Serving communities is central to the EKC Group’s mission. To make sure it delivers for them, our family of five colleges and three business units have made youth social action part of their annual calendar, and a part of every student’s timetable.

Throughout the year, staff and students are encouraged to engage in a self-directed social action project during our two ‘Community Weeks’. These weeks give dedicated time to staff and students to deliver social action projects within their local community, helping ensure students feel connected to their area.

The learners themselves lead the social action projects. This lets them take ownership, and tackle projects they’re interested in. In the run up to the first community week, we ask students to think of a social action they can deliver which will use or develop the skills they’re learning within the college, while also contributing to the community.

Our projects are varied – from helping develop a run-down former park lodge into a new community tearoom, to pamper days for Age UK members. Local communities in areas of high deprivation, such as many of the coastal areas where our colleges are located, have a range of needs. Staff and students work with local stakeholders such as councils, voluntary groups and residents to make sure projects meet these needs.

One project saw engineering students create new plastic recycling facilities the public could use, in a central location in Folkestone. The project not only helped raise awareness of the issue of plastic waste, but also provided the local community with an accessible facility, generating a meaningful impact.

We always work to get the support and collaboration of the local community. This starts with ensuring the projects we tackle are really needed within the community. Folkestone College took on a project to repair a rundown former lodge house – a prime example of working in partnership with local stakeholders. The project has significantly benefited residents in the area.

Social action has also bridged the divide between young people and the wider community, ensuring students have a greater bond with their communities, and are more likely to play a part in other community activities. Our community weeks have had a big impact, with over 100,000 hours of social action delivered within communities we’ve served since 2011. They’ve had significant positive impacts on learners too, with students highlighting their enjoyment of the projects and the links they’ve developed with their community.

Our programme of social action has been driven from the top, by Group Principal Graham Razey. This has helped it take root across the organisation, with everyone engaging in the community weeks and making them a priority.