Musical Theatre students rehearse for their upcoming performance of Chaircago

Students Raise Disability Awareness with Unique Musical Adaptation

Stratford is about to host a unique theatrical performance, when Musical Theatre students from Stratford-upon-Avon College put their own take on the musical Chicago.

Inspired by one of their colleagues, Kieron Hoult, 17 from Redditch, who is a wheelchair user, the students felt passionately about the need to raise awareness of wheelchair users in the arts and decided to perform excerpts from the musical with all performers in wheelchairs – and so Chaircago was born!

Musical Theatre lecturer Alex Dengate is extremely impressed by the hard work of the young choreographers who have succeeded in imaginatively adapting Bob Fosse’s iconic choreography for wheelchairs.

The British Red Cross is kindly sponsoring the event by lending the College 22 wheelchairs for use in the performance. Nadia Jambawai, Mobility Aid Coordinator at the Red Cross commented: “We’re delighted to lend our support to this very worthwhile project and to be able to provide practical help. Until people experience an injury that affects their mobility, they just don’t realise how challenging it can be. The students should be applauded for their wish to raise awareness in such a positive way.”

Everyone involved is excited by the thought of performing Chaircago in front of a live audience. First year Musical Theatre student Kieran will be performing in the show and has served as Movement Director, helping the students to learn to operate the wheelchairs. He explained: “This is by far the best performance I’ve been involved with at the College. We designed the show to illustrate to people that disability is no barrier to being involved in a production.

“A few years ago, I was told that I was unable to study GCSE Drama when I was at school, so it’s really important to me to prove that this can be done and show that there is a key role for people with disabilities in the arts.

“The rehearsal period has been more challenging than our previous productions. We’ve had a few on-stage collisions as the other performers have been getting used to moving in wheelchairs!

“The audience won’t have seen anything like it; this is a once in a lifetime experience and a true first for the College.”

Musical Theatre students rehearse for their upcoming performance of Chaircago

Musical Theatre students rehearse for their upcoming performance of Chaircago

Musical theatre students preparing to go onstage at the NAMSS Conference

College Performing Arts Students Wow the Audience at National Conference

Musical Theatre students from Stratford-upon-Avon College attended a prestigious educational event where they were invited to perform show-stopping extracts from one of their recent productions.

The students travelled to the NAMSS (National Association for Managers in Student Services) Annual Conference in Liverpool where they opened the event’s 30th anniversary gala dinner at the Hilton Hotel on Monday evening.

The students took to the stage to perform a selection of songs, monologues and dances from the play ‘Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens’. The audience, comprising representatives from over 100 colleges across the UK, were delighted by the quality and passion of the College performance, and the Musical Theatre learners were thrilled to receive a standing ovation.

Mark Lewis, Director of Student Services and Marketing at the College, was very proud of the students. “They put on a superb, highly professional performance and proved to be worthy ambassadors for the College. We are grateful to NAMSS for giving them the chance to perform in front of such a prestigious audience; opportunities like this are vital for students to experience a real-life theatrical setting and further develop their performance skills.”

The students were also able to take advantage of the trip to spend the afternoon at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. Participating in a series of acting, dance and music workshops, they took advantage of this great opportunity to enhance their learning and gain a taste of the rigorous training that awaits them as they progress to drama school.

Level 3 Musical Theatre student Paige Donaldson, 17 from Solihull, is currently auditioning for drama schools and found the visit invaluable. “We got to experience first-hand how students at LIPA are taught. I found out a lot about what they expect from the students who come to audition with them.”

Level 3 Musical Theatre student Bryony Harrison, also 17 from Solihull, has just been accepted to the second round of auditions at the Guildford School of Acting in Surrey. “It really gave me a feel for the different pathways available to me while studying at a drama school.”

Bryony certainly believes that the combination of the LIPA workshop and her training at the College has set her up perfectly for the future. “My course at Stratford-upon-Avon College definitely prepared me for progressing to the next stage of my training. My confidence has increased a lot and I absolutely believe if I wasn’t studying Musical Theatre here I would not have been able to get through any of my auditions.”

Professional Cookery Apprentice Ellena Maher at the Rose & Crown restaurant

Cooking Up My Future at The Rose & Crown

By Ellena Maher, Professional Cookery Apprentice

For someone who’s as passionate about cooking as me, there is really only one choice of career, isn’t there? So, as a first step towards my goal, I was thrilled to get a Professional Cookery Apprenticeship at The Rose & Crown restaurant in Warwick.

Once a month, my tutor from Stratford-upon-Avon College, Jim, visits the restaurant to see me cook and prepare dishes.

I remember I was so nervous the first couple of times Jim came to visit me, as I felt I was being assessed and might be criticised. I shouldn’t have worried though. He instantly put me at ease and made it clear he is there to help and support my development. We discuss the month before which meals I will be preparing next, to give me time for practice and preparation.

I had already completed a full-time Catering course at Stratford-upon-Avon College, but my apprenticeship has driven me even further towards my goal of becoming a fully-trained chef. I have learnt so much and had great fun at the same time! The bonus of doing an apprenticeship is that I am earning my own money while I’m learning. I’m also guaranteed a job after the course has finished. What more could you ask for?

I get so much support from my Head Chef, Leon Higham, as well as the whole team at The Rose & Crown. Jim makes sure that I understand the tasks that I’m given and teaches me new skills that I can put straight into practice in the kitchen. I even enjoy my assessments – it doesn’t even feel like I’m being assessed, just having a lesson because it’s great fun!

An apprenticeship course is a fantastic opportunity to carry on studying whilst gaining valuable work experience with a regular salary. I would highly recommend choosing one!

Rebbecca Johnson, Laura-Marie Slatem, Scott Bransby

College Apprenticeship Team Go Back To The Floor

Members of Stratford-upon-Avon College’s Work Based Learning Team have been sent “back to the floor” to experience daily life as an apprentice.

To mark National Apprenticeship Week, College Apprenticeship Assessors rolled up their sleeves and worked alongside the trainee professionals they usually teach to gain an insight into the operational practices of local employers and to better understand the viewpoint of an apprentice.

On Tuesday, Apprentice Assessor Rebecca Johnson spent the afternoon working in the bar of QHotel’s Stratford Manor, receiving training in the preparation of food and drinks, in taking payments and in customer service from Food and Beverage Apprentice Scott Bransby and Hospitality Apprentice Laura-Marie Slatem.

Hannah Benjamin, Human Resource Officer at Stratford Manor praised the quality of apprentices they have received for the College. “Our relationship with Stratford-upon-Avon College has not only enriched our business, it has created the foundations of students’ futures through the support of the dedicated Apprenticeship Team. We have shining students in both kitchen and general hospitality roles, where they have gone on to win group-level chef competitions, become apprenticeship ambassadors and represented us at local events for both the College and QHotels. The College are very understanding of the skillset we look for and the personality to match our business style, and we look forward to welcoming new apprentices for our July and September intake.”

Wednesday saw newly-appointed Assessor Alison Dean working in several departments in the College itself, alongside three apprentices employed there full time. After enjoying a spell on the reception desk taking calls and meeting visitors with Business Administration apprentice Leigh-Ann Penman, Alison joined Kirsty Fox in Student Services, before teaming up with Kate Parker in Marketing to help look after the College’s social media channels.

Throughout Thursday morning, Work Based Learning Team Leader Bryan Anderson reported for his shift at Fourteas Café on Sheep Street in Stratford-upon-Avon. He assisted Hospitality Apprentice Elliott Wallis as part of the front-of-house team serving customers, including regular patron Margret Callaghan. Margret praised the friendly atmosphere of the café. “We really enjoy coming here as it’s run so well with lovely staff. No matter the size of your group or how long you stay, they always make you feel welcome and accommodate you. They have a great team here and it’s the perfect place to learn the excellent customer service skills you would need to work in catering.”

Having spent the day helping Bryan learn the ropes, Elliot praised his trainer’s work ethic. “Bryan is doing wonderfully well – although he does have a little bit more experience than most new starters. I would definitely hire him!”

Finishing his shift, Bryan said “I really enjoyed my time at Fourteas today and it gave me a real insight into the challenges my apprentices face every day at work. I never knew that different blends of tea require different brewing times and how useful an egg timer is to get the perfect cuppa!”

Business Administration Apprentice Martin Dunsby

The Road to a Successful Career: My Apprenticeship Journey

By Martin Dunsby, former Business Administration Apprentice

Getting started. It’s got to be the biggest hurdle to career success: how to get your foot in the door when every job advert states ‘applicants must have experience’.

Having completed an IT course at university in 2008, I found myself in this very situation. It felt like every position I wanted to apply for required me to have already worked in the industry!

Which was when, looking through the local paper, I spotted an advert for Business and Administration apprenticeship positions at Stratford-upon-Avon College.

After a successful interview, which was itself a valuable experience, I started working in the College’s own MIS (Management Information Services) department as an apprentice. I gained invaluable experience working within an office environment, and also acquired many new skills and furthered my expertise from the training provided by the College’s Work Based Learning team.

I had a fantastic time throughout the training programme. But my good luck didn’t end there! Once I had completed the apprenticeship, I was thrilled to discover the opportunity to stay on at the College on a permanent basis, in the same role as a MIS Administrator. I later progressed to another job within the MIS department as a MIS Data Analyst, where I was able to use the knowledge and skills acquired as an apprentice to perform the tasks that were needed for my new role.

After working in this position for two years, I saw a Service Desk position had become available in the IT department of the College; a great opportunity for me to put my university education into practice. Another successful interview followed and I am currently working as an IT Service Desk Technician – a position I love.

Having attended full-time education, I firmly believe taking an apprenticeship provided me with the skills, knowledge and experience to help me to progress to where I am now. I would highly recommend apprenticeships to anyone passionate about making their mark in a new career. So go for it – you’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Professional Cookery Apprentice Akela Nevelli (left) with No 9 Church Street Chef/Proprietor Wayne Thomson

International Student Follows His Dreams to Stratford

An aspiring chef has spread his wings and sought to master his culinary skills outside his native Italy. With the whole of Europe and a choice of countries with impressive histories of fine food to hand, he chose Stratford-upon-Avon, after his grandmother, who lives in the Warwickshire town, recommended the superb catering training provided by the local College.

Passionate about becoming a successful chef, Akela Nevelli, aged 21, approached the Work Based Learning team at the College, who helped him secure an advanced apprenticeship in Professional Cookery at the restaurant No 9 Church Street, under the mentoring of Chef/Proprietor Wayne Thomson. Wayne himself started his catering career by training for three years at Stratford-upon-Avon College, before moving to London to work at some of the most prestigious establishments in the capital: The Savoy, Claridge’s, Monte’s of Sloane Street and L’Odeon, working under culinary luminaries such as John Williams, Alain Ducasse, Bruno Loubet and Anthony Demetre.

Akela counts himself extremely fortunate to have Wayne as his mentor – a National Finalist of both the National Chef of the Year competition and The Roux Scholarship, and a recipient of The Academy of Culinary Arts’ Annual Award of Excellence. In addition to passing on his expertise, Wayne has given Akela the opportunity to learn all areas of the kitchen as well as taking him to see suppliers and markets to choose the best ingredients.

Commenting on Akela’s apprenticeship, Wayne said, “I’m passionate about offering opportunities to young chefs like Akela because it offers him the chance to develop Commis Chefs skills from scratch. Also, having apprentices working in the restaurant showcases to my other staff the amazing opportunities for career development that are available to them.”

Akela himself is convinced he made the right decision in choosing to become an apprentice in Stratford: “I have really benefited from my Apprenticeship as it has allowed me to develop the practical skills to work as a chef and, as the course is so closely linked to my work with Wayne, I feel that my skills and understanding have developed far faster than if I had just taken a full- or part-time course.”

Stratford-upon-Avon College

Stratford-upon-Avon College Welcomes New Leadership and Looks to Future Collaboration

Stratford-upon-Avon College is introducing changes to its senior management team in order to fully invest in the future of students, staff and the local community.

Principal Nicola Mannock has sadly left Stratford-upon-Avon College. Ms Mannock has worked tirelessly over the past few years to put the College back on the map and it thanks her warmly for all her efforts. She goes with the best wishes of all at the College for the future.

The College welcomes Andrew Cropley as its new Principal and CEO. He has worked in senior positions at both Sheffield College and Warwickshire College which he left a few weeks ago. Mr. Cropley has the support of everyone at Stratford-upon-Avon College as it is taken securely into the next stage of its development. He will ensure the College’s three priorities – the students, the staff and the local community remain at the forefront of all it seeks to achieve.

The College’s Board of Governors has made no secret of pursuing a policy of collaboration with other Colleges with a view to merger if the right partner is identified. Over the next few weeks, the Board of Governors will be considering the merits of various Colleges with a view to merge. Always at the forefront of deliberations will be the sustained best interests of the students, the staff and the local community of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Staff unions are working closely with the Chairman of Governors, the Governing body and Mr Cropley to ensure that the transition towards any proposed merger of Stratford-upon-Avon College is carried out smoothly, efficiently and with the interests of staff and students as the foremost concern; this means the selection of the merger partner will include an options analysis involving colleges geographically close to Stratford.

The entire team believes in the future of Stratford-upon-Avon College and there remains an unwavering commitment to ensuring it retains its status as a General Further Education College offering a broad range of tertiary educational opportunities to the Stratford community.

Mr Cropley said, “I would like to reassure all of our students that there will be no changes to the courses they are studying on during this academic year and the quality of teaching, and your overall experience, here at Stratford-upon-Avon College will not be affected. Those on longer programmes can be confident that you will be able to continue their studies with us as planned.

“Our vision remains to be an ‘outstanding, responsive and thriving college’ and to provide our students with excellent educational opportunities and progression routes. We are proud of our students and will always place the student experience at the heart of everything we do.”

Stratford-upon-Avon College Business students, with the cheques they will deliver to their chosen charities.

Students Put The ‘Fun’ Into Fundraising

Business students from Stratford-upon-Avon College have been making good use of their knowledge and expertise to raise money for charity. Working in small teams, the students ran various fundraising events throughout Warwickshire and raised the magnificent sum of £1637.67.

These activities, which will be treated as part of the students’ Level 3 BTEC Business course, were designed to develop their team-working and event management skills. Each team was responsible for selecting a particular charity – with the four chosen being: Young Epilepsy UK, Cancer Research UK, M.I.N.D. and Rays of Sunshine – and they then worked tirelessly to plan, advertise and run their event.

Charlie Glynn, 20, from Warwick, raised £630 for Cancer Research UK. “To know that we raised the money for a charity that’s so close to us all is amazing, and to be able to do it as part of our College work is absolutely fantastic. Because the cause is personal to us, we felt everyone would have more invested in our event and so we’d work that much harder.

“We hosted a charity ball with live music at The View in Stratford. We had 130 guests turn up on the night. We arranged the live music ourselves and The View offered the use of their premises free of charge which was very good of them.”

Charlie explained the challenges faced by the students throughout the project. “When organising the event, we had to form a strong, cohesive group. We had to use our negotiation skills and convince organisations of the benefits of working with us, since we had no budget to spend! All the groups worked largely independently, so we learnt a huge amount as we progressed with the project, while at the same time helping our favourite charities.”

Stratford-upon-Avon College Business students, with the cheques they will deliver to their chosen charities.

Stratford-upon-Avon College Business students, with the cheques they will deliver to their chosen charities.

Olympic pole vaulter Holly Bradshaw

Olympic Athlete Inspires Local Students

An Olympic pole-vaulter has been offering an insight into the life of an elite athlete by passing on her training and performance expertise to students at Stratford-upon-Avon College.

Holly Bradshaw, who competed at the Rio Olympics in 2016 finishing in fifth place, joined the College as a guest lecturer on Thursday 2 February to discuss her training and conditioning with Sport students.

Holly’s husband Paul, a former 800-metre runner who has represented both England and Great Britain, now works as Sport lecturer at the College. Aware of a gap in Holly’s training schedule, Paul took advantage of the opportunity to organise the visit.

Holly spent the day covering nutrition and analysing performance with the students. She explained: “Pole vaulting incorporates quite a lot of complex movements so I’ve been showing them how I go about studying my own technique.”

Working with young people provides Holly with a great sense of fulfilment. “This is a great way that I can give back. I love inspiring people to get involved in sport. If I can help in any way with their education and to get them motivated then that would be ideal.

“I’ve been lucky enough to acquire so much knowledge from the people I’ve worked with. If I can share that with others then I want to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Holly is temporarily recovering from surgery following a recurring injury in her Achilles tendon. Not wanting it to impact her further and cause additional issues, Holly chose to have the corrective operation early in the year, ahead of upcoming events. “This year, the most important thing to me is the World Championships in August, which will be held in the UK. When a major competition is held in my home country, the crowd is insane. It’s great to have so much home support and there’s the opportunity to get a lot of coverage, so it’s that much more important to me.”

Thankfully, the surgery was a complete success and Holly will be back to peak fitness in six weeks.

Paul Bradshaw was thrilled to offer his students the chance to learn from an Olympian. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to find out more about what it’s like to be an elite athlete and what it takes to compete at an international level. They are always ravenous to soak up new information and were determined to make the most of this experience, asking questions about motivation and the team that supports Holly. The insight they gained will certainly inform their own practice and have a positive impact on their own career ambitions.”

Uniformed Public Services lecturer Oli Wilkins with former students Sam Millard, Jake Smith and Dan Ward

Servicemen Return to College Roots

Three military servicemen revisited their induction to service life when they returned to Stratford-upon-Avon College to catch up with their former lecturer and share stories of their experiences.

Royal Marine Sam Millard, Army infantryman Dan Ward, and Jake Smith, currently training with the Army Royal Fusiliers Reservists, graduated from the College in 2014. Having grown up and attended primary school together in Hampton Magna in Warwickshire, all three are living out their life-long ambitions to serve in the forces.

They chose to study at Stratford-upon-Avon College as they felt it was the best provider of a specialised Uniformed Public Services course – a career path they have always wanted to pursue. They spent the afternoon back at College on Friday 27 January to meet with their lecturer Oli Wilkins, a former Royal Marine himself.

Jake is taking an apprenticeship with the engineering firm Matrix, based in Coventry, as he completes his reservist training. The intense preparation he received from Oli was particularly inspiring. “It was great to be taught by a lecturer who has served and who knows the reality of service life first hand. The physical training really helped to prepare me.” Jake is now seriously considering full-time service once he has finished his apprenticeship.

Sam is currently stationed in Scotland, having been awarded the Royal Marines’ green beret in January, and is now planning to specialise in weapons training. He too is glad to have had the opportunity to benefit from a vigorous fitness regime prepared by Oli as part of the course. “I feel lucky to have got through my training to be honest. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever done, mentally and physically.”

Dan passed out as an infantryman in February 2016. He initially joined the Army Reserves and immediately took the opportunity to go on tour before transitioning into full-time service. He is now on a peace-keeping mission with the UN, controlling the border in Cyprus. Currently on two weeks leave, he was pleased to find it coincided with Sam’s and Jake’s leave, allowing them all to catch up.

Eager to help current students, all three are now planning to return again as soon as possible to lead workshops and talks, providing an informative insight into life in the military.

Oli Wilkins, lecturer of Uniformed Public Services, was delighted that his former students had chosen to visit the College again. “I’m very pleased that Dan, Jake and Sam felt they had gained so much from the course and its physical training programmes, and I am proud of them for each becoming so successful in their chosen careers. It was a great pleasure hearing about their military experiences first-hand, and our current students will, I’m sure, benefit enormously from future visits.”

Sam Millard, Dan Ward and Jake Smith alongside Uniformed Public Services lecturer Oli Wilkins.

Sam Millard, Dan Ward and Jake Smith alongside Uniformed Public Services lecturer Oli Wilkins.