Schools across the Trust share best practice at first ever ALET conference

On Monday 7 January 2019, the Activate Learning Education Trust (ALET) held its first conference for all teaching and learning staff within the Trust, held at UTC Oxfordshire.

Teaching and learning staff across Bicester Technology Studio, South Wiltshire UTC, Theale Green School, The Bicester School, UTC Heathrow, UTC Oxfordshire, UTC Reading and UTC Swindon came together to join forces for a day of collaboration and networking.

The theme of the conference was Challenge Through Collaboration, which gave all staff the chance to offer ideas and insight, share best practice and hear from other staff in their subject areas, enhancing collaboration across ALET.

After morning refreshments and networking, the conference kicked off at 10.30am with a welcome from ALET CEO, Lee Nicholls and Executive Principal and Deputy CEO of Activate Learning, Joanne Harper, sharing priorities for the year ahead.

Chair of ALET Board and CEO of Activate Learning, Sally Dicketts delivered an inspiring keynote on Our Learning Philosophy; what influenced it, the reason it exists today and what it can mean for our students.

This was followed by the Collaborate and Challenge session, led by Theale Green School Headteacher, Jo Halliday and Jonathan Neill. Thirteen teachers from across the Trust each had between 3 and 7 minutes to present, in front of all staff, and share their best practice on particular topics, such as motivation by destination, ambitious classrooms and forms to inform.

Presenters included:

Chris Lambert, Theale Green School

Vivian White, South Wiltshire UTC

Marion Gibbons, UTC Heathrow

Lesley Parker, Theale Green School

Nick Mitchell, UTC Swindon

David Jardine, The Bicester School

Sophie Howard, Theale Green School

Oscar Maddox, The Bicester School

Paul Corrie, UTC Oxfordshire

Robert Bradley, UTC Reading

Steph McNeil, Bicester Technology Studio

Stephanie Mitchell, UTC Reading

Sarah Mollen, UTC Oxfordshire

During the afternoon, the ‘Subject Network’ sessions kicked off. Staff split into the following groups, each running their own workshop with others across the Trust: Mathematics, Humanities and Languages, Technology and Engineering, Learning Support Assistants, English, Computing and IT, Science, Business, Economics, Philosophy and Psychology, Sports, Creative and Performing Arts and Disadvantage.

Jo Harper, Deputy CEO and Executive Principal, ALET said: “The conference was a fantastic opportunity to bring together colleagues from all schools to explore Our Learning Philosophy and collaborate. I was enormously impressed by the energy and enthusiasm throughout the day. I would like to express my thanks to all staff who helped with the preparation and delivery of the conference. I am most looking forward to hearing about further collaboration projects and the impact of the conference on learning across our schools over the next few months, as we transform lives through learning”.

UTC Pipeline Programme is training students for careers with industry leaders

An innovative recruitment programme involving three Southern England University Technical Colleges (UTCs), and industry leaders like Microsoft, Fujitsu, Network Rail and the John Lewis Partnership, will develop the skills that young people need to succeed in the workplace.

The UTCs – Heathrow, Reading and Swindon – are part of the Activate Learning Education Trust (ALET), a leading education group with strong links to business. UTCs provide a technical education as well as core curriculum subjects like maths and English, and differ from secondary schools by working directly with employers to meet evolving industry demands.

Each industry partner will run four recruitment-focussed Pipeline Days this academic year with the UTCs’ Year 12 and 13 students. The programme is designed to develop a talent pipeline through students and employers working together on employability skills workshops, technical briefings and work placements.

By investing this way in the students’ development, employers can recruit more motivated, loyal and highly skilled talent on to apprenticeships or as graduates into their businesses.

The students gain by building their confidence and establishing trust and rapport with a network of industry contacts. They are given a clear line of sight to their career and can start to build the employability and technical skills needed to kick-start successful careers.

Michael Halliday, Business Relations Manager at UTC Reading, UTC Swindon and UTC Heathrow said: “This is a huge effort from our partners to fundamentally change the way recruitment is undertaken, particularly into apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships. Our partners have each committed a minimum of 12 resource days to build relationships with students and to develop the skills needed by industry”.

He continues: “Feedback from the first Pipeline Day has already proved that the model is far more valuable to a student than traditional outreach activities, and this will enable us to refine the format of future Pipeline Days this year with our partners, to support our students in developing clear aspirations for careers within our specialisms”.

ALET is grateful for the support of the following companies in delivering the UTC Pipeline Programme: Microsoft, Network Rail, Peter Brett Associates, Heathrow Airport Limited, Fujitsu, John Lewis Partnership, TfL (Transport for London), Equinix, KBR, Atkins, John Guest, SSE, Costain, NTT Security, Salesforce, Wiltshire Police and Airbyte.

Bright futures lie ahead for students within the Activate Learning Education Trust as they celebrate fantastic GCSE and BTEC results

Year 11 students from across the Activate Learning Education Trust (ALET) schools are celebrating after collecting their GCSE and BTEC results.

The four University Technical Colleges (UTC Reading, UTC Oxfordshire, UTC Swindon, Heathrow Aviation Engineering UTC), two comprehensive schools (Theale Green School and The Bicester School) and Studio School (Bicester Technology Studio) within the trust saw impressive grades across the board, with improvements in the majority of subjects.

In UTC Swindon’s specialist subjects, all students passed BTEC Electronic Computer Control Engineering and 95% achieved GCSE passes in biology, chemistry and physics, compared to a third of students nationally in 2017. At UTC Reading, STEM specialisms celebrated their strength with very strong grades in smart product design and manufacture, design, engineer construct and Level 2 BTEC qualifications in IT and GCSE maths.

Over at UTC Oxfordshire, 80% of students achieved a 4 or above in computer science and 92% achieved three science qualifications at 4 or above, whilst Heathrow UTC saw a 16% increase in mathematics at a grade 4 and above. Bicester Technology Studio collected its first set of exam results this year with students receiving qualifications that will enable them to progress to destinations with the STEM specialisms.

Meanwhile, there have been tears of happiness at the two ALET comprehensive schools as

Theale Green School have made excellent progress in English and mathematics. Biology, chemistry and physics results increased to 90%, achieving a strong pass across the three sciences. The Bicester School’s GCSE grades have also improved by an average of half a grade across the board, with improvements seen in many subjects, notably English (85% achieving a grade 4 or above, up 10% from 2017) and science (73% achieving a grade 4 or above, up 20% from 2017).

Joanne Harper, Deputy CEO of Activate Learning Education Trust, said: “We have seen some fantastic results across our schools, most notably at The Bicester School and UTC Oxfordshire, both recently rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.  Other schools who are at the beginning of their improvement journeys have also seen improvements in key areas of their curriculum, with especially pleasing results in the STEM subjects across our 14-19 provisions.  Staff and students across all have worked hard to achieve every single examination grade and should be very proud of their achievements”.

The mission of the ALET, established by Activate Learning, is “to deliver excellence in education and to transform lives through learning”, bringing to life core values of empowerment, enterprise, connectedness and transformation. ALET work hard to ignite confidence, expand opportunities, energise the community and generate prosperity.

These values are further supported by the learning philosophy, rooted in the dynamics between the brain, motivation and our emotions.

Schools within the Activate Learning Education Trust celebrate fantastic sixth form results and destinations for its students

Examination results put students on the path to fulfilling careers

Year 13 students from across the four UTCs, two comprehensive schools and Studio School under the Activate Learning Education Trust (ALET), are celebrating after their hard work gained examination results that have opened the doors to a range of exciting industry apprenticeships, university degrees and degree courses.

The results have secured students from across the ALET schools places on sought-after courses at top 20 universities including Oxford, Loughborough and Bath, as well as learners gaining the best of both worlds through degree apprenticeships with companies including Cisco and Fujitsu.

It was all smiles at the ALET’s two comprehensive schools, as students at Theale Green celebrated fantastic destinations, such as Oxford University,  as well as an impressive average of over 40% at the top A* and A grades. Meanwhile The Bicester School, recently rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, saw a substantial improvement in the number of students gaining grades A*-B with a 23% increase in the sciences and a 40% increase in History.

The four UTCs and Studio School saw grades continue recent years’ high levels of performance in the STEM areas with 100% of UTC Swindon students achieving Level 3 pass or better, UTC Heathrow achieving high grades in Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Engineering and both UTC Reading and UTC Oxfordshire gaining 100% pass rates in subjects including the sciences, further maths, product design and extended project qualification. The team at Bicester Technology Studio are absolutely delighted with the fantastic outcomes that their students have achieved in their specialist subjects, earning places on prestigious apprenticeships.

Students from across the ALET schools have earned places on high-quality apprenticeships with companies including Aston Martin, AWE, NCS, British Army (REME), Network Rail and Peter Brett Associates (PBA).

Joanne Harper, Deputy CEO of Activate Learning Education Trust, said: “It is incredibly rewarding to see so many of the students from across ALET receiving strong results in their courses and even more pleasing to hear of the fantastic destinations secured as a result.  None of this happens by accident; it is the hard work and partnership of students, staff and parents that makes all the difference and everyone is to be congratulated for their part in the results and destinations”.

The mission of the ALET, established by Activate Learning, is “to deliver excellence in education and to transform lives through learning”, bringing to life core values of empowerment, enterprise, connectedness and transformation. ALET work hard to ignite confidence, expand opportunities, energise the community and generate prosperity.

These values are further supported by the learning philosophy, rooted in the dynamics between the brain, motivation and our emotions.

Activate Learning’s trio among sector’s top tweeters

A trio of Activate Learning staff have been named among the further education sector’s most influential social media users.

The competition to find leading social media practitioners was launched by JISC, which provides digital services for further and higher education.

Among the final line-up – taken from nominations and selected by a panel of social media experts – are:

Cheri Fletcher – Group Executive Director @penncheryl
Cheri’s campaign to promote digital learning in further education has resulted in Reading College becoming a beacon of good practice for using technology for learning. The college has been twice shortlisted in the outstanding use of digital technology category of the TES FE Awards.
Cheri was recognised by the judges for “using her position as a leader to model positive and effective use of social media through Twitter and Google Plus.” Cheri also contributes to the Pass It On blog, which contributed to Reading College winning the AoC Beacon Award for Staff Development in 2015.

James Kieft – Group Learning and Development Manager @james_kieft
James maintains a regular blog, with information on a wide range of digital and online learning tools for colleagues to explore. He’s an active user of Twitter to share new ideas and methodologies and employs Google Plus to share his knowledge and provide accessible, material about the new tools, software and ideas.

Neil Bardo, Course Leader for Hospitality and Catering @NeilBardo
Neil uses social media to promote Reading College’s industry standard training restaurant, The Kitchen. He regularly posts photographs of student work and shares his experiences with top chefs across Berkshire. Neil also contributes to The Kitchen’s dedicated blog and microsite.

The JISC top 50 list includes college managers and leaders, tutors and support staff, who are using social media to improve learning and teaching or to create positive change within their organisation.

To find out more search #jisc50social on Twitter.

Bicester Technology Studio officially opens

The Bicester Technology Studio building is officially open.

BTS1August has seen a huge transformation for our brand new building and we are delighted to announce that the official handover is complete. The first day of term was Monday 5 September, when we were extremely excited to welcome our new students.

We would be pleased to welcome interested students over the next few days who are still undecided on their Year 10 or Sixth Form choice for September. We have a very limited number of places remaining, so if you would like to come and see the building and discuss your options with us we recommend that you do so as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions you would like to ask.


BTS building


GCSE English among top performers for The Bicester School

The Bicester School celebrated a strong set of exam results for a second time in August as students received their GCSE grades.

An impressive 82% of the 167 students collecting their results achieved A*-C in English, beating the national average by 22%.

Headteacher Tony Rushworth commented: “We are delighted that 82% of our Year 11 cohort achieved A*-C in English. The overall result of 55% A*-C English and Maths matches the national average with a progress score which is 0.2 higher than 2015.”

A number of students achieved seven or more of the very top grades of A* and A. This included Amelia Ait-Tales (nine A*/As), Leah Stanley (ten A*/As), Rebecca Clamp (eight A*/As) William Hinton (seven A*/As) and Louis O’Connell (seven A*/As), to name a few of the exceptional performers.

Tony added: “The year group included an unusually high number of disadvantaged students and we were delighted that 58% of these students achieved the headline figure which is significantly above the national average.”

A-level success for students at The Bicester School

Students at The Bicester School were celebrating a strong set of A-level results this August.

A total of 56 students received their examination results – more than double the number receiving results last year. The school posted a figure of 97% achieving two or more A-level grades at A*-E, which is 5% above the current national average.

Tony Rushworth, Headteacher at The Bicester School, said: “We are extremely proud of our students’ achievements, which represents a great deal of hard work on their part. Having seen a major improvement in A-level grades last year, we are delighted to have held firm on these results for a second year running. This is particularly impressive given the increase in the number of students studying at our sixth form.

“Importantly, these results will enable our students to take their next steps with many taking up their first choice of university place.”

When combining A-level and level 3 vocational equivalents taken by students at The Bicester School, 100% achieved two or more Level 3 advanced qualifications.

Chris takes the Chair at Activate Learning

City & GuildsGroup Chief Executive of the City & Guilds Group, Chris Jones, has been announced as the new Chair of the corporation at Activate Learning.

Chris, who has been a member of the corporation since 2011, replaces Graham Blackburn, who steps down after nine years’ service, including four as Chair.

As Chief Executive of the City & Guilds Group, Chris plays a prominent role in driving the national skills agenda. The Group is a leader in global skills development, setting the standard for professional and technical education and corporate learning and development. The Group works with education providers, employers and goverments in over 100 countries across the world.

Speaking about his new role, Chris said: “I am excited to be taking up this new role with an organisation which is leading such innovative approaches to teaching and learning, as it seeks to increase opportunities for learners. Activate Learning has a strong governing body and I look forward to continuing to work with members of the corporation, the senior team, staff and students to realise our shared vision to transform lives through learning.”

Chris takes up the position at Activate Learning following a period of significant growth. The organisation, which operates across Oxfordshire, the Thames Valley and overseas, now comprises three UK further education colleges, four schools, two apprenticeship and training providers and four colleges in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Sally Dicketts, Group Chief Executive of Activate Learning, said: “I am extremely grafeful for the time, commitment and expertise that Graham has given the group during a period of considerable change. During his time as Chair, the organisation has transformed from a single college to a group of organisations designed to meet the needs of learners and employers. During this time he has helped us to remain focused on raising standards of teaching and learning.

“Chris joins us as Chair as we enter an exciting new chapter in our development. This includes launching a new faculty structure across our three group colleges, which will see us working much more closely with employers in key industries to design relevant learning programmes that offer learners a direct line of sight to employment.

“Chris’ considerable experience and expertise in vocational education, and a shared passion for empowering people to unleash their talents and achieve their full potential, will help to steer us forward into this next phase.”

Before joining the City & Guilds Group, Chris held several senior management positions in publishing and education. He is also a member of Business in the Community’s Talent and Skills Leadership Group.