The best of Oaklands 2021

As another successful year for staff and students at Oaklands College comes to an end, and with it marking the start of its centenary year, we look back across the very best of Oaklands in 2021.  January 2021: With the country on lockdown, Oaklands College made the most of its remote-learning surroundings, taking part in…

2021 Recap Image

As another successful year for staff and students at Oaklands College comes to an end, and with it marking the start of its centenary year, we look back across the very best of Oaklands in 2021. 

January 2021:

With the country on lockdown, Oaklands College made the most of its remote-learning surroundings, taking part in a college-wide initiative to get students moving, maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle whilst they studied from home.

Students studying a wide-range of full and part-time courses at the college were challenged by student athletes, who are members of the Oaklands Wolves Sports Academies, to embark on a monumental challenge that would see the college collectively run, walk, cycle or swim over 40,000 kilometres – the equivalent of an around-the-world trip from the UK.

The challenge incorporated the element of Teamwork – One of the colleges leading values, as it welcomed all staff and students to increase their fitness activity in order to reach the challenge target by March 2021.

With weeks to spare, students collectively travelled the length of the world, taking in virtual sights such as the Statue of Liberty, the Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong, Chinatown, the Suez Canal and many more famous landmarks.

February 2021:

The Habitat Centre, which is used to housing exotic animals from around the globe as the central learning hub for Animal Management students at Oaklands’ St Albans Campus, converted an old storage unit into a fantastic new centre for its ‘Rodent Rescue’ project. The project, which was inspired by former student and current Curriculum Technician Briony Stokes oversaw the creation of a rescue centre.

The centre was managed by students, who helped care for and bring in new animals throughout the pandemic, rescuing six guinea pigs, four degus, four rats, three gerbils, two hamsters, two chinchillas, an African pygmy hedgehog and 12 mice.

March 2021:

It was an exciting time in March, as it was announced that the college had appointed a new Principal, Andrew Slade, who would start his position in September 2021.

The announcement was met with excitement across the colleges St Albans, Welwyn Garden City and Borehamwood sites. Andrew, who was announced as the 10th principal of Oaklands College, said:

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to lead Oaklands College and to work closely with its Corporation, Senior Team and its staff and students right across the organisation. This is an important time in the sector as further education steps up to play a vital role in ensuring the UK has the right and sufficient skills base to thrive in this new decade and beyond. Oaklands has huge potential to be a lead player and that is one of the many things that excites me about the role.”

April 2021:

The month of April gave students an exciting glimpse into the second phase of the college’s £62 million redevelopment of its St Albans Campus, when the hoardings surrounding the brand-new teaching facility, later named the Evolution Centre, were brought down. The new building was later unveiled in November 2021 and provides students at our St Albans Campus with an impressive new learning facility, containing 49 new classrooms, new offices for curriculum staff, science laboratories and a specialist facility for our special needs provision.

May 2021:

In May, two Level 3 Construction & Built Environment students were rewarded for their efforts; Tasmin Owen and Daniel Wickenden impressed construction specialists Willmott Dixon enough to be offered a management traineeship with the company, after completion of their course.

Course Skills Lecturer Jacqui Chaston said: “Both Tasmin and Daniel started their Oaklands journeys in 2019 and have made the most of the opportunities to network with industry professionals to build up their CVs. I am very proud of them both, to be chosen over 600 graduates and peers is a great achievement.”

June 2021:

Catering students excelled at the National Salon Culinaires competition, with five students winning awards for their efforts, including four gold medals and one silver, much to the delight of Senior Lecturer Paul Wood:

“The students are a credit to the college, their success is fantastic news for their progress and the hard work put in by our lecturing staff. Well done.”

One of the UK’s largest live culinary competitions, the Salon Culinaires competition is an annual event, was held in association with The Craft Guild of Chefs and is a fantastic platform for all student chefs looking for their first taste of competition experience.

The student’s success demonstrated what can be achieved through studying Hospitality & Catering at Oaklands College, further highlighting the fantastic support and experienced offered by the colleges industry-expert chef lecturers who are determined to prepare students for a successful career within the industry – For more information about Hospitality & Catering at Oaklands, click here.

Also in June, local aviation supplier CabinAir kindly donated second-hand aircraft furnishings, as well as a plane siding, complete with windows to give Travel & Tourism students looking to become future cabin crew members a life-size, practical learning space to study from.

Watch the full video of the competition here.

July 2021:

In July, Fashion students took inspiration from Jamaican Bass Culture in the UK to centre their end of year garment projects around, which would become the focal point for their final major projects.

Using the influence of traditional bass culture musical themes such as ska, drum and base, garage and reggae, students produced a wide-array of garments akin to the styles and colours of the mid-1960s.

August & September 2021:

The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games gripped the nation from August to September, and in a small pocket of Hertfordshire emerged not one, not two, but six former Oaklands College and Oaklands Wolves Athletics Academy alumni members who would represent Team GB in Japan. Not only did six former Oaklands students compete in the games, but there were Gold and Bronze medals for Daryll Neita, Olivia Breen and Maria Lyle.

It was a landmark moment for the Oaklands Wolves Sports Academies, who having coached Daryll Neita, Maria Lyle, Olivia Breen, Celia Quansah, Ama Pipi and Reece Prescod, were able to track the fantastic progress and success of its former students.

As mentioned in the recap of March 2021, September marked the start date for new college principal Andrew Slade, who introduced himself as Principal with a college-wide reception, sharing his excited new plans for the future of both the college and its students.

October 2021:

Throughout a difficulty and unprecedented time, Oaklands students went above and beyond this year. With the majority of learning taking place virtually and exam qualifications being decided by teacher assessment grading, the annual Association of Colleges Student of the Year Awards have never been more appropriate in recognising the achievements of students in Further Education.

One student at Oaklands College impressed his peers so much that he was nominated and shortlisted ahead of hundreds of students up and down the country, for the prestigious Association of Colleges Young Student of the Year Award.

Deivi Kreka moved to the UK from his native Albania in 2020 to further his education and eventually, career opportunities. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Deivi not only had to juggle learning a new language, but also adapt to a new culture, surroundings and lifestyle in an incredibly difficult and challenging period for all young adults.

The move was the making of Deivi, who immediately demonstrated the potential he had, both as a footballer and academically, adapting and overcoming the challenging new surroundings he faced.

According to his tutors, “Deivi is the epitome of perseverance, dedication and positive attitude.” A model student, Deivi overcame more than just the collective student challenge of learning through a worldwide pandemic, albeit equally as honourable. However, not only has he embraced the challenges of the last 18 months, he has also encouraged his fellow peers to do the same, ensured that his fellow students do not fall behind and taken on the unofficial role of the class ambassador.

Deivi made the shortlisting for the finals, and despite unfortunately missing out on a place in the final four for the award, his shortlisting was a huge achievement and proud moment for not just Deivi and his family, but for Oaklands College.

November 2021:

It was an overwhelming month in November, with students taking part in a wide-variety of fantastic community projects, competitions and achieving sporting success.

The start of the month begun with a selection of creative works by artistic students being unveiled in Hatfield town centre, as part of an ongoing project with the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to revolutionise the town centres.

The creativity didn’t stop there, when Fashion students took part in a live-brief with fashion retailer ASOS to design a variety of mood boards, inspired by the themes raised by the COP26 event, set students the task of producing a variety of sculpture designs which best reflect how global organisations can reform to avoid impacting the climate.

As part of the project, ASOS will commission the creation of the winning sculpture design, providing students with a fantastic opportunity to see the winning design from their mood boards brought to life, enhancing their own professional portfolios.

Finally, there was more student success, when Sports Academy athletes took part in the annual England Colleges Group trials, with the opportunity to represent at regional level.

As part of the Association of Colleges (AoC) Sport Group, the England Colleges National Team programme represented the pinnacle of college sports, encouraging students to trial for a place in the elite squad, and gain the opportunity to represent their college region.

On Wednesday 3 November, the Netball Academy won the East Netball Regional Tournament. It was the first time that the academy, which was one of eight competing college teams had won the event. Meanwhile, Simon Archer and the Hockey Academy were delighted to have six players selected to represent the England College Boys, Girls and Boys Reserves squads. Three of the six are residential students living on-site in the Residential Homestead.

Representing the Hockey Academy was Thomas Allen, Callum Burr, Thomas Harvey, Mitch Cusk, Lily Knott and Eloise Palmer.

Oaklands also had representatives in the ECFA England Colleges football trials, with five students taking part, two of whom making the final stages of the trials.

Andrew Slade, Principal and CEO, Oaklands College said: “We’re really proud of our students’ fantastic achievement in representing their sport at this level. It’s testament to their hard work and skills and that of our staff. This comes fresh on the heels of Oaklands having a strong presence at the recent Olympics and builds on our reputation for sporting excellence.”







Evolution Centre Now Open

Lastly, the college welcomed staff, students and VIP guests, including Daisy Cooper MP, to the official opening of the colleges new teaching facility. The grand ceremony marked the half-way point of the colleges £62 million redevelopment and officially marked the opening of a teaching facility which will be at the heart of the colleges future plans, as it looks to welcome in another 100 years of teaching excellence.

Willmott Dixon, the construction specialists contracted to complete the redevelopment works, will begin phase three in spring 2022. This will introduce a brand-new Construction Centre, which will expand on the college’s industry-standard workshops and spacious, modern craft bays designed to prepare students for industry. Phase three will also create a new Sports Pavilion with hydrotherapy and physiotherapy areas, six new changing rooms and specialist facilities for the college’s sports and academy students.


December 2021:

December brought more celebrations to the campus, but not just part of Christmas festivities, but with the 2021 Graduation Ceremony for Higher Education students.

The annual event, which was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic, welcomed graduands from 2020 and 2021 to an evening of celebrations. Hundreds of guests were in attendance at the college’s St Albans Campus on Thursday 9 December, as it held its first in-person awards ceremony since 2019, held under strict observation of government guidance.

The ceremony was dedicated to students graduating from courses ranging from Foundation Degrees to Higher National Certificates, Higher National Diplomas and Level 5 Diplomas respectively.

Amongst graduates were seven prestigious award-winners for Academic Excellence, recognising students who were nominated by college curriculum for their outstanding achievements. The awards are central to the college values, recognising learners who have gone above and beyond in their subject fields.

Luke Wheeler, a recipient of the Academic Excellence award said: “I am shocked – In a good way, to be recognised for this award! It’s hard to explain how proud I am of my achievements, but I left school feeling like education had failed me and so came to Oaklands with little optimism, but the support, guidance and freedom to express my creativity has been so rewarding, I am so grateful to the college for believing in me – I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support.”

Principal and Chief Executive of Oaklands College, Andrew Slade, said: “Graduation is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our Higher Education students and all those that have supported them through their educational journey – friends, family and, of course, our staff. It was particularly pleasing to be able to include students who would have had their ceremony in 2020 and which had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. And this, being Oaklands’ centenary year, provided an additional reason to celebrate as we reflected on providing 100 years of transformational education.”

Also in attendance was Pro-Vice Chancellor of Education and Student Experience at University of Hertfordshire Dr Mairi Watson, who addressed graduates and commended them on their achievements.

The Graduation was a brilliant way to highlight the end of an amazing chapter in the lives of our students and is a befitting introduction to another year of student success, as the college looks ahead to 2022 and a centenary year of celebrations.

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