Double joy for mother-and-daughter team at Keighley College

When Emily Ellershaw went for an interview at Keighley College she took her mother, Shirley, along for moral support.

Neither could have imagined that, a few years later, they would both be working for the college as teachers.

But that’s exactly what happened after Head of Service Professions, Kevin Burke, asked Shirley what she did for a living during that fateful interview. When Shirley replied that she was considering a career change, while wanting to continue working in health, Kevin told her about the college’s new Health & Wellbeing Foundation Degree.

Despite enrolling on different courses, Emily and Shirley were able to meet for study sessions, support each other through the Covid-19 lockdowns, and cheer each other on.

Never too late to follow your dreams

They succeeded and are now both enjoying careers at Keighley College.

Course Leader Shirley is delighted at how things turned out, and hopes her story inspires others to make a change.

She said: “It’s never too late to pursue the career you have dreamed about – even if the journey takes a little longer.

“Honestly, it is worth all the hard work when you finally have the job you want and love.”

For Emily, her time at the college, from starting as a student to ending up an employee, has been a transformative experience.

Amazing support through an amazing journey

It began when she was 15, and joined the college through a partnership programme with her secondary school, from which she  gained a Level 2 childcare  award.

She went on to complete a Level 3 diploma in Childcare and Education, a foundation degree in Supporting Teaching and Learning, a BA (Hons) in Children and Young People’s Care and Education, and finally a PGCE and teaching work placement.

She said: “It was when Kevin Burke started teaching me that I found out about the new supporting teaching and learning degree and, after numerous conversations, I applied for the course. I can say with absolute certainty that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

“If it wasn’t for the support and passion from Kevin when talking about my future, and all the pathways I had in front of me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

“When I started my PGCE I was extremely nervous and continually questioned myself if I was good enough, or if I could actually do this. But my fears were soon put aside when I started my first day of placement – I was welcomed into this amazing environment and everyone in the staffroom was extremely friendly, and made the time to help and support me.”

Emily is urging other adults who are looking to make a change to also take on a course at Keighley College.

‘Go for it and don’t look back’

She said: “The support I have received has been amazing, any time I have asked a question or panicked over deadlines or my work I have always had a tutor to support me.

“Being able to study and work together with my mum has also been an amazing experience, and I believe it created this stronger bond between us.

“My first words to other adult learners would be ‘go for it and don’t look back’, because it would be the best decision they would ever make. Keighley College is a family where, no matter what you’re thinking and feeling, you would have the support you need.

“It’s never too late to make a change, even if it scares you.”

Click here for more details on courses at Keighley College.

Statement from Keighley College following the death of Queen Elizabeth II

Our sincerest condolences go out to the royal family following the announcement of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

What to expect on results day at Keighley College

GCSE results day is fast approaching and we hope you’re looking forward to the next steps in your education journey. 

We understand that waiting for your GCSE results can also be a little daunting. The most important thing to remember is you made it to the end and you should feel proud of the work you put in. And, whatever your situation, there is always a solution.

We’ve pulled together a quick guide on what to expect on the day and what to do if you don’t get the results you hoped for.

How to prepare for GCSE results day

Hopefully you are feeling eager and excited to receive your results, but it can also be natural to feel anxious ahead of the day.Speaking to your parents, carers or friends about any worries  can help. Remember, you are not alone.

If you are unsure about when you can pick up your results, or have not received an update, you should get in touch to tell us when you would like to come in.

You may want to think about whether you’d prefer to collect and open your results with your parent(s), with a group of friends for moral support, or on your own if that would make you feel more comfortable.

What will happen on results day 

Your results will be emailed to you. However, campus will be open from 9am for anyone wanting to pick up their results in person or talk about next steps.There will be staff on campus so head to reception and they will direct you to where you need to go.

If you do not receive your results via email, contact your teacher. 

What happens after GCSE results day/what are the next steps?

Appealing a GCSE grade

If you want to query your grade(s) – speak to your teacher in the subject or the head of department. They can request that the exam board reviews the marking of your exam entry.

If you need certain grades to get into a college or sixth form and you missed these, speak to your tutor as soon as possible to find out about what options are available to you.

There are many post-16 options available. These can include:


Apprenticeships are an opportunity to earn while you learn. You will also get a nationally recognised qualification at the end of it. Apprentices are employed from the word go and you will get support from a company that is committed to your development.


BTEC qualifications are a great alternative route to university and focus on practical courses. They are an opportunity to gain a qualification in an area you might be interested in pursuing a career in.

These courses are assessed on an ongoing basis through a mixture of coursework and exams.

A levels

A levels are the traditional route to higher education, allowing learners to specialise in a range of subjects. They aren’t just for university – they’re also respected qualifications to have for on-the-job training, a higher apprenticeship and for work.

T Levels

T Levels are  new, two-year qualifications focused on developing the practical skills employers look for.

T Levels will help you learn industry skills, prepare you for work, further training or further study. You will also have the opportunity to do a work placement.

Work Experience

The college Careers Service is here to help you make those important decisions and to help you plan the next steps towards your future. From applying to work, a college course, an apprenticeship or working out your interests, skills and aspirations, our careers advisers can provide you with the information, advice and guidance you need.

Can you retake GCSEs?

Yes you can. If you didn’t get the grades you wanted, you can always look at retaking them alongside a college course. Have a discussion with your teacher, who will be able to advise you.

What if you’ve done better than expected?

If you’ve done better than expected, congratulations! This is  an opportunity to look at all your options and what you might want to do next.  

If you have any questions about your results, speak to your teacher.

Don’t forget, you can also make the most of our Student Information Hub, where you’ll find information on work experience, careers and industry placements.

Camp America – music student teaches campers how to perform and record music in New York State

Continuing our look into the experiences of students who were involved in the Camp America project – which offered up to 90 students a once-in-a-lifetime work experience opportunity in the United States this summer – we move from Gilbertsville, PA to Hancock, NY, where Connor Skinner is having an amazing experience at French Wood Sports and Arts Camp

Following on from my visits to Camp Laughing Waters, and Camp Herrlich, my journey took me from Pennsylvania to New York State. This was to catch up with Connor Skinner, as he returned from a trip to Niagara Falls, to chat about the amazing experience he is having at French Wood Sports and Arts Camp. French Wood is a converted boarding school which has an incredible range of activities with a huge array of resources. There are campers from Brazil, Peru and Russia, Argentina and France on site. Students can “major” during their two weeks stay in subjects including rock music, fly fishing, aquatics, circus skills, musical theatre, cooking, skateboarding, art, equestrianism, magic and a range of team sports.

The counsellors and staff are chosen for their skills. There’s a former MBA coach working with the basketball majors and a circus troupe from New Mexico teaching students high wire and trapeze skills. Recently a previous camper there won America’s Junior Voice and is now a major celebrity. 

Connor is a music student so is happy to be running the rock music department, where he shows the students how to perform and record music. The students do up to three gigs a week for the other campers, making up an audience of 220. As he drives us around the 400-acre site to visit pools, horses and sports facilities, Connor says that this is without a doubt the best experience of his life so far and he’ll be back working next year. Participants have the option of extending their stay, by up to 30 days, to further explore the US after they have completed their nine-week placement. Connor will be extending his stay on the camp for an extra cohort and is then off to explore New York.

You can see a snapshot of what life on a Camp America placement is like here.

Camp America – student hones volunteering skills

After a visit to Camp Laughing Waters to visit two students there, Kevin O’Hare continues on to Camp Herrlich as he catches up with the students who have gone over to the United States to take advantage of an opportunity to work with Camp America, honing their employability skills as they look after and become role models to children at the camp.

Following on from my trip to Camp Laughing Waters, I paid a visit to student Erikas Gotovskij at Camp Herrlich on the border of New York state and Connecticut. The camp has a classic rural feel, with a beautiful lake for students to swim and kayak in. There’s a converted school bus which is an art room and, rather than residential stays, they do more day visit activities with children. Erikas has finished his first year of A levels in biology, maths and chemistry, and hopes to study medicine, with the eventual goal of becoming a heart surgeon. He believes this experience will give him the confidence to volunteer for placements in hospitals. Participants have the option of extending their stay, by up to 30 days, to further explore the US after they have completed their nine week placement. After the camp he is travelling for a month to Chicago, Ohio, Michigan and Rhode Island.

You can see a snapshot of what life on a Camp America placement is like here.

Camp America – students visit Camp Laughing Waters before exploring the USA

Earlier this year, Keighley College teamed up with Camp America to offer up to 90 students a once-in-a-lifetime work experience opportunity in the United States over the summer. The trip, designed to hone students’ employability skills as they look after and become role models to children at the camp, included travel, accommodation and living costs.

Keighley College’s principal, Kevin O’Hare, travelled out to see how the camp counsellors were getting on and has been sending back his notes from the road. Here is part one.

I arrived in America on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday I drove to a camp called Laughing Waters, in Gilbertsville, East Pennsylvania, with a representative from Camp America UK. We were visiting two of the students, Aanisha Anisko and Jamie-Leigh MacLaughlin, who are working with young American campers aged 9-17 after completing their studies.

Camp Laughing Waters has around 100 campers per week who undertake a range of activities whilst living in this 500-acre site in rural Pennsylvania. It has horses, a swimming pool, art and craft areas and a huge indoor climbing wall. The setting is breathtaking.

There are around 50 staff working on-site and half of these are young European students getting the experience to lead activities with groups. Each counsellor (as they are called) has a self-chosen camp name; Aanisha is “Dory” and Jamie is “Target”.

Participants have the option of extending their stay, by up to 30 days, to further explore the US after they have completed their nine-week placement. Jamie and Aanisha have made fantastic friendships, which have led to plans for further travel after the summer camp closes for the season. 

Jamie says she feels a new level of responsibility after leading the groups. This has really boosted her confidence, which has in turn given her an incentive to explore the world more. She is learning to speak Hungarian, having already picked up numbers, colours and animals. After camp, she plans to travel around America for a month, visiting Chicago, Ohio, Michigan and Rhode Island, before travelling to Hungary with her new friends later in the year.

You can see a snapshot of what life on a Camp America placement is like here.

‘Thanks Keighley!’ – top research scientist recalls college days

An expert in developmental biology has thanked Keighley College for providing him with the platform to embark on a distinguished scientific career.

Dr Matthew Towers is currently a senior researcher at the University of Sheffield with a specialist interest in limb development.

To reach that esteemed position, he studied at a number of universities around the UK – but can trace the start of his scientific endeavours back to Keighley College.

Excellent support and a focus on STEM

He said: “I attended Keighley College between 1991 and 1995, first studying for GCSEs and then A levels.

“The team there was very supportive and provided excellent mentorship. I enjoyed the adult-oriented learning environment, and mixing with other students of different ages and backgrounds.

“I flourished at Keighley College because I was able to study STEM-based subjects without being distracted by other activities that I had not been interested in at school.”

Matthew went on to obtain a BSc in genetics from the University of Leeds, and a PhD in plant developmental biology from The John Innes Centre, in Norwich.

Deciding that he wanted to specialise in a medically-related field, he then did postdoctoral work at the Universities of Dundee and Bath, studying how limbs develop in the embryo,.

In 2010, Matthew moved to the University of Sheffield, where he is a reader of developmental biology. He has since opened his own research laboratory with initial support from the  Medical Research Council and now, the Wellcome Trust.

He said: “My research still focuses on limb development, for instance on how the correct type of digit forms in the correct position.”

Recalling his college days, he added: “I remember my time at Keighley College fondly, and I am grateful that it helped me start my career.”

Click here to find out more about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) courses at Keighley College.

Looking back on the Refugee Film Festival

As part of Refugee Week this year, Keighley College hosted a Refugee Film Festival at Keighley’s Picture House. The aim was to help enhance the recognition and representation of refugees and asylum seekers across the region. 

The event showcased films of powerful stories about refugees and asylum seekers, as well as hosting guest speakers and filmmakers who shared their experiences and vision behind the stories. 

Among the guest speakers was Hadayat Ali, the father of Rabea, and himself a Rohingyan refugee, who spoke about his family’s journey to the UK. Joining him was film producer, Tom Harmer, from Faith + Bones, storytelling for humanity, who produced the film Rabea.

Graham Mitchell from Keighley Place of Sanctuary was also a guest speaker at the event.

The evening provided a safe space and platform for conversations amongst guests to talk about the challenges refugees and asylum seekers face every day. 

The event welcomed charity partners that work with local communities to support refugees and asylum seekers. This included Keighley Place of Sanctuary, a network made up of separate organisations cooperating with each other to support the needs of asylum seekers and refugees.

Group Project Coordinator, Mariam Kauser, whose Innovation and Development team led the film festival project, was delighted with the success of the evening.

“Our first Group-wide Refugee Film Festival went quite well. The events were open to our students, staff, the public and partners.

“We were honoured to provide a platform for both narrative and documentary films to illuminate the refugee and asylum seeker experience internationally. 

“The films were sourced from international and local filmmakers; consisting of individuals and charitable organisations who work in this sector around issues of supporting and widening representation of marginalised persons and communities.

“Hearing a student in the audience at Keighley College saying that the start of the film ‘A Life on Hold’ reminded him of the atmosphere of the camp he was at in Tunisia was particularly powerful.

“Comments from students and feedback from the audience that they appreciated the thought and collection of documentaries and films representing their communities, was also very humbling.

“As a team, we valued the ability to connect with local filmmakers, community groups and people who advocate for the rights and representation of refugees and asylum seekers.

“We hope to do more festivals at Luminate like this in the near future to project the voices and lives of our learners and staff, and to increase representation and awareness of the diverse and resilient souls who make up our culture.”

Summer school gives Ukrainian refugees skills for life

Keighley College recently held an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Summer School to give students the skills they need to live and work in the UK.

The three-day course was open to students from a range of backgrounds, including a number of Ukrainian refugees hoping to boost their employment chances.

Jo Rusden, programme manager for adult and community, said: “We are aware that many Ukrainians want to work in the UK, but lack the English skills needed to apply for jobs and complete an interview in English.

“We have combined the expertise of experienced ESOL tutors and our employability skills team to create a series of workshops designed to help with English skills for work and life in the UK.”

The employment sessions focused on how to create a CV or complete a job application, and on creating a professional presence online. Students were then able to put their learning to the test in a series of mock interviews, allowing them to practise their communication and comprehension skills.

There were also several workshops dedicated to sharing information and phrases to help students in their everyday lives, such as how to travel in the local area, how to make a doctor’s appointment and more.

Tom Walmsley, community employment coach at Keighley College, was delighted by the success of the summer school. He said: “The students have had a fantastic time at the college.

“They have been developing their English language skills by taking part in an introductory ESOL lesson and an employability session, where they created an individual action plan for finding work.

“We like to encourage our students to think outside the box and have fun with their learning.

“They have particularly enjoyed using Lego to create something that represents their personality, and winning prizes by answering questions about their action plan.”

As one of the largest providers of ESOL courses in the UK, Keighley College is committed to providing teaching and support to students no matter what their current ability.Find out more about the English for Speakers of Other Languages courses on offer here.