East Durham College Wins National Award for Student Engagement

Mon, 08/02/2021 - 18:08

East Durham College has been announced as the winners of the Pears #iwill Award for Social Action and Student Engagement in the Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon awards – the Oscars of further education.

During 2019/20, we created our own bespoke Community Action Projects for all learners to undertake. The projects were learner led, personal to the students and really helped bridge the gap between East Durham College learners 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. 

Some of the many activities students held were:

Health & Social Care learners volunteered at ‘Café Together’ in Easington (a community Café set up to serve hot food and conversation for anyone in the community who feels socially isolated). 

Catering learners volunteered their time at local care homes, facilitating intergenerational games, activities and providing afternoon tea and conversation for residents.  

Painting & 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. 

Peter Jones Academy learners raised funds and created decorative boxes filled with welcome packs of items to be given to new residents of the local Women’s refuge. 

Construction and TSA learners designed, planned, and took part in a charity football tournament raising funds and awareness for the Bradley Lowery Foundation

The Association of Colleges’ Beacon Awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK colleges each year. This award supported by Pears #IWill campaign celebrates social action and community engagement. The news was announced this afternoon as part of the AoC Annual Conference and Exhibition 2021.

Suzanne Duncan, Principal of EDC was thrilled to hear the news and said: “We’re thrilled to have won the Pears #IWill Award for Social Action and Student Engagement in this year’s AoC Beacon Awards. This award recognises the tremendous efforts of students and staff in the college to not only better themselves but their local community too. East Durham College always has been a place that cares about its position in the local community, we want our students to not only excel on an academic and vocational level, but on a deeper level that engages with the world around us and takes action to make positive changes in it.

"Last year, the creativity of students shone through as they planned and executed a huge range of activities and events, supporting a range of local charities. They were supported by our incredible team of progression coaches and teaching staff who help realise the ideas and plans of our students. This award is a cause for celebration for every student, staff member and friend of the college, and is a testament to our dedication to providing the best education, opportunities and prospects to every student that walks through our doors.”

The project was headed up by the college’s team of progression coaches, led by Alfie Wilkinson who said: “I am delighted to win the Beacon Award. It is such a prestigious honour and something which not only reflects well on my staff, the college as a whole, the communities of East Durham but most importantly the learners. They have been able to show the community who they are, to become more aware and connected to their community and to understand that by helping others they can make a real difference.

"During last academic year we designed and delivered a brand-new concept within the student Tutorial Programme – a Community Action Project. All learners were given the opportunity to create their own project, to pick a local cause and to support it in any way they could. The projects were created with community cohesion and improving student aspirations, appreciation of citizenship, employability skills and personal development in mind. Our intent was to empower our learners to feel a part of their community, to appreciate social responsibility and the benefits of helping others and helping their wider community.  

"The students were supported all the way by the amazing and hardworking Progression Coach Team, who dedicate so much time and effort to their learners. The PC’s were a major force in facilitating the projects. They offered tailored support, practical guidance and in some cases were even seen ferrying hordes of students around to deliver toys to local children's wards, showing solidarity with learners on a charity hike up Roseberry Topping and dishing out food and chatter at a local Community Cafe (to name but a few)."

Mark White, Interim Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust added: “The AoC Beacon Awards showcase exactly why colleges are so important to every community and why people value them. This award recognises examples of colleges’ ability to engage in social action and engagement in their communities with strategies to provide transformational educational opportunities through social action and learner participation. The work of East Durham College shows the impact the student-led social action has on the local community and the successful engagement with individuals in citizenship learning.”