East Durham College has made it to the finals of the prestigious Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Awards in the Social Action and Student Engagement category, the Oscars of the Further Education sector.
The Association of College’s Beacon Awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK colleges each year. This award, supported by the Pears #iwill Fund, seeks to celebrate an outstanding example of a college’s ability to engage in social action and engagement in their communities.
During the 2019/20 academic year, East Durham College designed and ran its own bespoke Community Action Projects, as part of the college’s tutorial programme, for all students aged 16 to 18 to undertake. The projects were learner led, personal to the students and really helped bridge the gap between East Durham College students and their wider community.
The projects were a huge success with learners coming up with unique and inspirational ways of engaging the socially isolated and supporting an array of local charities and causes. Over 70 projects supported groups such as the local women’s refuge, local branches of Age UK and several local Care Homes.
Suzanne Duncan, Principal of EDC, was thrilled to hear the news and said: “At East Durham College, the education we provide often extends far beyond the classroom, with staff and students alike going above and beyond to make a difference in our local communities.
“We’re thrilled to make it to the national finals in this fantastic category for Social Action and Student Engagement as it’s such an important aspect of college life.
“It’s an achievement that reflects the incredible work of our staff to enrich each individual student’s education beyond the core curriculum, truly preparing them not only for the next steps in their career, but also helping them contribute positively to their local community. As a college, we’re all ecstatic to be finalists and we look forward to the next stage of judging!”
Examples of the different projects students ran, included health and social care learners volunteered at ‘Café Together’ in Easington, a community Café set up to serve hot food and provide conversation for socially isolated members of the community. Learners from catering courses volunteered their time at local care homes, facilitating intergenerational games, activities and providing afternoon tea for residents.
Painting and decorating students identified dog litter as a big problem in local play parks. They designed and printed several humorous and factual posters encouraging dog owners to pick up after their dogs. These posters were put up, with support from the park wardens, in play parks in Peterlee and received very positive feedback from the Town Council.
Other activities included Peter Jones Enterprise Academy students creating care packages for the local women’s refuge and holding a raffle in aid of local foodbanks, and construction learners running a charity football match and raising awareness for the Bradley Lowery foundation.
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, added: “Colleges have a significant role to play in preparing students to become active citizens and engage with the world around them. These three colleges have shown a really high standard of participation, curriculum enhancement and learner engagement in social action which benefits both learners and communities.”
The AoC Beacon Awards finalists were announced at the AoC FE Summit on Tuesday 17 November. Winners will be announced in Spring 2021.