Shipley College is a small general further education (GFE) college in Saltaire, near Bradford. Saltaire’s is culturally and ethnically diverse and this is reflected in our students. The area has significant social and economic deprivation, while youth unemployment is the highest in Yorkshire.

As a college we work hard to enrich the students’ experience and develop their skills, while nurturing strong relationships in the community.  We empower students to get involved in social action and causes that benefit not only local communities but also the students themselves. Every year our students support local events such as Tour de Yorkshire, World Heritage Weekend and The Dragon Boat Festival.

We’ve introduced a number of impactful social action projects recently. In one of these projects we’re working with Pears Foundation, a charitable foundation supporting educational programmes that drive engagement in social progress across the UK. With their support we’ve developed several projects, such as First Give, which encourages students to develop a social conscience while making a commitment to local charities. Currently 100 students are working with local charities including StayingPut, Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice & Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

In other projects we have 88 students taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award and 30, to date, completing the National Citizen Service (NCS) challenge. For our NCS project, students participated in a 3-week programme. As part of their social action, one group sold beanie hats, knitted by the local church community. The proceeds went towards producing home-starter packs to help homeless people into accommodation. Another group planned a games and activity morning in a residential home for the elderly – which turned out to be a fantastic intergenerational event.

One student overcame a number of obstacles in his life to take part. The student, who has an Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) with associated communication and social interaction difficulties. His confidence and skills grew so much that he went on to join the College’s Supported Internship Programme and has now started working in a residential care home.

His improved confidence has inspired others, too. His tutor says:

“His confidence has gone through the roof. He has settled in to work really well and has completed some challenging tasks which have made a very positive contribution to his employer. The student loves his work and is very committed, he has learned to travel independently for the first time’’.

We believe that, given the right opportunities, appropriate support and a positive mindset, students can reach their potential and make themselves and those around them incredibly proud.