Student Voice Shaping College Future

The unique perspectives of local students will be brought to the fore at an up-coming event designed to help advance the learner experience at Stratford-upon-Avon College.

The Learner Conference, to be held on Friday 20 January, gives all students the opportunity to comment on student life at the College.

Hosted by the College’s Student Services team, attendees will include the newly-appointed student members of the Student Executive Committee such as the Student President and Vice President, Marketing, Fundraising & Events Officer, and Equality & Diversity Officer, all of whom are dedicated to shaping the College experience to meet all learners’ needs and expectations.

In addition, a series of guest speakers will be providing insightful, inspirational talks for all attendees. The speakers will include two motivational youth speakers – YouTube star and entrepreneur Kamal Hyman, and actor and Prince’s Trust Young Ambassador Hezron Brown – as well as modelling agency Managing Director Charlotte Griffiths, who will provide the learners with an invaluable insight into the mind set of successful, driven individuals.

Director of Student Services and Marketing at the College, Mark Lewis, is excited about the outcomes of the conference. “The event supports the College’s commitment to valuing student voice. We carefully consider all feedback from our learners to ensure we continually evolve campus life, providing an optimum and progressive educational experience for all.”

The learners’ viewpoints will be invaluable as the College continues to implement strategies to progress the positive development of student life.

Former Performing Arts Student Leo Bill Stars Alongside Tom Hardy in BBC’s Taboo

Former Stratford-upon-Avon College performing arts student Leo Bill appeared in the first episode of new BBC drama Taboo on Saturday night (07 January 2017).

Leo Bill studied A Level Drama Package at the College between 1996 and 1998 and stars alongside top Hollywood talent Tom Hardy (The Revenant, Peaky Blinders, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall, Pirates of the Caribbean) in the new series set in the early 1800s.

Leo has previously appeared in a number of acclaimed films and television series such as Alice in Wonderland, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Borgias, The White Queen, Alice Through the Looking Glass and A Long Way Down.

After studying at the College Leo went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) graduating in 2001 before being awarded the Austin Texas Film Festival Best Actor Award in 2006.

Taboo is broadcast on BBC One on Saturdays at 9:15PM.

Head Chef Nick Deverell-Smith and Commis Chef Matthew Young

Award Winning Restaurateur Gives Aspiring Chefs a Career Boost

An award-winning Warwickshire chef and restaurateur is determined to provide greater employment opportunities for young people in rural communities, and has recently rewarded one of his own former apprentices with a much-sought-after full-time post.

Nick Deverell-Smith, Head Chef and proprietor of boutique Cotswold pub The Churchill Arms in the village of Paxford, decided to hire a Professional Cookery Apprentice through Stratford-upon-Avon College in October last year. Wanting to offer greater opportunity to aspiring chefs in rural communities, Nick explained, “I was an apprentice myself. I had the opportunity to train at Simpsons in Kenilworth, in my opinion the best restaurant in the area, under some fantastic chefs such as Glynn Purnell. I think there’s no better way than learning on the job.

“I always wanted to own my own restaurant. When I left school I wasn’t very confident at all but here I am now. To be able to give that opportunity to other young people is hugely rewarding.”

Nick, who won Junior Chef of the Year in 2000 and has worked under both Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White, turned to the College’s Work-Based Learning Team to arrange and advertise the apprenticeship. “When I opened The Churchill Arms, I got in touch with Stratford-upon-Avon College to perform some catering demonstrations for the students, and I was very impressed with the standard of chefs they were producing. So they were the obvious choice when it came to choosing an apprenticeship training provider.”

The apprenticeship was eagerly snapped up by 17-year-old Matthew Young. Under the expert guidance of Nick and his team, Matthew’s skill and confidence grow by the day and he has developed into a first-class commis chef. Reflecting on his training, Matthew said, “I definitely feel I learnt faster than I would have on a full-time course. I also got to practice my skills a lot more often. I was able to send my work to a customer and get their feedback instantly which was very helpful.”

The experience of developing an apprentice with the College has proved highly beneficial to Nick. “An apprentice needs time and patience but Matthew runs a whole section for me now. I can actually take a day off work now which wasn’t possible before!”

“I’m looking to recruit at least one other apprentice which will reinforce my team even further. Now Matthew will be the gold standard for any new apprentices I have. He’s evidence of how much you can achieve if you really put the hours in.”

Apprenticeship Team Leader Bryan Anderson is very impressed by Matthew’s achievements. “For any young chef confidence is key. I’ve seen Matthew grow and adapt and now you can see he feels much more self-assured. Matthew’s in charge of all cold starters and desserts and already has ambitions to progress further under Nick’s expert guidance.”

The Churchill Arms brings a contemporary feel to a 17th Century pub, with a ‘Best of British’ theme, and makes extensive use of local produce, sourced daily from the surrounding countryside. For more information, please visit the website

Lauren Preece, Apprentice of the Month

Apprentice of the Month – December 2016

Congratulations to Level 2 Business Administration Apprentice Lauren Preece — December 2016’s Apprentice of the Month.

Lauren’s manager at Venture House (Stratford-upon-Avon), Nancy Singleton, commented:

Lauren joined the Venture House Team on 12th September and has got off to a flying start. Her enthusiasm and can do approach towards her work shines through. We look forward to working with her to help her develop further in the role. Lauren is very much a worthy recipient of the accolade of Apprentice of the Month.

Stratford-upon-Avon College Business Development Manager Miv Wright commented:

I am very pleased that Lauren has been awarded Apprentice of the month. Lauren has made a fantastic contribution at Venture House. During each assessment visit Lauren has demonstrated excellent team player skills and has received praise from her Manager, Nancy. Lauren completes all assessment tasks set to a high quality and ensures that she provides additional work each month. Lauren has also supported the college at an Open Event, where she discussed her experience with potential students and also supported the WBL learning team. Again Lauren went above and beyond during the Open Event and was extremely helpful to all members of staff.


Are you aged 16+? Do you wish to combine working and earning while learning a professional skill? Would you like to gain nationally recognised qualifications?


Business and Education Have Come Together To Secure Funds To Boost Local Tourism Industry

Stratford-upon-Avon College, in collaboration with Henley-in-Arden School, Proactive Education, QHotels and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, has been successful in its bid to secure funding for a new youth engagement project soon to be delivered in Warwickshire.

22 businesses and education providers submitted proposals for the Warwickshire County Council Skills for Employment Major Grant. The College’s proposal focused on raising awareness of Hospitality and Travel and Tourism as a viable career pathway, to address a skills shortage in both sectors and to support an industry that is crucial to Stratford-upon-Avon’s local economy. This bid brought together parties with which the College has a proven track record, cementing the its commitment to the surrounding community and helping to make a major positive difference to the employability of young people in the county.

Engaging with students from Year 7 upwards, the project will offer them access to all aspects of the hospitality and tourism sectors – everything from the usual customer relations and catering, to areas such as event management and business administration; teaching them transferable life skills – communication, computer skills, team work – skills that are required in various degrees in every job; and help them make informed choices.

The College is delighted to be working with four local organisations – Henley-in-Arden School, Proactive Education, QHotels and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. By benefiting from the combined expertise of a school, a further education college, an employer engagement specialist and local employers, the College will be in a position to improve the transition of young people from education into employment. One example of this enhanced partnership between education provider and employer is that all students on the programme will work closely with mentors from QHotels and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, giving students a real insight into the world of work and prepare them for an interview at the end of Year 11 for apprenticeship opportunities.

Commenting on the working relationship between the five partners, Stevie Edmund-Jones, the College’s Head of Employer Engagement, said: “We are delighted that Warwickshire County Council has approved our bid. We all believe that with the knowledge and expertise all parties possess, we have the making of an excellent model that can be replicated in other areas.”

Although the project is designed to run from the beginning of next year until the end of July, the College aims to get to the point where the programme is sustainable; when the funding period ends, they hope to have established a network of training mentors capable of supporting new businesses and addressing the skills shortages in the county. Once proven results are seen, they believe their project will become a model for the formation of new partnerships between business and education across other high priority sectors.

Nicola Mannock

New League Tables Highlight College Students’ Employment Success

Newly published government league tables designed to assess the effectiveness of Further Education Colleges throughout the UK have shone light onto the excellent achievements made by Stratford-upon-Avon College.

The tables ranked the College fifth in the country in the ‘College Learners into Employment’ category (‘Benefit Learners’ and their ‘Sustained Employment Rate’), which evaluates success in progressing unemployed learners into work.

All 213 colleges in the country were awarded a score to determine their performance using a points system devised by Nick Linford, Editor of national Further Education magazine FE Week and former Director of Performance at Lewisham College in London.

Stratford-upon-Avon College’s capacity for propelling its students into successful careers recently received a further boost following its partnership with employer liaison specialists Proactive Education.

Members of the Proactive team are based in the College Job Pod three days a week to secure rewarding work experience placements for all full-time students and collaborate with employers to source apprenticeship opportunities. They also offer future skills and employment advice to all learners and teach the vital work-readiness skills sought after by businesses.

Nicola Mannock, Principal and CEO, is confident the College will now go from strength to strength. “Our success is down to our focus on individual students’ career strengths and expertise, putting the learner at the centre of everything we do,” she said. “We also recognise the value in developing key partnerships with employers, as evidenced by our work with Proactive Education. Along with our outstanding lecturers’ industry-focused teaching, I see no reason why we won’t find ourselves placed even higher in the League Table next year.”

Apprentice of the Month – November 2016

Congratulations to Level 2 Food Production and Cooking Apprentice Debbie Reading — November 2016’s Apprentice of the Month.

Debbie’s manager at Holroyd Howe Caterers, Maureeen Kennedy, commented:

“Debbie is a hard working enthusiastic and reliable. She has gained knowledge and confidence over the last year and is an asset to our team.”

Stratford-upon-Avon College Work Based Learning Team Leader Bryan Anderson commented:

“I am very pleased Debbie has been awarded Apprentice of the month, Debbie made fantastic progress on her apprenticeship and impressed her assessor with her commitment to her studies, Debbie left full time education a number of years ago and despite being disillusioned with school fully committed to gaining her functional skills.”


Are you aged 16+? Do you wish to combine working and earning while learning a professional skill? Would you like to gain nationally recognised qualifications?

Musical Theatre students perform at the Association of Colleges’ conference and exhibition.

College Students Enliven Education Conference with Show-Stopping Entertainment

Attendees of this year’s Association of Colleges’ Conference and Exhibition were treated to exceptional entertainment performed by Musical Theatre students from Stratford-upon-Avon College.

Musical Theatre students perform at the Association of Colleges’ conference and exhibition.

The students performed two extracts from their successful production of Hairspray, which was recently shown to the public in one of the College’s industry-standard theatres. The energetic performances demonstrated the students’ lyrical talent as they enlivened the evening with their enthusiasm and professionalism.

The event was held at the ICC in Birmingham and brought together senior leaders from the Further Education sector to learn, develop, support and exchange information. The conference combined keynote speakers and breakout sessions to inform, stimulate debate and provide the latest news on recent innovations in FE from senior figures in government, education and wider business sectors.

Musical Theatre students perform at the Association of Colleges’ conference and exhibition.

Commenting on the experience, Ellen Hastings, 17 from Kenilworth, said: “The performance went really well – especially since we didn’t know exactly what the stage would look like until we got there! It’s always great to perform live as you get to see the reaction of the audience. To have another chance to perform something we’re so passionate about was amazing, and we got to show off the College’s talents as well.”

Assistant Head of Department for Performing Arts and Music Claire Morley attended the conference and was delighted to be accompanied by the Musical Theatre students. “I was extremely proud to bring the College’s students to such a high-profile event. They demonstrated the exceptional talents and boundless enthusiasm of our Performing Arts learners, and proved to be very worthy ambassadors for Stratford-upon-Avon College.”


Former Performing Arts Student Reece Bahia

College Graduate Prepares For a Thriller Performance

A former student at Stratford-upon-Avon-College has begun rehearsals for a major West End theatre performance having been cast in the musical Thriller Live.

Reece Bahia, 21 from Coventry, studied Musical Theatre at the College from 2012 to 2014 and will be performing songs such as Dirty Diana, Beat it and She’s Out of My Life as part of the production.

Over the moon at being cast in such a prestigious show, Reece said, “It is a huge honour to be cast in this production. When I was growing up, Michael Jackson was my biggest inspiration so to be able to celebrate his music is just perfect.”

Such on-stage success is a far cry from the future Reece was working towards just a few years ago when studying A Levels to pursue a career in dentistry. “I’ve always been passionate about music since an early age and I think I always knew it was what I wanted to do. I got to a point in my A Levels when I finally accepted this and decided to pursue it with all my heart.”

After joining the College’s Musical Theatre course, he never looked back. “I couldn’t recommend the Performing Arts department enough. The staff in the College gave me the confidence and skills to be able to pursue my dream. If you are thinking about taking up performing arts as a career then this is the place for you.”

Since graduating, Reece has secured modelling work as the face of Indian clothing company KOOVS, filmed commercials in India and Argentina, and performed in the leading role of a UK tour of the musical Laila. And with his latest role in Thriller Live, it seems dentistry’s loss is definitely musical theatre’s gain!

Wayne Sullivan, Head Chef at The Old Stocks Inn in Stow-on-the-Wold.

Chef Creates Recipe For Success At College Dinner

An award-winning chef has applied his expertise to oversee culinary preparation for an evening of fine-dining and entertainment at Stratford-upon-Avon College.

Wayne Sullivan, Head Chef at The Old Stocks Inn in Stow-on-the-Wold, joined the College’s own highly-skilled Catering students in the campus’ industry-standard training kitchens to assist them in the creation of the menu for the College’s Governors’ Dinner.

The event was sponsored by Chairman of the Board of Governors Lord Digby Jones and Governor Tony Bird, Chairman of the Stratford-based Bird Group of Companies. Held on campus on Thursday 10 November, the dinner acted as a ‘thank you’ from both of them to College staff and Governors, celebrating the hard work and successes of the whole team over the last year.

The evening was presented with a spectacular World War One theme to mark one hundred years since the conflict took place. The College’s Academy Restaurant and three theatres were transformed by talented Technical Theatre students into period locales, while Performing Arts students entertained attendees with a variety of period dramas and musical numbers.

Wayne has a rich culinary background. His successful career has seen him rise through the ranks and hone his exceptional talents in kitchens in hotels and restaurants throughout the Cotswolds and London as well as the USA, working in some of the world’s best restaurants, including Marcus Wareing’s Petrus and at The Hotel Wheatleigh in Massachusetts, USA.

A true Cotswold chef, Wayne is well known in the area, having worked within the teams at several highly regarded local venues. He was famously Head Chef at the AA 2 Rosette awarded restaurant, Parkers Brasserie, when it was named by Cotswold Life as Restaurant of the Year, and has since added The Kings Head in Cirencester, being a member of the opening team alongside Stephen Mannock, The Bathurst Arms and The Wheatsheaf to his repertoire. As the current Head Chef at the Old Stocks Inn, he has many big plans for the coming year.

Wayne was delighted to be invited to join the students by College Principal and CEO Nicola Mannock. “Teaching isn’t something that I have a huge amount of experience in, but I’ve always believed in supporting the development of young chefs and giving them as much knowledge as possible. I hope that I’ve been able to impart some expertise that enhanced the creation of the menu.

“The facilities here give the students a great grounding; they let the students know exactly what is to come in the industry and the lecturers here are very experienced, they have great knowledge and they provide really solid foundation for the students before they move on to their careers.”

Shelley McGonigle, Assistant Head of Department – Hospitality and Catering, was thrilled to give the students the opportunity to work alongside such a respected chef. “On behalf of the College, I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to Wayne for giving up his valuable time to share his expertise with our students and staff. It’s been great to have him here. The experience has been of immense benefit to the students – they have learned so much from him about creating menus – and without his input I’m sure the evening would not have been so successful. We look forward to collaborating with him again in the future.”