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Sparsholt College Group reaches finals of AoC Beacon Awards

Sparsholt College Group is delighted to be named as an Association of Colleges 2022/23 Beacon Awards Finalist for their Academic Industry Sabbatical Programme delivered with the EM3 LEP Colleges Consortium.  

The finalists were announced at the AoC Annual Conference in Birmingham and colleges were nominated in 12 different categories for their contribution to the further education sector. Sparsholt and Andover College with Alton College, BCoT, FCoT, Brooklands College and Guildford College are finalists in The City & Guilds Award for College Engagement with Employers Award.  

The colleges in the Surrey and North Hampshire area collaborated on the Academic Industry Sabbatical Programme to facilitate closer working relationships between lecturers and industry to continue to modernise curriculum delivery.  

The Employer Sabbatical initiative provided an opportunity for 140 academic staff in colleges to update practical skills and gain new industry knowledge, contacts and insight. The project aim was to keep academic staff close to modern industry practice through a short-term work experience with  employers operating across the EM3 region.  

The outcome of this project resulted in colleges delivering learning even more relevant to the needs of businesses and in turn helping to develop a future labour market equipped with the skills needed by employers. 

The AoC Beacon Awards capture and celebrate the best and most innovative practice among UK further education colleges. The aim of the awards programme is to demonstrate and promote the far-reaching impact of on their students and the communities they serve.  

The awards are judged by independent assessors, with an independent Chief Assessor ensuring consistency across the categories. Award winners will be announced in early 2023.   

Find out more about career opportunities at Sparsholt College Group 

Employer Sabbatical initiative case studies 

Rob Price

Head of Learning & Quality

Placement: Hampshire Chronicle

Rob’s staff sabbatical placement saw him placed at the Hampshire Chronicle newspaper offices in Winchester.  Rob teaches A-level English Language at our Andover campus, with learners required to write for both their exam and non-examined assessment numerous creative pieces in the form of opinion newspaper articles.  This is something learners tend to struggle with, so experiencing how professional journalists go about structuring articles on a range of topics, including writing in a concise way and for specific target audiences, was invaluable.  Strong links have been forged with the newspaper and it is hoped that learners will be able to go on their own work experience placements at the paper in the future to strengthen their writing skills.

Shelby Brereton

Curriculum Leader- Zoo Animal Studies

Placement: Wild Planet Trust, Paignton Zoo

Shelby’s staff sabbatical placement was based at Paignton Zoo in Devon – with her leading the Diploma in Management of Zoo and Aquarium Animals at Sparsholt campus.  Shelby was able to engage with staff across the organisation to gain a valuable insight into the workings of the modern zoo industry, management and leadership within the zoo, education, outreach, along with wider community involvement.  Shelby was able to gain a holistic experience of the challenges and opportunities a modern zoo and conservation charity face.  Overall, Shelby believes the placement helped highlight the benefits of collaborating with local and national organisations for research, community engagement and fundraising.  This was particularly useful for examining conservation implications at both a local and international level.  Shelby now hopes to factor in an industry professional workshop for learners during the year to support their assignment work.

Jason Peacock

Carpentry Lecturer 

Placement: Input Joinery

Jason is one of our carpentry lecturers at Andover campus and had his placement at Input Joinery in Hampshire.  During this time, he worked in the company’s spray shop, wood cutting areas and workshops assisting staff with their workload.   Jason found it particularly interesting to see the sustainability considerations implemented currently in the construction industry, with better recycling of wood waste used as energy that fuels buildings, with waste pellets sold as firewood and wood resources reused into joinery products too.  The sabbatical employer made it clear to Jason that the use of hand tools by learners is still critical with learners needing to understand how to still use these traditional tools for more bespoke work and when machines fail.   Jason hopes to be able to invite experts from Input Joinery to College to run practical workshops with his learners to provide them with this critical industry insight.