Wapping: How Puddle Jumpers has opened a new site in east London

Nursery school expands its operation, bringing a former church school back into educational use

Puddle Jumpers new nursery is in a former church school

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Puddle Jumpers isn’t just the name of a brand, it’s a statement of intent.

The company recently opened a second nursery in Wapping, expanding on the success of its first site in Limehouse.

The new facility brings a building that once housed a church school back into educational use and, while the walls might date to 1871, what’s inside is firmly rooted in the here and now.

With the refurbishment of its ground and first floors mostly complete, the nursery is now welcoming its first children and the place is starting to buzz with life.

It’s warm and welcoming with plenty of wood used to create furniture, flooring and a cosy reading area with London landmarks crafted from oak.

All in all, it’s a substantial setting for the Puddle Jumpers themselves as they explore and discover the world under the guidance of staff.

Senior nursery manager Lucy Prew-Ajayi has spent the last 27 years working with children and young people in a multitude of settings and leads the team at the new location. 

The building is undergoing a complete refurbishment and is now accepting children

“As a career, it was a no-brainer from me – I was one of those privileged people who knew what I wanted to do as I went through secondary school,” she said.

“My mother was a headteacher and a childminder when she was on maternity leave, so we were always surrounded by little people.”

Her professional life has seen her work at international schools in Berlin and study play therapy, working with young people who had suffered traumatic events before coming back to early years education at Sure Start centres before the Government closed them down.

She’s spent the last 12 years working for NGOs, family clubs and nursery schools as a manager and director and has now arrived in Wapping.

“I chose Puddle Jumpers because of the organisation’s vision,” she said. “That’s for children to think for themselves and teaching them to be brave.

“For me it’s as it was 27 years ago – we’re here for the children and they are here to thrive.

The nursery has a lending library, complete with London landmarks

“Life can be turbulent and children need to understand that crises can happen.

“Mental health issues are on the rise, so we believe in giving children the opportunity to be courageous and to develop resilience.”

Learning through play is very much at the core of Puddle Jumpers’ offering, with children encouraged to make, participate and create during their time at the nursery. 

“As an early years, foundation stage nursery, we follow best regulatory practice and the curriculum guidance, but we also take inspiration from the theories of Rudolf Steiner and Loris Malaguzzi, who developed the Reggio Emilia approach,” said Lucy.

“These approaches are all about creativity, the arts and the power of language expression. We interpret those through the facilities we have.

“For example, we have a living kitchen where children do botany and cookery classes and that includes a lovely little herb garden, which is magical and great for sensory education.

“Upstairs we have an art atelier where imagination is brought to life – it’s about children putting what they see in their minds down on paper.

The nursery’s living kitchen is designed for kids to get involved

“Later this year, we’ll be opening a sensory room where children will be supported in self-regulation.

“This will also be a place to introduce them to technology without it being a screen, so that from a young age they learn how to cope with it.”

The main play spaces, a lending library – where parents or staff can read with children – and an area for music, complete the picture inside.

“We also have our fabulous garden, which is truly beautiful and has been designed to be very inspiring,” said Lucy. 

“We are puddle-jumpers, so we believe in going outdoors in all weathers, which is also really calming for the children. 

“It allows them to be free, to be themselves and then experiment.

“Outside, we have a big sensory area, a magnificent water station – where children can experience different types of movement and positioning, with lever pulling.

The nursery has plentiful outdoor space with a climbing frame in the pipeline

“There’s a big pirate ship – which is a sandpit – and we have mud kitchens that are great physical play areas.

“Later in 2024, we’ve commissioned a Tower Bridge climbing frame for the children to enjoy.

“Throughout their time here, we believe in a challenging curriculum for all ages and this includes our Ambitions programme, which is designed to keep children stimulated and to help them identify what they might like to try on the extra-curricular list, when they get to primary school. It really helps with that transition.

“We are here for every single child – to challenge them, celebrate them and to meet their needs.”

Lucy was also keen to stress that Puddle Jumpers’ approach was very much about working with parents.

She said: “After registration, we get in touch and invite them to come and look round.

“At the moment we have two open days a week, and it’s nicer if you’re in a group together, because it can be a bit overwhelming if you’re alone.

Find out more about Puddle Jumpers here

Puddle Jumpers’ senior nursery manager Lucy Prew-Ajayi

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com

“A nursery school must work for the family first – adults also need to feel safe and secure. We’re very open-door.”

She said the nursery worked to help build networks among parents and to help equip them with skills to help their child learn, develop and grow. 

“Over the course of the year we have a number of events for parents and families, so they can come and socialise together,” said Lucy.

“We do have a couple of evenings just for our parents to let their hair down and talk about things they have in common.

“Some parents want to talk about their children – others about what’s going on in the world. We’re giving them that link, which is very important in a part of London with an international community, where people may not have immediate family nearby. 

“We also run a free programme called Parents As First Educators, helping them understand behaviour and how to manage it.”

Puddle Jumpers is open for registration of children.

A minimum of two full days per week applies.

The nursery is also currently recruiting staff for its new location.

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Isle Of Dogs: How the Elizabeth School Of London is growing to serve more students

The institution offers a wide range of courses and has taken space at Harbour Exchange to host them

Professor Ian Luke of the Elizabeth School Of London

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The Elizabeth School Of London (ESL) is enjoying something of a boom.

A higher education provider, which delivers a range of courses on behalf of various institutions, it’s expanded to seven sites across the country supporting some 9,500 students.

Its operation includes campuses in Birmingham, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester and Northampton as well as two in London.

Alongside its Holborn site, ESL recently moved into Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs with a second floor of the building already in the pipeline.

For the institution’s provost, Professor Ian Luke, himself a recent arrival, it’s a time of great opportunity for the organisation.

“The exciting part of ESL is that it’s in its infancy, so what I would like to see is it pushing the boundaries of teaching and giving students authentic experiences so they can immediately use what they’ve learnt in their careers or even during their time with us,” he said.

“Canary Wharf is an inspiring place, especially if you’re working in the sectors covered by our courses.

“The fact that students are working around multi-million pound companies, and we are creating links with those firms, is very special.”

ESL has a growing campus at Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs

ESL provides teaching and facilities on behalf of a number of organisations that act as awarding bodies on its courses.

These include Bath Spa University, St Mary’s University in Twickenham, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University Of Bolton and Newcastle College Group

It offers courses in the areas of business and management; finance and accounting; health and social care; construction and computing, attracting many students seeking a change of direction.

“We currently have about 9,500 students,” said Ian.

“Many are mature students who are looking to make a career change or who higher education may have passed by.

“For ESL, it’s all about providing access to opportunity.

“The joy of our system is that we haven’t got the infrastructural arrangements of a university.

“Most universities engage in research. But generally they will only receive at best 75% funding for those activities.

“We’re not a research institution, although we’re very much about scholarly research-informed teaching.

“That means all our resources can be focused on the students themselves rather than anything else – hence the investment in campuses such as Harbour Exchange.

The campus is arranged over one floor, with a second in the pipeline

“While many universities have fixed locations, ESL has the flexibility to go where its services are needed.

“The benefit to the student experience is incredibly positive and, for the partners we work with, it means they don’t have to invest in a new campus themselves in these locations.”

Part of Planet Education Networks, a collection of institutions based at Marsh Wall, ESL’s expansion has seen a whole floor of Harbour Exchange’s main building fully refurbished.

“There are IT suites, media rooms, lecture rooms, a canteen, break-out areas and even a Dragons’ Den-style pitching area,” said Ian.

“The whole place has been designed for the students to have fluidity in physical and digital resources. 

“Because we’re not trapped in campus buildings, we’ve been able to design this new facility for the way we want to teach students.

“One of the key things for us is that we’ve designed the actual timetable to support people.

“We understand that there’s a cost of living crisis and that many students have to work while they’re studying – we understand that they’re got care responsibilities.

“That’s why we operate over six days.

“Students get very focused work so they can manage their parental and other commitments.

“We also deliver evening and weekend sessions, so we try to make the timetable as bespoke for them as possible.

“What we’re delivering in terms of pedagogy is different to a university, in that we’re trying to tailor everything to an understanding of students’ lives, and more importantly, to their careers and employability afterwards.

“We know our students very, very well – who they are – and when that’s the case, you can cater for their needs.

“ESL is really about people who want to change their lives, and we’ve got the flexibility to help them do that.

“It’s crucial for us to be able to move with our students so we can offer something bespoke.”

This is all very much in Ian’s wheelhouse.

“With an academic and professional background in education, it’s no surprise he’s decided to join an institution where the importance of teaching is stated as a core value.

“I was deputy vice-chancellor at Plymouth Marjon University, a very small organisation down in the south-west, and I looked after everything there, apart from research – the academic schools, the quality of the teaching and the digital development,” he said. 

“London is a complete shift for me, but I was a teacher and my PhD and professorial were in learning and teaching so I’m hoping to bring that to ESL.

“I have an understanding of quality systems and how they work, and how to make them more robust.

“There’s something incredible happening here with ESL – there’s a very big demand for what it’s doing – and it’s very successful.

ESL boasts extensive facilities close to Canary Wharf

“The focus is heavily on the students – they want to come – so it’s up to us to manage that growth well for them.

“The joy of multiple institution awarding is that you get the best practice from everyone, and you can make sure that we represent the programmes.

“In doing so, we try to serve the community, individuals and their careers.

“We get a whole range of people coming to study with us – they are multicultural, often older and may be returning to higher education.

“ESL is rigorous in terms of the students it accepts to ensure we are recruiting people we think we can support appropriately. 

“Because the students are more mature, there is an engagement level here that not all universities experience. 

“The staff are very passionate and the students really want to make the most of these opportunities.

“It’s very inspiring for me in my role to see how they are working to grasp those at ESL.”

Typical yearly fees at ESL are £9,250.

Find more information about the Elizabeth School Of London here

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Whitechapel: How Tower Hamlets Council is rolling out free school meals

Local authority begins rolling out policy to cover secondary pupils across the borough

Mayor Of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman, right, dines with staff and pupils at Swanlea School

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“This is the day to talk about what is happening – not letting the pursuit of perfection get in the way of achieving good,” said Brenda Landers, headteacher at Swanlea School in Whitechapel

Her lunch hall recently provided the backdrop for the launch of Tower Hamlets Council’s extension to its free school meals policy.

This sees all secondary school pupils living in the borough and going to state-funded schools within its borders, fed lunch at no cost to them or their parents.

The borough has funded meals for primary school pupils since 2014 on a similar basis – something the Mayor Of London has decided to do city-wide for this academic year.

This, however has been billed as an emergency measure to help with the cost of living and it’s unclear how long it will endure. 

In any case, Tower Hamlets had already been planning and budgeting for the extension to cover secondary pupils before City Hall’s move was announced.

It’s the first borough in England to fund meals at secondary schools, a scheme worth about £550 per child, per year. 

Billed as universal, the policy applies to all such families, irrespective of income – meaning those who can afford to pay also benefit.

Such policies – like the Winter Fuel Allowance, for example – often come under fire for squandering valuable resources on those who don’t really need the support.

But means testing is not without its own issues – where do you place the threshold? Who is excluded? 

The policy was officially launched over lunch at the school in Whitechapel

We don’t generally apply such ideas to educational settings themselves.

There’s an obvious absurdity to expecting students in a single class to attempt the same lesson with a significant imbalance in resources. 

Imagine a cookery session where a third of students had bought the ingredients for a recipe, a third had them provided for free and a third turned up with some, but not all, because they couldn’t afford the whole list.

It would be impossible for everyone to complete the dish.

So why is lunch any different?

For Lutfur Rahman, Mayor Of Tower Hamlets, the approach is about trying to ensure children don’t fall through the gaps.

“As a youngster, you need a decent hot meal,” he said.

“This is about caring for the people who need support, so we want nothing to come in the way of their attainment and life chances. 

“I remember when I was young, I used to line up for school meals and there were times when my father was out of work and I had free school meals or when he was in work and we had to pay.

“Sometimes if we didn’t have the money, I had bread, butter and jam and I didn’t always like it. Variety is important.

“Hot food is important. Having such a meal every day helps children function, behave better and achieve more.

“This is a poverty-stricken borough, with one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country.

“For me, education is an important method to escape from poverty. It’s so important to me – it gave me a life chance – so we should do whatever we can do to remove the hurdles to good attainment.

“It’s my passion and my belief that education should be a universal offer and, whatever we can do to assist this, should also be universal.

All secondary pupils living in the borough and attending schools within its borders now all qualify for free school meals

“I don’t know what’s happening in individual families, but I don’t want any children to be at risk – to come to school wondering if they will be given the money for tomorrow or a good packed lunch. 

“Now every child can line up for the same food – the same offer.

“It feels good, it feels exciting and I think the take-up over time will be greater than it is currently.

“When the children see they can have a meal – perhaps be with their friends, save some money – I think they’ll take up that offer.”

While hot meals – even free ones – may not compete with the lure of the playground and friends in good weather, Swanlea School is predicting a rise in pupils eating the food cooked by its in-house catering team.

“I don’t expect to see the number shoot up massively right now, but I do expect to see it increase over time,” said Brenda, who joined the school in 2005 as deputy head before taking charge in 2011. 

“Coming to school is a habit, eating lunch is a habit, so we will see an increase in youngsters doing that, but I expect it to be steady as our pupils get used to doing it.

“Some will prefer a packed lunch – these are teenagers and they will make decisions about those things.

“The educational benefit isn’t really a point for discussion for me – it’s just good in itself for children to eat. They can have a good meal – and that’s enough.

“Also, with universality, there’s no bureaucracy from the school’s point of view and that’s just delightful.

“It’s way easier for the school to manage and parents are pleased – especially those who would be considered the working poor.

“About 50% of our youngsters would be getting free school meals anyway, which is a very high percentage – but the next couple of layers up are still poor, just not poor enough to qualify. 

“They’re the ones that always get hit whenever you have a means-tested benefit – there is always a cut-off point. 

“Having a meal allows pupils to focus, to concentrate and it says that we care about them. It gives them time to sit down with their friends, have a nice chat and a nice time.

“Today, lunch was roast potatoes, gravy, vegetables and a chicken quarter, with a vegetarian option of lasagne.

“If we wanted to be popular, we’d give them cake, fizzy drinks and chips – but I’d lose my job. There are very strict guidelines on nutrition.

“Offering free meals is just a good thing to do and also the right thing. In a country as wealthy as this, no child should go to bed hungry.

Swanlea School headteacher Brenda Landers

“When we’ve got good mums and dads doing everything that we say they should and they still struggle to feed their children, that’s just not right in 21st century Britain.

“I find that deeply, deeply offensive and this is part of the solution.”

The situation for children living in the borough and going to school elsewhere or vice versa is less clear, with the council asking parents to contact it or other authorities for specific advice. 

Nevertheless the move begs the question that, if Tower Hamlets can do this and the Mayor Of London can go city-wide for primary pupils, why can’t other boroughs in the capital – or the whole country – do the same?

Find out more about free school meals in Tower Hamlets here

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Canary Wharf: How Wood Wharf Kindergarten offers tailored childcare

Recently opened nursery provides a haven for kids aged 0-4 on edge of Harbour Quay Gardens

Everything at Wood Wharf Kindergarten is play-based

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Humans change physically, mentally and emotionally at a faster rate in their first few years than at any other point in their lives.

The experience and stimulation they encounter during this formative time plays a crucial role in their development, laying the foundations for the people they will later become and the individuality they will express.

These are facts that are uppermost in the minds of staff at Wood Wharf Kindergarten, which recently opened its doors in Canary Wharf. 

Arranged in generously proportioned surroundings over the two lower floors of 10 Park Drive, it offers childcare to babies and young children aged 0-4, 51 weeks of the year.

The children are taken out twice a day in all weathers

‘Tailored’ is the word that best sums up its approach.

“Getting to know the family and understanding what their needs and their child’s needs are is the most important part,” said Heleanna Phair, nursery manager at Wood Wharf Kindergarten. 

“The first thing we do is to invite parents in for the settling-in sessions, which we do together.

“A lot of nurseries will ask parents to bring their children in for an hour and then leave them at the door. 

“We believe the parents should be in the room with the children to help them to become familiar with the environment and with the staff – especially the key person who will be looking after them.

The nursery works with the interests of each child

“Then, slowly, the parent moves away and stays downstairs so they’re on call if needed.

“We don’t allow any child to start unless they’ve gone through that settling-in process and we feel the child is emotionally ready. Of course, that looks different for each child and family.

“Once we’ve been through that process, parents have a key person who acts as the main point of contact and will send them daily information about what their child has been doing.

“We’ll let them know if the children are sleeping, if they’ve had a bottle or gone out for a trip – those notifications and photos go out throughout the day, which is a real comfort for people.

“Every six weeks we’ll write a long learning story, so parents get an update on their child’s developmental milestones, and then we’ll invite them in every three months for a bit of a parents’ evening for a catch up on how things are going.

“We  have very strong parent partnerships here, and parents are always invited in at the beginning and end of every day for a verbal handover.

“It’s so important we work with them, that they know what their child has been doing and how they are developing.”

Nursery manager Heleanna Phair

With a track record of achieving assessments of “outstanding” from Ofsted in previous roles, you don’t have to sit with Heleanna long to feel her obvious passion for the job she does.

“I’ve lost count of the number of years I’ve been in nursery management,” she said.

“Of course there’s a lot of legislation to take into account, but I think that if you’re genuinely passionate about what you do and that you really think about the children and parents you have in your nursery then that’s what helps you gain this level of recognition. 

“No nursery is the same as another – they all have challenges.

“My first management role was for a charity and, because many of the children were disadvantaged, what they really needed was feeding, love and attention. 

“Here we have some children who have nannies, language classes and swimming lessons and have had the opportunity to travel a lot.

“So, for us, the challenge is to provide a curriculum that is exciting and engaging, because they have so many experiences in the bag already.

“To do that we make sure everything we do is fresh, current and child-led. There’s no top-down approach to our teaching at all.

“We see the children each day – discover what their interests are – and then plan learning opportunities for the next day.

The nursery caters for children aged 0-4

“I always mention to parents when they come in at first that we may not move a child up from the babies room at 18 months because they might not be ready.

“Equally, we have a boy at the moment who is only 14 months, but is ready for the toddler room because he just wants more stimulation. 

“Knowing the children and parents and reviewing the service as you go is really important.

“I once worked at a nursery that operated 12 rooms and the children were moved every six months.

“That was really bad for them emotionally because they were not forming attachments with the staff.

“Here we make sure that three moves is the maximum and we only make them when the children are ready, which means the age range in each room is quite broad but also that each child is in the right place.

“We have a qualified early years teacher in our pre-school room, which is a real benefit. They are responsible for our school readiness programme.

“This, like all of our teaching, is play-based, but prepares the children for formal education with an emphasis on literacy and numeracy.”

While staff at Wood Wharf Kindergarten preside over a curriculum that includes Spanish, Mandarin and even Yoga, the overwhelming atmosphere is one of fun.

Softly furnished rooms are filled with wooden toys, books and activities intended to sneak a little knowledge in while the kids are simply having a good time.

But the nursery is about more than just the building itself. 

“We’re an outdoor learning nursery and we go outside in all weathers,” said Heleanna.

“We don’t keep them in if it’s a bit cold outside and we are in the process of securing a permanent outdoor space next to the nursery with a temporary one set up at Union Square in the meantime.

Wood Wharf Kindergarten is located on the edge of Harbour Quay Gardens

“I’m always very clear with parents about this because I really believe in it. It’s the same with messy play.

“We always ask that the children should be dressed in old clothes – nothing precious.

“It’s so important not to have barriers to learning so if the children don’t want to wear aprons, then we won’t make them.

“Having a close relationship with the parents is really important so they understand our approach and its benefits.

“It’s the same across the curriculum. If any of the children don’t want to take part, then they don’t have to. 

“That’s why we only have full-time staff because its so important for our key people to observe the children every day so they really know how they are doing.

“Nothing is structured, but there are always goals behind the activities – to me ‘outstanding’ looks like giving children the best possible experiences and we are so lucky to be here in Canary Wharf to do that, with Crossrail Place Roof Garden and all the parks to explore.

“The staff take the children out twice a day – often on quite long trips, including places such as Mudchute Park And Farm on the Isle Of Dogs – a favourite with everyone.”

Located on the edge of Harbour Quay Gardens overlooking West India South Dock, Wood Wharf Kindergarten sits on the quieter half of the estate. 

Packed with toys and equipment, it also offers food to meet any dietary requirement from head chef Mitchell Wilkinson – a cook with decades of experience working for the likes of Wimbledon and The Hurlingham Club before moving into educational settings.

“We do have some spaces at the moment and I’d urge parents to get in touch,” said Heleanna.

“We can host them for stay and play sessions if they like because we know it’s important to be sure.”

Wood Wharf Kindergarten fees – which include all meals, snacks, formula, nappies and trips – are £120 per standard day for under-3s and £110 for 3+.

Those interested in securing a place can get in touch with the nursery here.

The nursery is based on Park Drive in Canary Wharf’s Wood Wharf district

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Wapping: How Northeastern University London is set to grow at St Katharine Docks

Expansion is on the agenda as seat of learning prepares to launch dually validated degrees in 2023

Northeastern University London is based at Devon House in St Katharine Docks
Northeastern University London is based at Devon House in St Katharine Docks

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“I want studying here to be filled with new experiences, meeting people and fun – a place which our students will remember as one where they grew intellectually, socially and personally and which allowed them to have choices,” said Rob Farquharson, CEO of Northeastern University London (NU London).

Founded in 2012 by the philosopher and writer AC Grayling as the New College Of The Humanities (NCH), the institution has been through a period of growth and development in a relatively short space of time – not least its arrival at St Katharine Docks.

In 2019 it was acquired by Northeastern University, an American seat of learning based in Boston, but with 11 regional campuses in the US and a clear mission to expand globally.

Then in 2020, NCH was first granted the right to award its own degrees and then to legally call itself a university – both after lengthy assessment processes.

Having outgrown its original premises in Bloomsbury, in 2021 it moved to Devon House – a modern warehouse-style building on the banks of the Thames overlooking Tower Bridge. 

It’s an apt location on the site of the historic Bull’s Head pub where it’s not impossible to imagine thirsty Brits finding refreshment as they prepared to emigrate to America over the Atlantic from the nearby docks.

Today, NU London’s presence represents fresh connection between the area and the US, as it looks to the future with the sensitive retirement of the NCH name.

Northeastern University London CEO Rob Farquharson
Northeastern University London CEO Rob Farquharson

“Boston and London are the two pre-eminent seats of higher education in the world,” said Rob.

“One of Northeastern’s key drivers is international expansion – being able to offer its students and staff a global experience.

“You have to connect with the world and understand it to make a positive impact and Northeastern doesn’t want to be constrained by a single location.

“We’re the first campus outside North America, but I can guarantee we won’t be the last. Northeastern wants to have a global student body and to give people the opportunity to study in different locations and experience different cultures – you need to have that physical presence on the ground to facilitate that.

“We moved to St Katherine Docks for more space and we’re just about to take another building here for use as office space so we can grow even further.

“We’ve added a lot of non-humanities, non-social science subjects to the ones we already teach – we now offer courses in business, engineering, chemistry and physics, for example. 

“There’s a big emphasis on artificial intelligence, partly because that bridges the history we have in humanities and the strengths Northeastern has in Boston, such as computer science and data science.

“At the moment we have about 1,200 students in London and we aim to have about 1,500 by the end of the year.

“In September 2023, we’ll be launching dually validated degrees, which we’re very excited about. It means students will be studying for degrees that are accredited in both the UK and the US.

“The structure for those at the moment is that in the second semester of the second year, students will have the option to study in North America – in Boston or at a West Coast campus, although it’s not compulsory.

The university boasts extensive facilities at Devon House
The university boasts extensive facilities at Devon House

“Students will also be able to do a fourth year in the US as their degrees tend to be four years and there will be an option to do a masters there too.

“One of the reasons we need more space is so we can create facilities such as wet labs for students who want to come over here from the US to study as part of their course. 

“We won’t be able to cover the full range of courses they have in Boston, but we do want to allow students to have some time in London and we want to be able to support them.”

At present, NU London offers undergraduate degrees, masters degrees and apprenticeship courses designed to help businesses develop their workforces.

NU London is also eager to play its part in the local community as it grows and expands its offering, whether that’s welcoming local residents on its degree courses or helping others gain new skills.

“We have students with us who are residents of Tower Hamlets, but we’re keen to get local people from all the boroughs around here and we want to be a valued member of the community,” said Rob.

“If anyone has any ideas how we can do that, then we’re more than happy to hear from them.

“One thing that we do is work with the GLA and the Department For Education to run free digital boot camps. These are open nationwide, but we’re particularly keen for local residents to join.

“The next one starts in January and it’s a 13-week programme for people aged 19 and over, to help them understand a bit more about the digital skills they may need for a career or a new or different job.”

The boot camp is run in partnership with cloud platform ServiceNow, which counts government agencies, prominent consultancies and major brands among its clients.

“We love being here at St Katharine Docks,” said Rob. “It’s a little oasis – close enough to the busy areas of the City, The Highway and Commercial Road if you want to go there, but quiet so you can study.

NUL moved to St Katharine Docks in 2021

“We feel we’ve become part of the community but hope to go further still.

“One of our key priorities is widening participation, to make sure that under-represented groups have the ability, the ambition and the understanding to be able to go to university.

“We have staff whose job it is to spread the word locally.

“They visit primary schools, secondary schools and colleges in Tower Hamlets and other boroughs to demystify university – especially for those whose family members have not been.

“We want them to know that they can come here, meet a diverse group of people and have choices.

“Some might want to make money in financial services while others might want to be social workers.

“What we want is to give them the ability to make those choices.

“Once they are here, we have a careers team that supports students from the practical side of things – writing CVs and interviews – through to clubs and societies.

“We’ve just launched an entrepreneur club, which will bring in recent graduates who have started businesses as well as people from funding organisations.

“We also have programmes which give students an idea of how businesses work. Your passion might be English Literature, but it’s useful to know other things as well.

“You may want to be an English professor, but that involves working at a university, which is a business that pays people and spends a budget – It’s about having that depth.”

NU London is set to host an open day for prospective students on November 26, 2022.

NUL is expanding its offering as it prepares to launch dual UK and US degrees

Read more: Discover ceramics with Made By Manos

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Stepney: How the Attlee A Level Academy achieved record-breaking exam results

The New City College east London campus is celebrating a 15% rise in its A Level pass rate

Image shows the main entrance to New City College's Attlee A Level Academy in Stepney, an Edwardian building in east London
New City College’s Attlee A Level Academy in Stepney

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Read the comments of its students below and the secret to the recent success of New City College’s Attlee A Level Academy becomes obvious.

Young people clearly relish the teaching they receive and the environment provided for them to learn in.

Located on the eastern side of leafy Arbour Square, just off Commercial Road and round the corner from Troxy, the academy occupies the fine Edwardian building that once housed Raine’s School. 

Most recently rebranded with the blessing of former prime minister Clement Attlee’s family in 2018, in 2022 it achieved record-breaking figures with a 15% rise in A Level pass rates and a 12% increase in students awarded higher grades over the last four years.

In total, 125 students achieved 371 A Levels between them.

“We’re really, really pleased with the results,” said Janet Smith, New City College principal with responsibility for A Levels across its operation.

“Attlee was formed by merging provision that was in Tower Hamlets and Hackney at this site – that started a journey of pulling it all together and really improving things.

“Then we got caught up in the pandemic with students getting centre-assessed grades, but these results really validate the work we’ve been doing to build high quality provision.

“Since that pre-pandemic merger, we’ve improved by 15% and that starts to establish us as a high-performing centre for Tower Hamlets.

“We offer the widest range of A Levels in the borough – it’s a great selection – and we’re particularly good at the sciences and helping the progression of our students into university to study courses such as medicine.

Image shows Janet Smith, a woman with dyed red hair, wearing rimless glasses and gold earrings set with green stones
New City College principal Janet Smith
New City College principal Janet Smith

“During the pandemic, the whole senior leadership team got involved to make sure we weren’t just inflating grades, that what we were doing was valid and we can now go on with the confidence that we avoided doing that.

“We’re particularly pleased that we’ve got 11 subjects here where all of the students who took the exam passed – that’s quite phenomenal.

“These are tricky subjects – business studies, politics, physics, media studies, psychology and sociology – and really significant numbers of high grades.”

Group principal and CEO at New City College, Gerry McDonald, said while many colleges no longer offered A Levels due to the “hard, competitive” nature of the market, Attlee had been created to focus on the student experience to ensure the academy continued to be seen as a first choice for students as opposed to staying on in school sixth forms.

“These results show we made the right decision to create the academy,” he said.

“We have a broad, broad offer with subjects like classical civilisation, which you wouldn’t find in a school, but also fantastic links to universities such as Queen Mary.

“Our teachers are mostly A Level specialists – they understand the syllabuses really well and some have been involved in developing them and are examiners too, so they understand how to support our students. Now our focus is on helping them achieve those higher grades.”

Image shows Gerry McDonald, a white-haired man with black-rimmed spectacles in a blue suit and white shirt
Gerry is group principal and CEO of New City College
Gerry McDonald is group principal and CEO of New City College

Janet said the attraction for those looking to study at Attlee was two-fold.

“There’s the academic side with a breadth of offer and lots of other students, so people can really learn from each other,” she said.

“You might be in a group of 20 and that’s a really rich cohort to work with.

“Then we have very strong links with industry so we offer internships and programmes that may not be what students would be able to get in a school.”

Gerry added: “There’s also the maturity of environment. Our students won’t get the sort of support they have at a school when they go to university.

“Coming to Attlee helps them prepare for that by making them more resilient, independent learners, while also allowing them to mix with different groups of people, rather than moving up with their Year 11 cohort.

“Helping our students progress is a really important part of what we do and, because Attlee is part of a large college, there’s a wealth resource that we can draw on in terms of teaching.

“As staff, we work hard to develop our teaching skills – all of the senior team still do some teaching – and our expectation is that teachers understand that they are role models. It’s about the enthusiasm we have for our subjects, not just about the exam, but developing those broader interests in our students. That’s what our passion is.”

Enrolment for the latest cohort of Year 12 students at Attlee A Level Academy runs until September 3, 2022.

New City College operates across nine campuses in east London including facilities in Hackney, Epping Forest, Havering, Rainham, Redbridge and Illford.


Image shows Naima El Hallili Kintlerova – a young woman with dyed red hair, wearing a black top.
Naima moved to New City College from George Green's School
Naima moved to New City College from George Green’s School
  • Naima El Hallili Kintlerova
  • Law A, History B, Psychology B
  • Future – Naima has a place at Royal Holloway University Of London to study history

Isle Of Dogs resident Naima was a pupil at George Green’s School before joining New City College’s Attlee A Level Academy to take her studies further after taking her GCSEs.

She said: “I was looking at colleges and this place just came up. I liked that it was local, so I went to an open day. I liked how friendly the teachers were, how they made me feel at ease.

“They have an open-door policy here so if you have a question, you can just go into the staff room and ask.

“It’s not formal, you don’t have to call the teachers miss or sir – it’s all on a first name basis and I liked that.

“I enjoyed coming to college more than school because you have that rapport with the teachers – it’s more like a community and it’s very supportive.

“I never used to be as confident as I am now with things like speaking in public – coming to this college has allowed me to make new friends, be comfortable with myself and speak up.

“I feel a lot of my confidence is because I came here and met a lot of people from different countries and cultures.

“The college gives you a lot of opportunities – you get to work at the academy, get paid and have access to internships.

“I had one with a bank and now I have a mentor who is there for the next few years to help me with things like writing a CV.

“Even from GCSE level I’ve liked history. I thought about doing law at university for a second, but you can always take a legal route later on.

“At college my history teacher was really kind and made the lessons really interesting.

“He was so helpful with exams and coursework and in the end it’s all paid off because I got a place at Royal Holloway.

“I’ve thought about becoming a historian, maybe doing a masters and a PhD, but I still have a few years to decide.” 

Image shows Geovanny Rodriguez, a young dark-haired man with pierced ears wearing a black shirt and white T-shirt
Geovanny studied at New City College between ages 14 and 18
Geovanny studied at New City College between ages 14 and 18
  • Geovanny Rodriguez
  • Business A, Psychology A, English Lit B
  • Geovanny has a place at the University Of St Andrew’s in Scotland to study economics and management

North London resident Geovanny has had a less typical route into studying A Levels at New City College, having joined the institution aged 14 pretty much unable to speak English.

He said: “I’m originally from Colombia, but I moved to Spain when I was about 13, then I stayed there for a year and then came to the UK.

“ First I attended the college’s section for those aged 14-16 who don’t know how to speak English.

“Then I came to the Attlee A Level Academy and now I’m going on to study economics and management at St Andrews.

“I chose it because it’s a really good university and I liked the experience of going to Scotland.

“Unlike Naima I don’t have a passion for a subject like history, but studying business is good because it opens doors.

“My idea is to have a stable income and also to do my own thing with photography and clothes.

“Studying at New City College has been great.

“At first I didn’t really know anyone but then I found friends and I had a really good connection with the teachers. 

“The college also allowed me to run a pop-up shop and I donated 20% of the proceeds to charity.

“I take pictures of the things I like, not focusing on anything specific, just weird things I see as I go round.

“I’d definitely recommend the college as a place to study. It’s more like a community than a college because everyone knows each other. 

“While I live in North London, it’s totally worth the commute here to find supportive and helpful teachers – they were always there when I needed anything.

“It’s also good to come to a completely different area to the place that you live and to have that contrast to your life at home.”

Read more: How Blackout Dance Camp is rolling out London services

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Leamouth: Faraday Prep School seeks pupils to apply for supported place

Fishmongers Faraday Award covers up to 100% of fees at Trinity Buoy Wharf-based independent

The Fishmongers Faraday Award application deadline is April 18

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Children in Years 2 or 3 who show academic promise are being encouraged to apply for the Fishmongers Faraday Award by April 18.

The scheme, now in its fifth year, is open to candidates who would not otherwise be able to afford an independent education and covers up to 100% of school fees for one place at Faraday Prep School at Trinity Buoy Wharf in Leamouth.

Funded by the Fishmongers’ Livery Company, the award may also contribute to the cost of after school clubs, the school bus and school trips. The current scheme will support a place for a child to attend Faraday from September 2022. 

“This is a fantastic opportunity to join a growing and exciting prep school for those who might not otherwise be able to attend,” said head Lucas Motion.

“We want the children who receive it over the years to reap the benefits of what we offer here at Faraday.

“We’re a small, independent school, with just over 100 children. All of our systems are geared around individual attention so that we can really nurture, inspire and give children more support when they need it, and provide some stretch and challenge where they need that.

“We have small class sizes, with an average of 14 children.

“From Reception all the way up to Year 3, we have a teacher and a teaching assistant in each class, so we have a high ratio of adults to children to support that ethos.

Faraday Prep School head Lucas Motion with two of his pupils

“We put a lot of emphasis on high-quality interaction between staff and children, and having smaller class sizes really helps us to move them along.

“In terms of our vision and our values, they are all around nurturing children and delivering a good value education.

“I would also mention our broad and creative curriculum, which sets us apart and is certainly unique to Faraday.

“We teach much of the National Curriculum alongside a core knowledge curriculum and we have five specialist subjects, which are taught from Reception all the way up to Year 6 – French, music, dance, drama and sport.

“For example, we have a dedicated specialist sports teacher who is with the children all through their time at the school so they have the benefit of that – it’s a great model to help inspire them.

“An emphasis on high-quality English and Maths is always essential, and I think that, for that reason in primary, sometimes, the more creative subjects can take more of a back seat, but we’re committed to keeping them in the timetable throughout.”

Average class sizes at Faraday Prep School are 14 pupils

Lucas, who was born in Hackney and now lives in Leytonstone, arrived at Faraday in January this year, having previously held the post of deputy head at its sister institution – Maple Walk Prep School in Harlesden.

He said: “I came across when the previous head, Claire Murdoch, became head at Maple Walk, so essentially we swapped over. That’s made the transition quite smooth and natural because the values and ethos of the two schools are the same. 

“Faraday is in an unusual situation – our playground is on a bend of the River Lea – but a real highlight in my first term here has been reaching out to the community at Trinity Buoy Wharf – it’s such a collaborative and creative place.

“I want to continue the work Claire has done here, because she’s done an amazing job. I want to build on that.

“We’re currently a one form entry school except in our current Reception class, where we have two – we’re on a journey of growth – and I feel really excited about where that might lead.”

Selection for the award will be based on interview and references.

Children will be asked to provide their most recent school report and will be asked to undertake a range of activities and assessments.

Appointments to visit the school before applications are made can be arranged. Help with filling out the means testing element of the application is also available.

Those who would like more information can call the school on 020 8965 7374

The school is based at Trinity Buoy Wharf in Leamouth

Read more: How JP Morgan and The Sutton Trust are boosting social mobility

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Isle Of Dogs: University Of Sunderland In London expands beyond Marsh Wall

Lynsey Bendon talks space at Harbour Exchange as growth follows increased student demand

Image shows the University Of Sunderland In London's Lynsey Bendon
The University Of Sunderland In London’s Lynsey Bendon

“We were shown a lot of different places, but this is where we want to be – it’s perfect – it works for us and it works for our students,” said Lynsey Bendon.

There’s excitement in the voice of the assistant director of operations and student experience at the University Of Sunderland In London as she talks about its expansion at Harbour Exchange on the Isle Of Dogs – a move that will allow it to keep up with demand for places while retaining the links it’s built in the area since its creation in 2012.

“It’s on the opposite side of the DLR tracks to our Marsh Wall site, so it’s very close by,” said Lynsey. “We’ve been able to start with a blank canvas to design what we need as a teaching space.

“It has flexible rooms and it’s a lovely environment in terms of group and study areas. We’ve listened to what our students need and want – everything down to having a kitchen that’s really accessible where they can make their own food but also meet with staff. We’re thrilled.

“It’s also really nice to be able to grow from where we are because the students love our location next to Canary Wharf and our connections to local businesses but also the food, culture and shopping.”

The expansion of the campus, which will see the university taking a whole floor at Harbour Exchange, has been driven by significant demand. 

More than 4,400 students attended courses at its Marsh Wall base over the past year, with 2,794 joining across four intakes since March 2020.

While about 10% are international – reflecting perhaps the university’s outward-looking stance, having opened a Hong Kong campus in 2017 – about 50% are drawn from nearby London boroughs.

“Our students are what we call in the industry ‘non-traditional’,” said Lynsey. ”The average age is 36 and we have 60-40 female to male split. 

“Our motto is that we’re a life-changing university and we like to think that our people don’t necessarily come to us straight from school, but with a measured decision that they want their lives to change, which we hope to facilitate.

“We quickly realised there was a demand here in London and we tailor our courses to our students – we don’t expect them to be 18, straight out of school.

“We expect them to have experience that they can talk about and build on. When we started, some of the courses were targeted that way, but we’ve rewritten them and developed them through talking to our students to meet their needs.

“Ultimately we want them to progress, we want them to do the best they can for themselves and to fulfil their potential.

“You can’t just teach something – you have to build it around them. Our students are very vocal, which is extremely helpful when you work in the role I do, because you need ongoing conversations. We want to be there, supporting them, to help them succeed.”

Lynsey, who joined the University Of Sunderland In London in January 2020, is well placed to have those conversations, having left school after her A-Levels.

She said: “I was then unemployed for a short time before going into the workforce. I worked in banking in London in the 1990s, which was a very interesting time. When I came to have my children, I realised that it wasn’t a career I could stay in, so I left the workforce for a bit.

“Then I went back as a part-time member of staff on the help desk at the University Of East London. After a few years I specialised as an international student adviser before joining London Metropolitan University as compliance and immigration manager in 2014.

“That was challenging and taught me a lot – but I realised that I wasn’t going to progress further in my career without higher qualifications and at that point I was very lucky to be able to participate in a postgraduate certificate through my employer at that time, with the University Of Nottingham.

“So I was there, at 39, looking at a blank sheet of paper, never having done a first degree, absolutely out of my depth, and I can completely relate to our students, when they get to that point.

“But it gave me so much, some fantastic experiences and it taught me so much academically – both how to write reports and also all those things you don’t necessarily associate with academic learning. It also gave me so much confidence that I could do these things.

“I always say the tears were worth it, but I had such a good time, it outweighed any difficulties and it enabled me to go into management.

“So, after becoming the international immigration manager at London Met, I became head of student services and, in January, came here. Then lockdown happened in March, so it’s been quite a year. I had to learn quickly because I’m also the Covid lead for the London campus.

“Fortunately, it’s a really vibrant place, and a really great community, so people were very forgiving when I asked the same question for the sixth or seventh time, because I didn’t quite understand what went where.

“Our student growth over the years has been pretty consistent so I don’t think our current figures are down to people looking for a new direction just as a result of Covid.

“In our admissions process, we speak to each student individually and help them to make sure they are taking the right decision for them.

“The pandemic has shown us aspects of strength in our teaching and other areas where we’ve been forced to introduce things that we’re going to keep. We’re lucky that we get lots of people coming to us through word-of-mouth – Mr X may come to sign up with us in September and then Mrs X will follow in April – and you only really get that if you’re giving people what they want and the best tools for success.”

The University Of Sunderland in London offers courses across four main areas – business and finance; tourism, hospitality and events; nursing and health and engineering at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. The campus also offers Master Of Business Administration degrees – MBAs.

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