Students Staff

25 May 2018

Innovative community arts project already reaping rewards

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 12:03 pm

Our Arts Education team’s groundbreaking three year project supporting undergraduates delivering their own art sessions in schools is proving a great success.

In 2017 the Royal Opera House Bridge granted £148,418 to the Arts Education team to create a new Cultural Employability and expand the Arts Education team and programme. This module  is the first of its kind in the country, replacing a standard employability module to give students the skills and experience to design and deliver their own arts education project in primary schools in deprived areas.

Art image 2 weeklyArts Education Manager Kate Beckwith said: “This unique employability module draws on the expertise of the Arts Education team and provides them with a unique insight into the cultural sector and hands-on experience teaching arts education.

“The children at our lead primary schools, Unity Primary Academy in Greenstead and Willow Brook Primary School in St Anne’s estate, have been a pleasure to work with and benefited hugely from working with our students.”

Free to schools

The project, which is free to schools, begins with the children coming onto the Colchester campus to explore exhibitions at Art Exchange, go behind the scenes at Lakeside Theatre and learn about an artist in our library. The undergraduates then go into the schools and deliver projects inhouse over four weeks.

Kate added: “We have been incredibly proud of how the students have supported the children to take part in the arts and work towards their Arts Award Explore, an Entry Level qualification on the Regulated Qualifications Framework, which is open to children and young people aged up to 25.

“We recently welcomed the year 4 and 5 children and their families onto campus where children donned caps and gowns to collect their special certificates. Attended by over 200 people the evening also provided a fantastic opportunity for the children to see the giant billboard that had been erected in the heart of the University to celebrate the project.”

Kate explained how the undergraduates benefit from the module as much as the children. “The module equips students with attributes crucial to success such as divergent thinking, curiosity, creativity and adaptability and has increased students’ self-esteem, confidence and skills.

“Working in new ways with new people from other degrees and departments, forming new friendships and learning how to work as part of a team, students successfully overcame obstacles and adapted their activities to suit need. By helping school children develop, students in turn learn about and reflect upon their own strengths, skills and capabilities. ”

“it has helped me, personally, to progress, learn and grow”

Literature, Film and Theatre Studies student Rio Topley said: “It has given me the opportunity to help others and get involved with a community I live in and give something back. Not only was it great working with such a lovely bunch of children and inspiring them, it has helped me, personally,  to progress, learn and grow.”

Kate added: “Our qualitative data shows students enjoyed developing new practical skills and exploring and creating arts education projects. The module helps sustain and strengthen our students’ connections with the local community, nurturing a sense of belonging and togetherness.

“We’ve seen first-hand how students’ emotional intelligence has grown. Working in partnership with peers, developing skills in new art forms, working off campus, and volunteering were all regarded as important positive aspects of their learning.”

The students who worked with the children can opt to build on their experience during the second and third years of their degree by completing a placement at a local cultural organisation and delivering further enhanced arts education projects.

The Arts Education team’s wider programme offers high quality arts projects to schools, colleges and local community, ensuring regular opportunities for our Student Union V-Team volunteers, interns and Frontrunners to gain experience. For large-scale visits, we employ University Student Ambassadors, providing students paid opportunities to develop their skills and enhance their work experience. Please see for details of this year’s schools programme.

If you fancy trying out one of our activities you can book a place on one of thefree family days on Sunday 10 June. Please visit Eventbrite to book your place or join our mailing list for updates of future family activities.

Please contact Kate Beckwith  01206 873889 if you would like to discuss our programme.

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18 May 2018

Donating your Pennies is now even easier

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 12:37 pm
Staff at the Celebrating Excellence fair

Staff at the Celebrating Excellence Fair

The Donate your Pennies Team enjoyed unprecedented interest during last week’s Celebrating Excellence Fair, boasting 25 new staff signing up to help student scholarships. This represents more signups than any previous month, and brings the total staff donating pennies to nearly 700 – over 20% of the total.

The idea for the stall came about after looking at the type of staff signing up and the reasons why, explained James Martin, who runs the Donate your Pennies scheme. “We’ve been crunching numbers and doing some research recently, and have discovered that of new starters to the University, over 90% signup to Donate your Pennies – via the new starter form. But of existing staff, only three per cent have signed up to the scheme.”

‘”When asked why this was, the recurring theme from staff was of ease and efficiency.  By holding a signup stall, it made the signup process instantaneous, and we had a great couple of days as a result.”

Sign up

To carry on making the process easier, signup sheets will soon by appearing around the University, but staff can also sign up through this article. Simply send the following to to sign up:

I wish to participate in the Donate your Pennies scheme and hereby authorise the University of Essex as my agent to collect each pay period from my salary such odd penny balances (to a maximum of 99p per pay period) and to distribute such amounts to the University of Essex Philanthropy Office. Funds will be then be given to support University of Essex scholarship initiatives on my behalf; however this is subject to change at any time.

This authorisation is effective from the date I submit this form and shall remain in force until cancelled in writing, or by emailing Payroll at

Thank you.


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11 May 2018

A new vision for our wellbeing services

Filed under: Latest news, People pages, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 11:16 am

Angela Jones is our Head of Student Support. Here she tells us about the new vision for our wellbeing services.

We have a new vision for our well being services which will mean a better service for our students.

We have a new vision for our well being services which will mean a better service for our students.

What sort of changes are going on in the wellbeing team/service?

Our team is made up of dedicated staff committed to student wellbeing – we are always reflecting on our services and thinking about how we can make them better for our students.  We’ve recognised that changes in society and growth in student numbers mean we need to develop our services. National (and international) research has identified new ways of supporting and promoting wellbeing and we want to be able to implement these innovations. We are therefore reconfiguring our offer – while we will continue to provide or support the services we offer at present, we are proposing to expand into new areas. We want to work proactively with the Students’ Union, Occupational Health and other internal and external partners to support prevention and help our students thrive and get the most out of their time at Essex.  Our new vision is, as part of the Healthy University Sub-strategy, to create a healthy and inclusive community in which every student has the tools to enable them to succeed:

Are these physical moves/changes?

No.  Our service will continue to be provided in Southend, Loughton and Colchester and accessed via the Student Hub is each of these locations.

How will the changes impact on staff/students?

The whole reason behind the changes is to respond to student need and demand.  Feedback via the SU change week has identified a clear desire for more interventions, a wider range of support and more counselling.  Feedback from students with individual needs has identified as need to make our community more inclusive.  Responding to this feedback, our proposed restructure will increase significantly the volume of counselling we can offer as well as create roles dedicated to launching new activities and working with academic colleagues in departments to improve inclusivity and support students.

Is there a period where we will be directed somewhere else for support? For the majority of students no.  Services will continue as normal. If changes may affect individual students eg, for some DSA funded provision,  we will work closely with them to support them through any change.

How will this impact support that students receive?

  • Availability for student counselling at Colchester Campus will increase by 30%
  • By increasing appointments with a wellbeing assessor, we will reduce the waiting time for students to be seen
  • More one to one and groups will be available – tell us what you think would be most useful to prioritise

Why is wellbeing so important?

Physical and mental health is important for all of us.  We all experience periods of feeling great, and times when we are below par.  In order to thrive and get the most out of life, we need to take care of our health.  That is why we are proposing to tackle the issue of wellbeing in a holistic and proactive way- we don’t want to wait until someone is unwell to act – as part of the broader agenda of being a Heathy University, epitomised by our new HUSS, we want to help our students be well, stay well and get well. We can then play a part in making sure every member of our community is given the tools to achieve their full potential.

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8 May 2018

Children enjoy space to explore

Filed under: Latest news — Heather Leathley @ 9:40 am

The new outdoor spaces at Wivenhoe Park Day Nursery are proving exceptionally popular with the children, who are able to head outside, whatever the weather.

Nursery garden 2 weekly

Nursery Manager Heleanna Phair said: “The garden was a blank canvas and we wanted to create spaces that met the needs of all our children, particularly the active learners.

“We worked very closely with the designers at a Sheffield based company, Play garden, to create different spaces that would encourage the children to be creative in their play.

“Both Essex County Council and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have come to see our outdoor environments and they are very impressed.”

Plenty to do

The result is three different gardens for different age groups that  include massive wet and dry sandpits, with a pebble play stream,  tyre swings, gravel pit,  different surfaces and of course, plenty of shade.

Forest schools teacher Sarah Gunn has worked with the children to create and nurture an allotment, nature garden and pond.

The next stage is to add some animals into the mix.  Heleanna said: ““We are getting some rabbits, guinea pigs and some chicken eggs which will hatch into our own hens. This will  help the children embrace the real world and encourage their caring natures to blossom.”

See more photos of the children enjoying the outdoor space

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