My favourite part about working at Activate Learning is, as a musician myself, passing on my knowledge and enthusiasm to my students and helping them realise their ambitions. I get to nurture and develop potential superstars so, yeah, I absolutely love it!
The environment we can provide to the students, with the facilities we have here, is as real to an employment situation as you can get. We have a stage here, lighting and a studio with hardware and software that’s as close to a professional standard as it can be. It’s also on a par with a lot of the universities that these students may go onto. Instead of being at sixth form, for a young person to come to an environment like this is a big step into a professional environment.
Working with the students is a lot of fun. There’s a lot of confidence building and teamwork and it’s great to be able to track their development. From seeing the students in their first, nervous performance here, and then building up to performances at external venues like the o2 arena and the Bullingdon is wonderful to see. It’s fantastic to see the guys develop professional-level EPs and then promote them as part of their course.
A great thing about Activate Learning is the diversity it offers, too. There are lots of campuses, lots of courses and it all caters to the wider community. The music course itself is structured so that people from all over Oxford and outside it can participate.
Our students collaborate with others across campuses and with students from other courses. For example, we are currently collaborating with Media students from Bracknell & Wokingham college who are studying photography. They’ll come and do photoshoots with the bands that our students have created as part of their course. We use the Facilities’ minibus to transport students there and back.
Another example is our collaboration with The School of Audio Engineering Institute. Their students record our students, so everyone gets experience of working in a recording studio. All the students come away with a product, so it’s a great learning curve for all involved; they learn networking skills with other teachers and students and learn new skills in a new environment.
My colleagues inspire me through their competence as musicians. I was delighted to have a part in recruiting some of the teachers here. The skill level has to be high because if you’re looking for respect from the pupils, you really need to lead by example; you’ve got to roll your sleeves up and get involved and pass on the right knowledge. The teachers I work with and the resident musicians here are very, very talented, not only as musicians but in identifying what knowledge they can and need to pass onto the students.
I got into teaching because I had a bad experience in education as a child. I was really misunderstood as I just wanted to entertain people from a young age and, as a result, I really didn’t see myself getting into this profession. Then, one day, I was performing in a band with an individual who was working at the college and they said that they thought I would work really well in this environment. I didn’t think that I would enjoy it much, but I gave it a go and absolutely loved it! I really connected with the students and felt very much at home straight away. I went through the PGCE and really enjoyed the experience. I remember first setting out tables and chairs in this hall to teach what I knew about live sound without any formal training, and that was a bit of a baptism of a fire, but now I’m leading a department and having a lot of my work used as examples across Activate Learning and by the University of Arts London, which I’m very proud to have achieved. I love what I do here, and it really doesn’t feel like a job. I love the characters here. The college itself is just a shell, but it’s the people who make it what it is.