital. The APPG on Apprenticeships meeting was an excellent opportunity for Jackie to raise the profile of CCCT with MPs and Peers. With over 25 years of experience within the apprenticeships sector, Jackie shared her knowledge with to the APPGs members, giving examples of the effect of the pandemic on apprenticeships and apprentices.

The meeting was chaired by APPG Officer, Lord Alastair Aberdare, who introduced the speakers. In addition to Jackie, the session also heard from Dr Jacqueline Hall, Head of Apprenticeships and Skills, BAE Systems Plc; Sue Parr, Director of Part-time Programme and Work-based Education, Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick; and from the HomeServe Foundation, Michelle Price, Director, and Liz Slee, Research and Public Affairs Specialist.

Jackie spoke of the challenges that CCCT faced at the start of the pandemic and how they worked to overcome them – these included “learning about data poverty for the first time because although we supplied devices [with help from the Department for Education’s donations], we also had to supply broadband or mobile data to a lot of households, particularly for young apprentices – so they could actually use their device.”

CCCT adapted to the needs of the sector during the pandemic, for example in Pharmacy, where the pressures of the pandemic changed the hours and shifts of pharmacists and increased their workload, making it harder for them to support our apprentices.

“What we found is that every industry is different in terms of the pandemic, the impact on apprentices and how we had to adapt” she said.

CCCT had around 100 Pharmacy apprentices working in the NHS during the pandemic, and the programme had to be adapted into bite-sized chunks of learning, with breaks in the programme when the pharmacists’ working hours became too busy. This resulted in some apprentices taking two years to complete a 1-year Level 2 apprenticeship, as COVID-related disruption meant they were only learning for 12 months of those two years.

Mental health and the lack of peer-to-peer support was a particular challenge for our apprentices during the pandemic. Jackie praised the staff who offered to take on pastoral support during evenings and over the weekends and said one of the most frequent compliments she gets from apprentices on completion of their course, is “my assessor was there when I needed them, but there isn’t someone in the workplace who could be there”.

Jackie concluded by calling on the Government to offer greater flexibility for providers by allowing the transfer of the Apprenticeship Levy to the organisation that provides the apprenticeship training (typically a further education college or a private provider), so they can continue to support the apprentice when they change jobs – currently as soon as an apprentice concludes their studies, the provider can no longer support them.

Lord Aberdare, Baroness Garden of Frognal and Baroness Verma asked questions about how apprenticeships can become more accessible to small and medium businesses, whether the Apprenticeship Levy works, and what the Government can do to improve the apprenticeship system. Jackie confidently answered the questions that she was asked and the APPG’s members were very interested in her suggestions.

Capital City College Group is the largest further education apprenticeship provider in London. As well as sharing our views with influential parliamentarians, we also train 22% of all of London’s apprentices. While most of our apprentices are trained by Capital City College Training, our hospitality and culinary apprentices are trained at Westminster Kingsway College’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts in Victoria.

Through CCCT and Westminster Kingsway, we deliver over 1,600 apprenticeships each year, working with well over 500 organisations across a wide range of industries. Find out more about our apprenticeships and training courses and how to apply here.

Our political activity: a round-up

As one of the UK’s largest Further Education (FE) organisations and London’s largest FE college group, it’s important for Capital City College Group to work with politicians, and others in the education sector and in the wider economy. For example, MPs of all parties help shape public opinion and Ministers in Government make decisions that affect the funding of colleges and the lives of our staff and students – so meeting them and explaining to them the important work that we do, and asking them to consider changes to policy, is very valuable.

Over the last six months, we’ve built on the work we started last year – meeting MPs, hosting events and responding to consultations, as well as keeping up with the fast-changing post-16 education activity in Parliament. Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to.

Back in November 2021, during Global Entrepreneurship Week, we hosted an event to celebrate the expansion of our innovative Visionnaires entrepreneurship programme. Visionnaires has already helped over 500 people start new businesses through its free programmes and earlier in 2021, we’d formed a community interest company with United Colleges Group, South Thames Colleges Group and NCG, to bring Visionnaires to eight more colleges around the country.

At the event, our guests heard from Small Business Minister Paul Scully, who said: “Visionnaires has already enabled innovative entrepreneurs to prosper through networking and support. These are initiatives that the Government strongly supports because being able to draw on the experience of others and connect with likeminded people is so invaluable whether businesses are starting up or scaling up. Projects like Visionnaires play a crucial role in complementing the support that’s given by the Government.”

2022 started on a high for us, as in January we were told by the Greater London Authority that the Group had been successful in its bids to run four new Mayor of London Academy Hubs. The Academies will fast-track Londoners into work by giving them the skills they need to drive the capital’s economic recovery from the COVID pandemic. CCCG won £1.5 million to run hubs in Digital, Hospitality, Creative, and Green industries after successful bids to the Mayor’s Academies Programme.

In February, during National Apprenticeships Week we welcomed Skills Minister Alex Burghart MP to our construction and engineering conference at our Westminster Kingsway College’s Victoria Centre. Mr Burghart mingled with employers and apprentices, before making a speech to the group where he spoke of the importance of apprenticeships to the current skills market.

Also during National Apprenticeships Week, the MP for Enfield North, Feryal Clark, visited CONEL’s Enfield Centre, where she had a tour of our facilities and met staff and apprentices on our engineering and construction provision. Feryal thoroughly enjoyed the visit and said: “Apprenticeships can make a real difference to young people’s future, and I’m delighted we have such a great provider with brilliant apprentices here in Enfield North.”

We’re doing a lot of innovative and important work with construction and engineering employers in Enfield and Feryal was very interested in how we are helping her constituents into great careers. She also asked us what she can do to help the Further Education sector in Parliament, and so we hope to continue working with her on this in the future.

February also saw the publication of the Government’s long-awaited Levelling-up White Paper. At the time, our Chief Executive Roy O’Shaughnessy commented on the White Paper’s failure to recognise London’s levelling-up needs. He said: “London is home to around 2.5 million disadvantaged people and a greater proportion of its population are poor than that of any other UK region. For example, some 67 per cent of our students are in the bottom three bands of social deprivation, but not one of the 55 new Education Investment Areas will be in the capital.”

Roy also urged the Government to acknowledge the vital role that FE colleges can play in upskilling the UK’s workforce, and called for the sector to have a sustainable and longer-term funding settlement, to enable colleges to support the Government’s levelling-up plans.

In March, during Food Waste Action Week, Jo Churchill, the Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaption, visited WestKing’s Victoria Centre, where she found out about what the college’s School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts is doing to tackle food waste. At the event – organised by the charity WRAP – our culinary students, led by Culinary Arts Lecturer Vince Kelly, treated the Minister and guests to a menu of delicious food made from some of the most commonly wasted foods in the home. The Minister was delighted with the food and enjoyed talking with our students about their experiences at WestKing.

We have also been busy keeping up with the changes to post-16 qualifications in parliament.

In January we briefed our local MPs on the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, along with other MPs with an interest in education. In the briefing we highlighted important areas of interest for the CCCG and what MPs can do to help. Once parliamentary ping-pong concluded (where the Bill was passed between the House of Commons and the House of Lords until all amendments were agreed to) the Bill received Royal Assent and became the Skills and Post-16 Education Act on the 28April 2022. 

The last six months have also seen significant Government proposals to change the post-16 qualification landscape, so we have responded to the House of Commons Education Committee inquiries into the future of post-16 education and careers information, advice and guidance; as well as a Department for Education (DfE) consultation on review of level 2 and below qualifications.

Our colleges also run a number of access and degree-level courses, and so we responded to several consultations on proposed changes to Higher Education, including changes to student loans through the Lifelong Loan Entitlement and the Higher education policy statement and reform, and Office for Students (OfS) consultations on a new approach to regulating student outcomes and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

The work of analysing these consultations (which often run to over 100 pages each) and then writing our response, is complicated and time-consuming, but it’s important that our voice – and the voices of our students – are heard by those in power.

What next?

We are working with our staff and students on our response to the Government’s consultation on the SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) Green Paper, right support, right place, right time. Some 3,239 students (or 10.8% of our students) have some form of learning difficulty – including 595 who have an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP), meaning that they must have additional support to meet their educational, health and social needs and the proposals in the SEND Green Paper (to change both the SEND and alternative provision systems) will affect them directly.

Throughout the rest of the year, we will continue to engage with our local MPs and other important political figures and keep up to date with parliamentary activity.

If you would like to find out more about our political activity or would like to work with us, please contact Neil Cox, Head of Policy and Communications at neil.cox@capitalccg.ac.uk

City & Guilds recognises Capital City College Group for its ‘high quality’ apprenticeships

Capital City College Group (CCCG) has received an award from City & Guilds for the “high quality and standard” of its apprenticeships.

The awarding body recognised the Group’s success after reviewing the number of apprentices passing their end point assessment (EPA) with Distinction, their feedback and quality of service.

Elizabeth Akinaja, Business Development Manager at City & Guilds, presented a plaque to CCCG when she visited the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) on 18 May.

She said: “We have analysed our EPA data and selected a small cohort of providers that have met these criteria with evidence of volumes of Distinctions and positive learner feedback.

“As a result of the high quality and standard of your apprenticeship provision, we would like to present you with a personalised EPA plaque.”

The majority of CCCG’s apprenticeships are available through Capital City College Training (CCCT), London’s largest apprenticeship provider, training more than fifth of all apprentices in the capital.

The Group offers apprenticeship training in sectors including accounting, business administration, construction, healthcare, hospitality and culinary arts, customer service and facilities management.

Electrical Installations apprentice David Jones, 28, from Haringey, said: “I’m a bit older than most apprentices and I’ve tried a few things in the past including bricklaying, forklift driving, sales and removals. They were enjoyable, but not to the same extent as this.

“I’ve also got two uncles who are electricians and just thought that this kind of work would suit me better. It’s not just physical but involves using your mind as well. You’re also not doing the same thing every day, and that really appealed to me. If there’s a fault, you have to find it, look at the cable routes and how it fits together, and then plan how you’re going to fix it.

“I had a really good supervisor on my first apprenticeship job who helped me with the basics by breaking things down to making it easier to understand, which gave me a good head start. I’ve enjoyed learning not just about the electrical side, but how a building goes up from start to finish.

“I did look at doing a full-time course, but it didn’t fit right and then this opportunity came up and it was good money for an apprenticeship. I think most employers, if they see you’ve done an apprenticeship, it looks better because you’ve got the experience and a qualification to go with it.”

Each year CCCT works with more than 500 organisations to train 1,500 apprentices, as well as offering free short courses and employability skills training to help get people into work.

CCCG Executive Principal Kurt Hintz said: “We are absolutely thrilled that our apprenticeship provision at CCCG has been recognised by City & Guilds, which is a credit to the excellent work of our apprenticeship teams and the fantastic achievements of our apprentices.

“I am enormously proud of our success in delivering such a high standard of apprenticeships at CCCG. I have no doubt that with such incredible commitment from our colleagues, employers and apprentices we will remain London’s number one provider for apprenticeship training.”

Apprenticeships are paid jobs that are open to all ages, which usually comprise four days with an employer and one day of study towards a recognised qualification. They enable you to earn while you learn and gain real work experience in your chosen sector with no student debt.

Find out more about CCCT apprenticeships and training courses and how to apply here.

From royal visits to punk: Celebrating The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at Capital City College Group

To mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee we’ve trawled the Capital City College Group (CCCG) archives to uncover our many connections to Her Majesty at our colleges.

Here’s some royal highlights, memories and trivia from City and Islington College (CANDI), Westminster Kingsway College (WestKing) and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

The Queen visits CANDI’s Centre for Applied Sciences

Pictures courtesy of Islington Tribune.

Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited the college’s Centre for Applied Sciences in 2011. During the visit the Queen unveiled two plaques marking the official opening of the college’s Animal Care Centre and an accreditation by the National Skills Academy Process Industries which recognised the college as a Centre of Excellence for Biotechnology. Her Majesty got up close to some of the animals at the care centre and was given a tour of the college’s forensics, optics and sports science provision, which included a mock crime scene being investigated by students.

In 2007, CANDI received theQueen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for creating Pathways to Employment and Higher Education in the Sciences, the only college at the time to have received this accolade twice. The college previously received the award for widening access and progression to higher education in 1994.

Royal seal of approval for WestKing

WestKing was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for collaboration and innovation in the culinary arts in 2015.

The awards are presented every two years to universities and colleges that have shown excellence in quality and innovation in providing real benefits to the world through education and training.

At the time, then Principal Andy Wilson said: “The award of the prize to Westminster Kingsway College is one of the greatest moments in the college’s long history. It is recognition of many staff, students and employers who have been involved with the college over the years.”

In 2016 a plaque commemorating the award was unveiled at the college’s Victoria Centre.

Queen’s New Year and Birthday Honours

Here are some of our staff and alumni who have been honoured by The Queen over the years:

  • Jamie Oliver – The celebrity chef and restauranteur trained at WestKing and made an MBE in 2003 for services to the hospitality industry.
  • Trevor Nelson – The DJ and radio presenter on BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Radio 2 who attended WestKing, was awarded an MBE in 2002.
  • Timothy Spall – The Bafta-nominated actor, known for his many screen roles including five Harry Potter films, attended WestKing and received an OBE in 2000.
  • Garth Crooks – The former Tottenham Hotspur striker and BBC football pundit studied at CONEL and was awarded an OBE in 1999.
  • Audley Harrison – The British former super-heavyweight boxer and Olympic gold medallist attended CONEL and was awarded an MBE in 2001 
  • Pablo Lloyd – The CEO of Visionnaires, a programme started within CCCG, to help aspiring entrepreneurs start new businesses, was made an OBE in 2019.

God Save The Queen

Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Lydon, better known by his stage name Johnny Rotten, and bassist Sid Vicious, real name John Ritchie, attended WestKing before finding fame with their anti-royal punk anthem God Save The Queen. Released during the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, the song was banned at the time by the BBC and several commercial radio stations.

Actress and former WestKing student Kathy Burke, perhaps best known for her TV appearances on French and Saunders, and Harry Enfield and Chums, appeared briefly in the 1986 biopic Sid and Nancy about Sid Vicious’s turbulent relationship with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. She has also played a queen on the big screen, portraying Mary Tudor in Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett in the title role.

Artist and fashion designer Tony Mott, who also attended WestKing, is also a punk historian famous for his Mott collection, an archive of UK punk rock and political ephemera that includes over 1,000 posters, flyers, and fanzines featuring bands including the Sex Pistols, The Slits and The Damned.

Many congratulations Your Majesty from everyone at CCCG.

Korea-bound students make traditional dalgona cookies seen in Squid Game

Students showed off their cookery skills when they got the chance to make traditional Korean dalgona cookies that featured in the hit Neflix series Squid Game.

The students from colleges across Capital City College Group (CCCG) joined in the team-building activity as part of their preparations ahead of their trip of a lifetime to Korea this June.

Dalgona is a type of honeycomb toffee made of sugar and baking soda, which has been part of Korean culture for more than 50 years.

Business student Joshua Phung, 19, said “I really enjoyed making the dalgona cookies. When I was watching the tutorial, it looked like it was going to be a walk in the park but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. It took a while to get it right, but it was worth it as they looked pretty and tasted great too.”

Thirty students will be embarking on the trip, which has been funded by the Turing Scheme and organised alongside Keimyung College University (KMCU), Kyungbuk College and JEI University.

During the 20-day trip students will take part in Korean language classes and embark on cultural visits while also gaining knowledge about the growth of smart technology and green sectors in the country and the skills they need for the modern workplace.

In February students visited the Korean Cultural Centre UK to learn more about the country and explore the centre’s archive of books and films and try on traditional clothing called hanbok.

Joshua added: “I’ve not had much experience of travelling abroad and I’m really looking forward to the trip and being able to learn and experience more about the Korean culture, which is quite similar to the Vietnamese culture of my parents. I can’t wait to see the scenic views of Seoul and Daegu.”

CCCG comprises City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London, and apprenticeship provider Capital City College Training.

Earlier this month Korean Ambassador to the UK Kim Gunn and delegates from the Korean Embassy joined CCCG CEO Roy O’Shaughnessy for lunch at Westminster Kingsway College.

The college, one of the top colleges in the UK for hospitality and culinary arts, was hosting a Korean Cuisine Menu Week in The Brasserie restaurant at its Victoria Centre, as part of its long-standing partnership with the Korean Cultural Centre UK.

The menu included kimchi pancakes, Korean dumplings, Korean fried chicken, beef bulgogi, samgye-tang, bibimbap and sweet pancakes with Korean rice wine ice cream.

Other guests who attended the lunch included Lee Seung-shin, Consul General at the Korean Embassy, and Dr Jungwoo Lee, Director of the Korean Cultural Centre UK.

Mr Gunn welcomed CCCG’s partnership with the Korean Embassy and said students visiting Korea will discover how it is growing in popularity and becoming a market leader on the world stage.

He said: “Korea is a very dynamic economy and is often used as a testbed for new products especially in electronics and technology. When you want to experience what is going to be realised in 10-20 years then the starting point is Korea.

“Korea is also expanding and building many other connections with other markets in Asia, so it will be very advantageous for UK students to study or partner with companies there. We are so far away, but it is now a globalised world and the possibilities are almost limitless.”

Mr Gunn added that every Korean would like to do business in English and the visit would give Korean students a chance to practice their language skills as the UK looks to Asia post-Brexit.

“It’s an opportunity for both the students in the UK and in Korea to encounter a different culture that will stimulate them and give them a broader perspective, which will be great for them,” he said.

“The students from the UK visiting and experiencing Korea will not regret it, I guarantee it.”

Apply now for courses and apprenticeships at CANDI, WestKing and CONEL.

Capital City College Group launches new Women’s Network

A Women’s Network has been launched by Capital City College Group (CCCG) to promote equality and raise the profile of women across the Group.

The first meeting of the network, chaired by Hilary Moore, Assistant Principal at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London, featured a panel of inspiring women:

The panellists shared how they got to where they are today and discussed their experiences at work and how woman can support each other in the workplace and their advice to other women.

The Women’s Network was set up by CCCG’s Learning and Development Team, which hopes to establish similar groups to inspire colleagues and promote inclusivity.

The event combined an in-person event at Westminster Kingsway College’s Victoria Centre and a live stream on YouTube for those unable to attend.

Watch a recording of the live stream here: CCCG Women’s Network Launch – Panel Discussion

Molly Elliston, Group Learning and Development Business Partner, said: “At CCCG, we’re very proud that our Group Leadership Team is gender-balanced and represents our workforce. We believe is right and important to celebrate our women role models, and recognise we have many inspirational women leaders among our teachers, managers, support staff and students

“We started the Women’s Network in response to feedback from colleagues who told us that they would like more peer-to-peer support across the Group on issues that matter to them. We hope it will give colleagues more opportunities to share their experiences that will lead to an even more inclusive working environment. Our network chairs will also support us in making valuable contributions and important decisions relating to our equality, diversity and inclusion plans.

“We hope that the launch of the Women’s Network will be the first of many more sessions, which will bring us closer together and encourage others to start more networks to do the same.”  

Here are some memorable quotes from the chair and the panellists of the first meeting of the Women’s Network.

Hilary Moore

Chair and Assistant Principal at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

I came from a background where my parents were the first generation going to university. When I was 11, I decided I was going to become a lawyer. When I went to sixth form college, the careers team, which were nowhere near the quality we have across CCCG, said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea, you might get the grades, but you’ve got no contacts and you’re a woman. Why don’t you become a legal secretary?” I went home and told my mum, who said, “Well I’m not having that,” and my father said, “How ridiculous,” in a very broad Yorkshire accent. I carried on and got a law degree and became a lawyer. It’s things like background and support that can make such a difference.

Sarah Veale CBE

Former Head of the Equality and Employment Rights at the TUC

Workplaces are often competitive. Women sometimes get into this mode of thinking I’ve got to be extra good and fit in better than everybody else in order to be in the same place as the men they’re competing with. It’s about building confidence and challenging the parameters you’re working in.

I’ve noticed that if men are in charge of an interviewing process, they tend to use words like assertive and dynamic. It’s all about power, but never valuing softer skills, like someone who can bring people together and who can explore situations and find solutions by working with other people. It’s a question of elevating the sorts of skills that women are often much better than men, which are valuable to the whole entity, and then owning and pushing them up towards the front.

Apinder Sidhu

Diversity and Inclusion Lead at the Education and Training Foundation

I was raised in an area of west London that is predominantly Asian where there is a culture about how you’re perceived as a woman. I left and went to university, but a lot of girls didn’t go and got married because that was the expectation. Luckily my father told us, “You need to do what you need to do, and we’ll talk about marriage later on.”

There’s a dichotomy of what it is like to be a woman growing up with the pressures of culture and community and wanting to listen to your inner voice and do what makes you happy. I’ve had that pressure growing up and going into leadership, looking at how other women did things and what resonates with me. Individuality is really important. It’s not always about being inspiring. When you are genuine and authentic people look up to you.

Emma Case

Founder of Women Beyond the Box, a platform supporting neurodivergent women

There is a quote that says, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ and I think that is so important. Representation matters, and we often take it for granted. I currently live in Lisbon, Portugal, and I’ve noticed on television there are very few women, and very few black and brown women. I just wonder what that does to young children because we don’t aspire beyond what we’re told we can be. It isn’t just the verbal, it’s the visual impact, and that is the challenge. It is about intervention and being intentional and making sure everybody sees and experiences something that they can relate to.

Fathia Abiola-Ajishafe

A-Level student and member of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee at City and Islington College

Being a black girl from a less well-off area in London makes me feel like I’m not going to have as many opportunities or experiences as someone who grew up in a richer area. But what I do know is that no matter what or where you come from, you can do it. We may not have as many resources or experiences, but there is always a way to get somewhere. That’s what really keeps me going.

Next stop happiness! All aboard for better mental health and wellbeing

Students jumped on board a big yellow American school bus during a week of activities to improve their mental health and wellbeing ahead of their exams.

The bus from the Zen Project arrived at Westminster Kingsway College, as colleges across Capital City College Group marked Mental Health Awareness Week from 9-15 May.

According to the charity Mental Health UK, which is behind the annual awareness week, one in four people in the UK has experienced a mental health problem.

The Zen Project has converted the bus into a mobile studio where students could participate in breathing and meditation exercises and other relaxation techniques.

WestKing student Muhaned Nouman, 21, said: “The exams are now very near and I’m starting to feel a bit anxious. You study for the whole year and you’re scared that it could all be written-off in one paper and you won’t get the grades you deserve.

“Today has been really good at helping us all get away from that pressure. The breathing exercises on the bus made me feel very relaxed and have taken some of my worries away. My mind is a lot clearer and focused. I feel a lot more positive now.”

Students also took part in ‘Talk and Chill’ sessions, that included therapeutic workshops hosted by qualified psychotherapists and tips for managing exam stress.

Other workshops were run by Catch22, which provides practical and emotional support to young people and their families, and online mental health company Kooth.

WestKing music students performed live at the event, which also provided students with information about support available at the college.

City and Islington College (CANDI) ran sessions, around this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme of loneliness and the college held workshops for their students on exam stress, social anxiety and emotional resilience.

Students also took part in mindfulness activities including kindness rock making, and writing and designing colourful messages, which were then tied to trees to inspire their peers.

There was also a ‘Chat and Chillax’, ‘OK 2 Talk’, motivation, creative, meditation and safe space drop-in session and various physical activities including football, canoeing, box-fit and yoga.

CANDI student Rebecca Lynch, 16, recalled how her mental health had deteriorated during lockdown, making her feel alone and unable to share how she was feeling with family and friends.

She said: “I felt down and not in good place. I couldn’t even go out to clear my head. I was also home-schooled and didn’t have many friends and often felt left out because they all went to the same school.

“I’ve got exams coming up but I’m not stressing out as I used to, because at the end of the day they don’t define who you are as a person. Failing an exam is not the end of your life, you can always come back from that. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, it’s just not as big a deal as it’s made out to be.

“The college has facilities to help you. Whether you use them or not, they’re always there. I feel they really do put students first and that mental health is top priority over academic success.”

Students at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) took part in mental health workshops at the college run by Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust.

The college regularly runs these workshops, with more than 300 students participating so far this year.

CONEL student Cameron Barrall, 16, said: “Growing up it’s not seen as normal for boys and men to open up about their feelings and suffer in silence, and when you do people are like ‘Get over it, get a grip, cheer up,’ but saying things like that just makes it worse.

“If I’m struggling with something, I just go out and want to be by myself and don’t feel like I need anyone around me, but sometimes that is more difficult and it can help to talk to a family member or someone close to you who you can trust.”

I started my own mindfulness business after battling depression’

CONEL student Amaya Agdomar, 45, started her own business Sacr3d Butt3rfly after facing her own mental health battle with anxiety and depression. She organises mindfulness walks and activities in Epping Forest to lift people’s spirits through an appreciation of nature. The threes in Sacr3d Butt3rfly refer to mind, body and spirit.

“There were times when if the NHS hadn’t been there I would found life very difficult. They helped me through and because of that I wanted to start a business helping people who’ve been in my situation in a place with people who care. I was going into Epping Forest myself and feeling all the benefits that have helped with my recovery.”

Nearly 300 students at CONEL have also taken part in Soft Skills For Wellbeing workshops run by the Barrier Breakers Foundation, a charity which helps disadvantaged young people develop skills to reach their potential and enrich their lives.

This week the college also hosted a stand providing information on mental health services available across Haringey, run by Haringey Council, Haringey Mind and the NHS.

All CCCG colleges have trained and dedicated staff and resources to provide information, advice and guidance to support students with a wide range of mental health issues.

Find out more by searching Student Support and Wellbeing on our college websites.