Refugee Week

Established in 1988, Refugee Week is a UK festival that combats the negative stigma of refugees and asylum seekers and celebrates their resilience and contributions to society. It is a chance to create a safe place for refugees and welcome them into our community. 

This year, the theme for Refugee Week is ‘Healing’

With everything going on in the world, now is a time where we can come together and help each other heal. 

Keighley College strives to create a safe space where people can heal and rebuild their lives in a welcoming community with mutual care and respect. 

Refugee Week has highlighted some simple acts that we can do to stand with refugees and help them heal. 

Refugee Film Festival

During this year’s Refugee Week, Keighley College is hosting a Refugee Film Festival at Keighley’s Picture House. The festival will be an evening of thought-provoking short films, guest speakers and local filmmakers to share stories of asylum seekers and refugees in Yorkshire.

This event aims to educate our students, staff and wider community about the challenges of those seeking sanctuary and provides a safe space for open dialogue and reflection.

This event is welcome to everyone and also welcomes community groups and partners that work locally to improve the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. 

Featured Films

‘Malak And The Boat’ – Andre HolzmeisterMalak and the Boat by Andre Holzmeister tells the story of seven-year-old Malak’s harrowing story of her journey across the Mediterranean seeking shelter from the Syrian conflict.

‘Rebea’ by Tom Harmer – As a Rohingya Muslim and refugee from Myanmar, sixteen-year-old Rabea Sultana understands the power of her story and the value of her freedom. The opportunity she received of UK citizenship and new life in Bradford is one she intends to use through her voice for the benefit of all humanity.

‘What You Know About Patience’ – Kazzum Arts – 

‘What you know about patience?’ shares the complexities and challenges facing young people seeking asylum in the UK. The animation has been inspired by the experiences of young people engaging in Kazzum Arts’ Pathways programme. 

‘Ruth & Safiya’ – Louisa Rose Mackleston – Ruth & Safiya is a story about friendships in unlikely places, challenging stereotypes, and the power of community. Ruth, an isolated pensioner, meets Safiya, a teenage Syrian refugee who is haunted by the life she fled from. Filmed on location in Skipton, the story is set in an allotment, showing the power of the earth and nature in creating a bond that transcends age, race and nationality.

‘Guardians’ – Children’s Society –  A Youth-led Commission on Separated Children (YLCSC), a group of young people previously supported by The Children’s Society. They have come together through shared experiences of the asylum process and the vision that all separated children in England and Wales should be supported by a legal guardian. 

‘A Life On Hold’ – Marc Silver, Nick Francis – A Life On Hold is an intimate portrait of Omar, a 17-year-old stranded in a refugee camp since the 2011 war in Libya. It offers a unique perspective of one person amongst thousands waiting for a chance to start their life again in a safe country.

‘Rain Is Beautiful’ – Marc Silver, Nick Francis – This follow-up to A Life On Hold begins with emotional farewells at a refugee camp as Omar leaves his friends behind to begin a new life in Sweden.

‘Then I Came By Boat’ – Marleena Forward – This short documentary tells the story of Tri Nguyen’s childhood escape from war-torn Vietnam, and his eventual resettlement in Australia.

Guest Speakers 

There will be guest speakers throughout the evening. 

Graham Mitchell is a guest speaker from Keighley Place of Sanctuary, a network which seeks to support the needs of asylum seekers and refugees, made up of separate organisations which cooperate with each other.

Jo Rusden, Deputy Head for Adult and Community at Keighley College. 

Hadayat Ali, the father of Rabea and a Rohingyan refugee. 

Film producer, Tom Harmer, from Faith + Bones, storytelling for humanity will be talking about his film Rabea. 

Louisa Rose Mackleston from Northern Fortress Films, who directed Ruth and Safia will also be a guest speaker there. Louisa has worked as an Assistant Director in the Film & TV industry for the past 4 years. In January 2021 she opened her production company – Northern Fortress Films.

How to support 

There are many ways that we can show support to refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. This could be by volunteering at a local charity, donating clothes or raising money. 

Take a look here at 5 local, regional and national charities and organisations that you can support. 

Refugee Week has highlighted some simple acts that we can do to stand with refugees and help them heal.

Keighley College awarded ‘Good’ by Ofsted

We are celebrating after achieving a grade ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features by Ofsted, following an inspection last month. 

The college has been recognised for its passionate and expert staff, and their work with regional stakeholders to implement education programmes that best fit local employment opportunities.The college’s provisions for both adults and student personal development were awarded ‘Outstanding’. 

Luminate Education Group, which Keighley College is a member of, is among the first large educational establishments to have been inspected under Ofsted’s new framework, which puts a greater focus on work with partners and businesses, student and apprentices’ safety and special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

Kevin O’Hare, Principal at Keighley College, said: “This is a fantastic achievement for the college. Our skillful and influential leaders are not only committed to promoting an inclusive culture where students can thrive but where they’re also able to access careers education, information, advice and guidance that prepares them well for their next steps.

“Collaborating and working with key stakeholders and partners is key to what we do, as it not only provides invaluable opportunities for our students, but also meets the economic needs of the Keighley district.

“Our governors also play a key role in the quality of education provided for our students. They are actively involved in determining the college’s strategic direction, making many of the key decisions in relation to the college and ensuring continuous and sustainable improvement.”

Andrea Cowans, Director of Student Life at Keighley College, added: “This grade is testament to the hard work of our staff who make our college environment a welcoming and safe place for our students every single day. 

“Our learners’ wellbeing, personal development and safety are our top priorities which are embedded in our culture, cementing our ‘Outstanding’ grade in this area. This is pertinent as we recover from the impact of Covid-19, and its effects on our adult learners in particular, so it’s an incredible feat to be strongly recognised in this area too.”

For more information about Keighley College, visit Keighley College.

Keighley College film festival to focus on refugees

We are hosting a refugee film festival dedicated to showcasing films produced by refugees and filmmakers across the region (and internationally) about their lives and experiences.

The event, taking place on 23 June at The Picture House, will provide a platform for filmmakers to share stories about a variety of issues from a unique and creative perspective.

Film screenings and interviews will also be held during the one-day festival, where topics such as hunger, war, humanitarian issues and being refugees will be discussed.

Jo Rusden at Keighley College said: “We are committed to becoming a safe and welcoming place for all and part of this is being able to share and celebrate the stories and journeys of refugees and asylum seekers.

“We are extremely honoured to be hosting our first ever film festival and showcasing some thought-provoking and inspirational films. The line-up we have is a demonstration of art, passion and the ability of the filmmakers to convey stories in ways we can all understand. 

“Through this event, we hope to educate and help our students, staff and wider community understand what it means to be seeking sanctuary and to extend a welcome to everyone as equal, valued members of the community.”

Participating in the festival is Andre Holzmeister with the film ‘Malak and the Boat’ which chronicles the story of seven-year-old Malak’s harrowing journey across the Mediterranean seeking shelter from the Syrian conflict.

Bradford-based film producer,Tom Harmer, will showcase his film ‘Rabea’, a true story about a young Rohingyan woman whose family fled Myanmar as refugees, eventually finding their sanctuary and safety in Bradford. 

Kazzum Arts, an organisation that engages young asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants in creative wellbeing projects, will be presenting the film ‘What You Know About Patience’.The animation, inspired by the experiences of young people engaging in Kazzum Arts’ Pathways programme, explores the complexities and challenges facing young people seeking asylum in the UK. 

Other films that will be featured on the night include ‘Ruth & Safiya’ by Louisa Rose Mackleston, ‘Guardians’ by The Children’s Society, ‘A Life On Hold’ by filmmakers Marc Silver and Nick Francis and ‘Then I Came By Boat’ by Marleena Forward.

Doors will open at 5.30pm.

To book your tickets, visit 

Inspirational messages from TEDx event are shared

Videos from the global event held at the college have been released, with the aim of inspiring people across the community.

We hosted the town’s first-ever TEDx talk – events that are organised to help showcase ideas in communities internationally – in February.

Speakers from a wide range of sectors – including health, technology, entrepreneurship and marketing – addressed the event.

Tim Rogers – founder of Future Transformation, which runs TEDx – said: “We’re delighted to share the videos of our TEDx speakers.

“The event was a real opportunity to get important conversations going in the Keighley district and to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and professionals from a range of sectors.

“This is also about supporting people, both locally and internationally, to use their voice and have their ideas shared around the world. We look forward to staging further events like this and opening them up to more people in the district.”

Keighley College principal, Kevin O’Hare, said the event was “a milestone” for the town.

He added: “It put Keighley on the map globally, showcasing its rich culture and unbeatable community spirit.

“These videos represent an opportunity to further inspire the community about this phenomenal celebration of ideas and the topics that were explored by the speakers.”

Amongst those featuring in the videos is Farida Zaman, local development lead for Bradford at Business in the Community.

She works in collaboration with businesses, local and regional councils and the voluntary and community sector to create economic, social and environmental growth.

Also featured is Helen O’Connell, founder of community interest company A trained nurse, she now works as an advanced nurse practitioner in a GP practice. She was awarded the title of Queen’s Nurse in 2020.

Another speaker, Mark Cowgill, co-founded Bradford-based ISP Exa Networks – which provides internet services to thousands of schools and businesses across the UK.

And the line-up also includes Louisa Rose Mackleston, who has worked as an assistant director in the film and TV industry for the past four years. In January last year she launched her own production company, Northern Fortress Films. She was awarded the Young Change Maker’s Fellowship by the Virgin Money Foundation to help young people from the district to pursue careers in the industry. Her award-winning film, Ruth & Safiya, has been shown internationally.

To view the videos, click here

Blog: Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month

This month is Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller History Month (GRTHM). Established in Britain in 2008, GRTHM month raises awareness and explores the history of travelling communities. 

The month aims to tackle the negative stigma and prejudices these communities have faced for centuries. It seeks to educate those about their contribution to society and how we can support them and help them feel included in our society. 

What are the differences between Gypsy, Roma and Traveller? 

There are many differences between Gypsy, Roma and Travellers. Although they are nomadic groups, their communities follow entirely different cultural values. 

Romany Gypsies travelled west from Europe around the 10th and 12th centuries during the Roma migration from India. Romany is the word that Gypsy people in England and Wales apply to themselves, hence the term ‘Romany Gypsy’.

The word ‘Roma’ is used as a term for European ‘Gypsies’. Over the past 50 years, there has been an increase in Roma people in the UK. 

Irish Travellers are said to have migrated to England in the early 19th century. They mainly came to England after the Great Famine in the 1850s and then after World War II. 

‘What Makes a Home?’

This year, the theme for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month is ‘What Makes a Home?’. Gypsy, Roma and Travellers are known for their nomadic lifestyle, however, some families have lived in houses for generations but maintain their cultural identity and travel seasonally. 

There are many reasons families move into housing. It can be difficult to access vital services such as healthcare, dental care, education and employment, especially those that require addresses.

Some may feel that the move into housing is due to a shortage of available sites for vehicles and stopping places.

The government has recently implemented new laws which make the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller nomadic lifestyle more difficult. People are now at risk of having their vehicle (home) confiscated and facing fines and imprisonment. 

According to Leeds GATE, there are 80 families living on the roadside in West Yorkshire but there are only five dedicated sites for Gyspy, Roma and Travellers to live on, which highlights the few places for the community to settle.

Not only does this affect their way of life, but also affects their mental health with suicide rates being 11% of all deaths in the Irish Traveller community according to the All Ireland Traveller Health Study

Their life expectancy from the latest data shows they live around 10 years less than that of the non-Traveller population according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. 

A helping hand

Leeds GATE is an organisation led by Gypsy and Traveller people in partnership with others in and across West Yorkshire. They are a resource centre that supports Gypsy and Travellers living in Leeds and passing through. 

Leeds GATE will be celebrating GRTHM with a range of events and activities for members of the community. Take a look here


Here are some resources below to learn more about the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. 

Learn more about the history of Gypsies, Roma and Travellers with this animation

Tackling inequalities faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities

This is a House of Commons Committee report with recommendations to the Government. 

Shouting about our students’ incredible volunteering efforts on Power of Youth Day

Power Of Youth Day, which takes place during Volunteers’ Week, is an opportunity to shout about the incredible contributions that young people are making in their communities, society and the environment. Throughout the day events and celebrations take place across the UK. Leaders, organisations and young people take to social media to celebrate the #PowerOfYouth, recognising the invaluable and diverse contribution they are making to society.  

To those ends, here are a few organisations that empower young people that you can direct interested students towards. 

Environmental action

Over the first week of the new year, Level 3 Public Services students planted 100 mixed trees in Keighley woodland, completing a 1,000 tree planting. Despite the wintry conditions, 30 Holly, 30 Hazel and 40 sessile Oak trees were planted.

The planting project continued earlier this month when 150 trees were successfully planted at Parkside Secondary School, Cullingworth, in a community partnership activity. This brought the total up to 1,000 trees and counting, an incredible piece of ongoing environmental work which those involved in should rightly be proud of. 

Advice on changing your career as an adult

Young people in school are often told that you choose a career which you stick with for the rest of your working life. However, this doesn’t have to always be the case. 

Switching gears to a new career as an adult can seem daunting, but the benefits are endless – such as broadening your skillset and following a passion.

Jules Wells did just this. Originally, Jules had worked as a manager for a retail company for many years but decided to start a new chapter studying Access to Higher Education in Health Science Professions at Keighley College, and now works as a course leader for this course. 

Follow your passion

“I worked for a large retail company up until 2013, and left as I felt undervalued due to staffing changes. I had only fallen into retail because it fit nicely around raising my children, so this was the catalyst for me to think again about my future.

“I’ve always had an ambition to work within the health professions industry, so I pursued this passion. My love for human biology became apparent throughout my studies at Keighley College, and the ease with which I was able to teach others in my group.”

Take a gamble

“I had many reservations about changing my career path as an adult. I was stepping down from a managerial role, and therefore financially it was a big gamble as I still had three children and bills to pay. 

“I was also very anxious about studying again after a break of 26 years. Using computers was and still is, to a degree, my nemesis! However, taking a risk really paid off; my experience of studying was excellent and my life has changed for the better.”

Meet new people

“I met some of the loveliest people on my course, some of whom I am still in touch with today. My tutors were amazing too – my biology tutor in particular was inspirational and taught me so much. I feel that much of my teaching style has come from her. 

“Keighley College was a fantastic place to learn as an adult student as the support offered to everyone is excellent, which made the experience so much less daunting than I thought it would be. Building friendships and supporting each other was actually one of the biggest parts for me.”

Stay focused

“Working five days a week, attending college two days a week, raising three children, being a mum, a wife and a student was the hardest thing I have ever done. I managed to overcome this by remaining focused and reminding myself that I was building a future for myself and my family. Hearing my children tell me they were proud of me was all the incentive I needed.”

Manage your time effectively

“Completing my course successfully required resilience, hard work and most importantly, time management. I had to ensure I always had enough time to finish my assignments while attending to my other commitments.”

Progress your career

“After completing my Access course, I achieved a first-class honours degree in Biomedical Science at Leeds City College, which was one of my proudest achievements. I dipped my toe in education by working as a science technician in a school, and then spent six months supporting students in my old degree programme – all of which helped me to realise that I wanted to teach!

“I then completed my PGCE in Secondary Science with Biology at Leeds Trinity University, and went on to become the course leader at Keighley College for the very same programme I completed many years ago. I absolutely love seeing students following the same journey I did, and seeing them take the next step in their careers is so rewarding.”

It’s never too late

“My biggest piece of advice would be that it’s never too late, just do it! Once you have made the decision to make a change, you will need to work hard, manage your time, accept help that is offered and enjoy it.

“The biggest benefit of studying as an adult is that you have life experience on your side, enabling you to understand so much more than you would have done at school. You are also there because you want to be and you have a future plan which depends on you achieving your goals.”

Find out more about Access to HE Health Science Professions here.

Keighley student takes Young Disability Sportsman title for the second year running

Local student, Dylan Lightowler, has won the Young Disability Sportsperson accolade for the second time at the Bradford Sports Awards.

After joining Bradford, Keighley and Skipton Disability Athletics Club in 2017, Dylan developed a passion for running, shot put and long jump. He trains three times a week and has his sights set firmly on the paralympics. 

Dylan commented: “It’s an absolute honour to receive this award; I’m so grateful to those who recognised my hard work and training, which I continued to do at home during lockdown. I love running and shot put, so I hope to reach my full potential at the next paralympics and the Special Olympics World Games.”

Currently in his first year of the college’s Foundation Studies – Independent Living course, Dylan is learning how to live on his own. Although he experiences daily anxiety about travelling to college, he has relished the opportunity to become more independent by making the journey on his own and making new friends.

Take a look at the Foundation Studies course details here.

Introducing Keighley College’s new principal

The current year has been an exciting one so far for Keighley College – from featuring in BBC News and Channel 5 broadcasts to hosting globally-recognised TEDx events and teaming up with locally-loved rugby team, Keighley Cougars.

At the centre of this hive of college activity has been the interim and now official Principal, Kevin O’hare. 

As Kevin starts to settle into his new position, we sat down with him to understand a little more about his background, motivations and ambitions for the college.

How did your interest in education develop?

“Whilst undertaking my Fine Art degree, I found myself enjoying conversations with other undergraduates about their work. One peer even mentioned that I would end up teaching, but I didn’t envision it then.

“My first part-time job was as a contextual studies tutor at Hull College in 1992, which allowed me to see real potential in the way in which art seems to touch on so many wider areas, such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, history and politics. It offered a rounded social education for young people and through it, a better understanding of their contemporary world – which really excited me.”

What do you enjoy most about working in education?

“Those moments when students find their spark and can see their true potential. I’ve worked with so many learners who have a self-limiting narrative but then unlock something which opens a much wider view of their possibilities. 

“That shift often happens during the 16 to 19 age period, as students are exposed to the broader complexities of society. To be able to facilitate that changing mindset is a fantastic privilege.”

Who inspires you and why?

“I recently had a conversation with a student during a particularly pressured moment on campus. They said that calm seas never make a strong sailor, which really transformed my perception of that moment.”

What do you think makes a good college principal?

“There are many good principals who have very different approaches to the role and have been equally successful. Some prefer to lead on the basis of facts and data, others focus on building relationships, and others use charisma and assertiveness to achieve their goals. I think a good college principal will have elements in each area. Above all, a duty to the students and their life chances needs to be at the heart of their strategy.”

What does a day in the life of a college principal look like?

“It’s always so varied. I can be representing the college in important local government meetings, discussing curriculum plans with teachers, speaking to students about common room facilities, identifying a building to renovate, giving radio interviews, visiting local schools to deliver assemblies, speaking to the board of governors on a paper I have written and encouraging local employers to take on apprentices – it’s never boring!”

How do you hope to make a difference at Keighley College?

“That’s simple really – I want the college to become known for its student success and I want those students to have loved their time here.”

What do you think makes Keighley College stand out amongst other local colleges?

“The college has such a wide variety of provision – from a pupil referral offer through to study programmes at all levels: T Levels, apprenticeships, Access courses, A levels and degree programmes.

“It’s known historically for its engineering, building trades, health, childcare and beauty therapies. I think the college is most connected to its community.”

What have you been most proud of during your working life?

“To date, it’s been my part in the growth of creative arts education in Leeds over the last 30 years. In the next 30 years, I want to be proud of helping to make Keighley College a truly inspiring institution.”

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

“I still love making art and visiting galleries. I also coach a junior football team and follow Guiseley football club’s rollercoaster journey through the lower leagues. The mix of art and sport is a nice balance of calmness and adrenalin.”

What advice would you give to someone considering a role in education?

“Education needs kind and selfless people who can see the transformative power of learning for others and themselves. I’ve always loved the James Madison quote: ‘Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.’”

Read more about Kevin’s appointment here.