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Colleges are an essential part of England’s education system

Student blog: #LoveOurColleges

Colleges are an essential part of England’s education system. We matter – to our learners, our staff and our local community. But for too long the vital work we do has been overlooked and underfunded. Over the last decade, colleges have had to deal with an average 30% funding cut, while costs have increased dramatically.

That is why trade unions, students and colleges are coming together to call for better funding and fair pay for further education colleges. The Love Our Colleges campaign is an opportunity to highlight the brilliant work that goes on in colleges, and the brilliant staff that make it all possible. It is also our opportunity to call on government for better investment in colleges, and fair pay for college staff.

Michelle Ward has progressed from a Level 2 in Performing Arts to a Level 4 Foundation Degree, after receiving “overwhelming” support and guidance. She aims to open a disability dance school for five to 15-year-olds. Here is her story.

“I first applied for a Level 2 Performing Arts course, with no idea of what I eventually wanted to do. I went to my audition feeling nervous as I have been out of education for many years. Two wonderful tutors, Angela and Stephanie, interviewed me and expressed their concerns about my academics, as they felt that I may not cope with the theory side of the course.

“They looked at putting me forward for an Access to Performing Arts course. However, after the initial interview, I was given a written task to do. I submitted this within the week and got called back in to say they discussed their concerns and how impressed they were with my written piece, and would like to offer me a place on the Level 2 Performing Arts course.

“From then, because they both believed in me, I was able to go from strength to strength and progress to Level 3. During my time on Level 3, I was a student rep and became the “mum” of the group. I had many opportunities to shine including entering and passing my LAMDA examination and working alongside West End cast members at local prestigious events. Towards the end of Level 3 Year 2, I was named as the “Student of the Year”. This was an amazing achievement for me personally, as I do have some learning challenges and as a mum of two children, I have been able to organise myself and manage my workload. With the support of such an amazing leadership team and the outstanding faculty, I have felt that I have already overcome so much in my self development.

“As part of my grades over the years here at the Grimsby Institute, I received a double grade distinction merit, which I never thought was possible, and I have passed my GCSE English too. I have successfully continued my studies into University Centre Grimsby, where I am currently studying a Level 4 Foundation Degree in Performing Arts, whilst engaging as an Arts Council Representative and a Student Representative. I have had some days where I have struggled, but the team are always there to put a smile back on my face and gave me that sense of belonging. They have always pushed me to better places and believed in me when I did not feel confident.

“The support and guidance I have received are overwhelming, I now know where I want to be in 5 years’ time, and I know that I have the backing of this faculty to allow me to fulfil my dream. My dream is to open a disability dance school within Grimsby for five to 15-year-olds, whether they are physically impaired, a wheelchair user or have learning challenges. This will incorporate the social aspects as well as mental health and wellbeing.

“So if you have no idea what to do next, your next stop should be at The Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education. Thanks to Associate Principal Emma Forrest-Leigh and her team, who work tirelessly day in and day out, the faculty and the team of staff and students is what it is.

“I believe that at the end of my course I can now go on to pastures new, knowing that I have been part of such an incredible establishment, right here in Grimsby. No words can describe how humble I feel every day when I pick up my bag and walk through the doors of the university and college.”