Keighley College emerges victorious in Planet Earth Games Competition with remarkable Sustainable initiatives

Keighley College is proud to have been crowned the overall winner of this year’s Planet Earth Games Competition. The nationwide event showcased students’ incredible creativity and innovation and tasked them with coming up with environmental activities that truly make a difference.

As part of the challenge, colleges in Yorkshire organised activities based around vital sustainable themes – carbon reduction, connecting to nature, food, waste reduction, conservation, energy and travel, to name a few.

Our students’ amazing creations range from constructing an indoor greenhouse using recycled bottles and timber offcuts to crafting a suit of armour from waste metal.

Cristopher Nichols, Student Engagement Officer, said: ‘’I am so proud of our students, who did a brilliant job of fulfilling the competition’s brief. Their fantastic efforts made them worthy overall winners of this important national award.”

Fostering engagement within the wider community

The hard work displayed in organising these activities also fostered inclusivity and engagement within the community.

Students engaged in activities such as running a sustainable ”pay what you can” shop, stocked with donated clothes to help students during the cost of living crisis.

One of the students, Dylan Worsnop, helped by tutor Simon Davison, used leftover metal from his fabrication and welding course to produce a Spartan-style body armour and shield.

What began as a headpiece eventually evolved into a complete outfit.

Indoor greenhouse and armour created by students

A testament to our commitment to immediate environmental action

Principal Kevin O’Hare was delighted with the competition’s success.

He said: “Our students’ impressive efforts have shone a light on our college and our commitment to sustainable action, which includes becoming net zero by 2035. We’re looking forward to being presented with the Bamboo Trophy for this victory, and will be displaying it proudly on campus.”

Keighley College secures funding to boost district’s adult numeracy skills

We’re delighted to announce that we’ve secured funding through the Department for Education-led Multiply programme to enhance adult numeracy skills in our district.

With this financial support, we’ll be able to assist adults in our area who don’t have a Level 2 qualification – roughly equivalent to a GCSE grade 4, or the old C grade – in maths. The aim will be to help them overcome their fear of the subject so they can thrive, personally and professionally.

The work will involve supporting learners through putting on new, flexible courses designed to fit around their lives, and training more staff to teach numeracy.

The focus will be on functional, rather than theoretical, maths to show how useful it can be in real-life situations ranging from budgeting for shopping to understanding borrowing, credit and interest.

A 2022 report found that more than half – 52% – of adults in West Yorkshire were at ‘entry level and below’ in terms of numeracy.

Keighley College’s Principal, Kevin O’Hare, said: “Numeracy is so important for all of us as we try to negotiate the daily challenges of education, life and work.

“Skills like budgeting are essential, especially now while we are facing a cost of living crisis, but many people find it  difficult.

“We are therefore delighted, as a college dedicated to supporting the community, to have secured funding to help local adults, in all walks of life, feel more confident in such areas.“

The programme will also open up new work and educational possibilities for participants, and take them a step closer to being able to benefit from further support such as the Lifelong Loan Entitlement.

Keighley College is already piloting a project that asks English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students to take on tasks like banking or supermarket shopping.

Keighley College principal takes case for extra skills investment to Westminster

Principal of Keighley College, Kevin O’Hare, was among leaders from Leeds City College, Leeds College of Building, Bradford, Kirklees, Shipley and Calderdale colleges, to join hundreds of others from across the country in calling for fairer funding, a right to lifelong learning and support for local skills shortages. 

Following 12 years of declining funding for adults and young people, a 2022 report from the Open University and British Chambers of Commerce found that more than 68 per cent of SMEs are currently facing skills shortages, rising to 86 per cent in large organisations. 

He said: “Education, particularly further education, has been central to the skills agenda for some time, and the sector has been tirelessly campaigning in order to get the necessary support from government to successfully close the skills gap. 

“All the industries where skills shortages are being felt most acutely are bridged by Level 4 or 5 skills and qualifications, which are delivered in further education colleges. We will continue campaigning collectively to keep FE front of mind and to remind government of the important role it plays.” 

As part of the campaign on 1 March, the principals were involved in a panel discussion, organised by the Future Skills Coalition, that focused on how the lack of funding for colleges is having a direct impact on the sector’s ability to deliver the skilled workers the economy needs. 

Nikki Davis, Leeds College of Building Principal & CEO, said: “Colleges are vital in addressing significant skills gaps across the economy, including the next generation of skilled construction professionals. Research shows that around a quarter of a million extra construction workers will be needed by 2026 to meet growing demands on the UK sector, and to counter an ageing workforce. 

“Without additional investment in further education, we will not be able to fill critical shortages in priority areas – such as net-zero carbon emissions and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) – and deliver the diverse labour market the country needs.” 

According to the Learning & Work Institute (L&W), 9 million working-aged adults in England have low basic skills in literacy or numeracy, including 5 million who have low skills in both. 

Palvinder Singh, Principal and Chief Executive at Kirklees College, said: “Adult education is essential to local and regional skills needs and for the social mobility of thousands of learners. 

“Insufficient funding for our adult provision limits opportunities for adult learners to gain the vital skills to support the future workforce and economy. This provision is essential for economic growth and productivity.” 

For more information on the campaign, visit Mind the skills gap – Parliamentary activity | Association of Colleges ( 

‘A fantastic way to start a career’ – Alex hails her apprenticeship

Engineer Alex Johnson is starting the new year in a role she loves and with a management degree apprenticeship in her sights.

Alex is a quality engineer at Baildon-based Produmax where she has been working – through an apprenticeship with the college – for several years.

She has just gained a distinction in her Level 4 apprenticeship in Manufacturing Engineering with the firm, which specialises in high precision engineering for the aerospace sector.

Urged on by our teachers and Produmax’s team to keep pushing herself, Alex is now looking forward to starting a Level 6 Chartered Management degree apprenticeship through the University of Leeds.

She said: “I started on a Level 3 Manufacturing apprenticeship, having found the quality engineer role, and developed my interest in the inspection side of engineering, through Produmax’s work experience programme.

A terrific experience, with no limits to what can be achieved

“I’d encourage anyone to do an apprenticeship – it’s a fantastic way to start a career in any industry, whilst having the ability to continue studying. There are also no limitations to what you can achieve, it’s down to how much work you’re willing to put in.  

“My apprenticeship has been a terrific experience. I’ve been encouraged along the way by the team at Produmax and at Keighley College to work hard and aim high.

“I’m looking forward to continuing my workplace development whilst undertaking the degree apprenticeship.”

Produmax offers several apprenticeship engineering positions, usually starting at the end of August, each year.

Find out more about our apprenticeships at the college here

Principal enjoys factory floor shift at stairlift company

Our Principal has been putting a shift in on the factory floor at Acorn Stairlifts.

Kevin O’Hare visited the Steeton business to find out how a group of students from the college, who are on two-days-a-week supported internships with the firm, were getting on.

Kevin had been invited by the students themselves. He said: “I was asking them about their work at Acorn. They said it was great and that I should come along and ‘do some real work’ too!”

The college’s partnership with Acorn has been running for three years now, and four previous interns have gone on to secure jobs with the company. The current group of four students – Jason Baxter, James Littlewood, Jordan Lindley and Kenny Greenwood – work at Steeton on Thursdays and Fridays, supervised by Acorn staff and their own mentor, Fran Day.

A mutually beneficial partnership

Fran said: “All the supported interns have Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), which means they need a little more support initially, until they find their feet.

“I’m here to supervise them at first, then gradually pull back so they can work independently. They learn about productivity and work ethic, but really they just want to work.”

Ryan Baron, Production Manager at Acorn’s Steeton factory, said: “The supported interns are brilliant, they’re hard working and have fitted in really well. The work they do – assembling components for our stairlift rails – is work that our guys would actually be doing on the line.

“We move it off the line until they get the hang of it, but they still have to meet demand for the components and they don’t let us down. The work they’re doing helps them to gain skills and experience and helps us too, so the partnership with the college benefits us both.”

A brilliant opportunity to gain valuable life skills

Kevin, speaking during his visit, added: “It’s a brilliant opportunity for the students to understand what life’s like in a working environment, seeing the different processes and how the workplace is structured, from the reception, the canteen, right through to the factory floor.

“It’s a valuable experience, and we often forget how important that is. The work is important, but the context of the work is too. It’s what I call residual learning – it’s about social interaction, navigation, orientation, timekeeping.

“It’s not on any curriculum or part of any course programme, but these are valuable life skills we all need to acquire.”

Acorn Stairlifts, which has factories in Yorkshire and Scotland, is a world leader in the manufacture, installation and innovation of stairlifts.

Though its headquarters are in Steeton the company, which produces 70,000 staircases a year, has sales and service staff across the UK.

Keighley College is awarded College of Sanctuary status

Keighley College has become the third college in West Yorkshire to achieve College of Sanctuary status, one of only 11 in the UK.

The status is awarded by City of Sanctuary to recognise good practice and provision in supporting refugees and people seeking asylum. The college was judged against various criteria, and was found to be successful in taking positive action to embed concepts of welcome, safety and inclusion through its curriculum. 

Jo Rusden, Deputy Head for Adult and Community at Keighley College said, “This recognition is testament to our staff and students who have created a warm and welcoming college that provides a safe environment in which everyone can learn, thrive and achieve.

“As a college, we’ve worked hard to create awareness amongst the entire college community about what it means to be seeking sanctuary, and to ensure that students new to the UK receive the support they need.

“We’re extremely proud to be recognised for our efforts, and having this accreditation cements our commitment to supporting all students regardless of background.”

As part of this year’s Refugee Week, Keighley College hosted a Refugee Film Festival, with the aim of enhancing the recognition and representation of refugees and asylum seekers across the region.

Earlier this year, the college also provided an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Summer School for students from a range of backgrounds, including a number of Ukrainian refugees hoping to boost their employment chances. The aim of the summer school was to help students gain the important skills they need to live and work in the UK.

Kate Hart, Project Coordinator at Bradford Schools and Colleges of Sanctuary, said, “The panel had the pleasure of visiting Keighley College and were particularly moved when speaking to students who spoke so enthusiastically of the support, opportunities and encouragement they had received from the college.
“It was clear that they felt a sense of belonging and purpose from being part of the college’s welcoming family culture.”

Launched in 2005, City of Sanctuary is a network contributing to building the movement for welcome and inclusion in the UK by promoting, recognising and celebrating ways in which people seeking sanctuary enrich society. 

Keighley residents take a big step towards employment

Keighley residents have celebrated completing a project to get back into education or work.

We have been working with local community centres and other partners to ‘provide pathways’ into employment, as part of the Community Led Local Development (CLLD) programme.

Of the 214 adults who have taken part so far, 110 have progressed into education – on courses ranging from English and maths, to teaching assistant and English for Speakers of Other Languages. Another 14, meanwhile, have gained work. 

To celebrate those achievements, the college presented certificates to nearly 40 women who have taken part at the Bangladeshi Community Association on Wednesday 23 November.

‘I feel much more confident in my abilities’

Shazia Hussain, who is studying towards gaining a teaching assistant qualification, said: “I have previously tried three different college classes and not gone back after the first lesson.

“This time, however, I have not only felt motivated to complete the course and progress, but I am also helping other students with their assignments. I feel much more confident in my abilities thanks to the project.”

Melissa Ciplinski also credits the programme with bolstering  her self-belief. She said: “I have always struggled with anxiety and the teaching assistant course has helped me to gain confidence.

“I now attend the classes without feeling vulnerable and nervous, and am looking forward to progressing onto the next course.”

Working together to make a positive difference

Mashuk Miah, who manages the Bangladeshi Community Association, said: “The CLLD project has enabled women to come out of isolation and helped them mix with others whilst learning maths, English, sewing or exercise. I know that our partnership with Keighley College will continue, and that together we are making a positive difference to the lives of those in our community.”

Our Deputy Head for Adult and Community, Jo Rusden, added: “We were delighted to celebrate the achievements of these learners with the association, which has been one of our key partners.

“This programme has already helped hundreds of Keighley residents take a step towards getting back into education or work, and we look forward to welcoming more moving forward.

“These are tough times for everyone just now, but especially those in households with low or no income. This programme is all about giving people the help, and skills they need, to take a step on the path towards employment and a rewarding future.”

Celebrating Disability History Month at Keighley College

This week is the beginning of Disability History Month, an annual celebration that recognises the achievements of people living with additional needs.

To mark the occasion, we’re sharing stories from some of our extraordinary students who have overcome personal challenges, as well as spotlighting the work we have done to support learners and members of our community.

Here at Keighley College, we believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, and we’re committed to building an inclusive environment for everyone.

Sporting success for Dylan

This year’s theme is ‘disability, health and wellbeing’, so it’s only fitting that we start off with a sports-related accomplishment.

Enter Dylan Lightowler, a Foundation Studies student who was named Young Disability Sportsperson of the Year for the second time at the Bradford Sports Awards in April.

Dylan trains three times a week and has his sights set firmly on the paralympics, all whilst working towards his Independent Living course at Keighley College.

Following his second win, Dylan said, “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.”

Dylan’s drive and determination shows that your potential is not limited by your cirumstances, and his story is an inspiration to anyone wanting to make their mark in the sporting world.

A helping hand with moving on

When students leave us, we want them to have the confidence to go out into the world and succeed. But it’s important to remember that no two paths to success are the same.

That’s why earlier this year we hosted our first ‘Moving On’ event. Students with additional needs were given the opportunity to speak to a range of different organisations about their options once they leave.

SEND Coordinator at the college, Jeanie Forster, said: “This was all about helping the students find out about the support that they can access once they have finished their time at college. It was also a great chance for them to build contacts while seeing what organisations are out there.”

“We got some very positive feedback from both the participating guests and students about how useful this event was.”

Much of the disabled community face everyday barriers to things other people take for granted. This event was a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of this, and ensure that every student gets the very best chance of achieving their dreams.

Caring in the community

At Keighley College, we’re proud to have students prepared to go the extra mile for others. Step forward our heroic team of complex care workers, five students who have been helping people in our community with additional needs, as part of their health and social care work placements. 

Their mission was to help these individuals live independently in their own homes, by supporting with everything from medication and dietary needs to simply being a friend.

Rohima Ali, course leader at Keighley College, commented: “As a community-focused college, we’re dedicated to supporting local people as much as possible.

“The students have worked incredibly hard to keep people safe in their homes and ensure they have their personal care needs met.”

The work of these students proves that we all have it within us to make someone with additional needs’ life that bit easier. The only thing left to ask is: what will you do this Disability History Month?

Students put on a star performance at local arts festival

Last month, students from Keighley College teamed up with local arts hub, Keighley Creative, to create artwork for their annual Arts and Film Festival. 

The students created star-shaped lanterns from willow branches and tissue paper, which they then showcased in an evening light parade throughout the town. 

The parade is just one of a number of exhibitions and events that make up the festival sponsored by Keighley College, which aims to celebrate the creativity of local artists and provide free or low-cost attractions for the whole community to enjoy.

Madeleine O’Reilly, Keighley Creative’s festival and events director, posted about the event: “It was a joyous weekend, with mixed communities coming together to celebrate arts and culture in so many different formats.”

The festival is hosted by Keighley Creative, a local charity who commission projects and activities with local artists, communities, organisations and businesses across the region. 

Throughout the rest of the year, their work is mainly based at their multi-functional creative hub, which provides studios for artists and makers of all ages and abilities, alongside a purpose built gallery, cinema and education room.

You can find out more about Keighley Creative and the hub here.