Humber Street Sesh: Why we’re sponsoring the Youth Stage

The biggest music festival in town is almost upon us, with this year’s Humber Street Sesh running from Friday evening on 2 August to late Saturday night on 3 August, showcasing 200 bands and acts over two days on 14 music stages. Wilberforce Sixth Form College is sponsoring The Youth Stage which will be hosting performances from some of the region’s finest young performers from 12 noon on the Saturday, and can be found on the corner of Queen Street and Wellington Street

Lewis Marrow, who teaches on the Music Performance Course, tells us why this is such a great opportunity for our students to perform on or help out at the Youth Stage:

“Wilberforce College has been and continues to be committed to supporting, educating and encouraging our students to excel both in the class room and outside of it.  We are proud to be part of Hull’s music scene and to be a pivotal player in supporting young musicians today so they can become the professional musicians of the future. 

Our Music Performance course is tailored to meet the needs of actual vocational work in the music industry. Our bands have been gigging non-stop around Hull venues for a full year in preparation for this and we are immensely proud to show you just what talented singers, songwriters, and musicians are coming out of the classrooms at our college.

We’ve even started our own Record Label – Ronno Records – to release our students’ music on all major platforms and streaming sites.”

The Marlboros

Our sponsorship of the Youth Stage at Humber Street Sesh, together with our collaboration with Freedom Road Creative Arts, a fantastic organisation of Musicians and Youth workers, has helped us create a performance space at the festival which will host amazing young talent and give them a platform from which they can become future headline acts of this and many festivals to come. From acoustic to metal, punk to rock, our students are thrilled to have this chance to perform to a large crowd.

Soft Electric
Soft Electric

College Principal, Colin Peaks, commented:

“Wilberforce Sixth Form College is delighted to be sponsoring the Youth Stage. We encourage all our performance students to gain as much live experience as they can, and by supporting the Youth Stage we can provide young performers from across the region with an audience for the day.  It is also a brilliant opportunity for many of our students to get involved behind the scenes at a music festival. Our dance, drama, music and media courses have 100% pass rates and experiences like this ensure our graduates are even more employable.”

Solar panels contribute to our green campus initiative


Our solar panels on Q Block are doing a cracking job.🌞

We popped down on a hot afternoon this week to see for ourselves.  The power they generate on an on-going basis is enough to run 7 classrooms each with 9 strip lighting tubes (34W) and 15 tabletop computers (200W) .

Next on our list, we’ll be installing a wind turbine, LED lighting and introducing water conservation too.

School children learn the benefits of a leafy environment

We recently welcomed Y3 and Y4 children from Stockwell Primary School who came along to take part in our Tree Planting Event. 

Gifted to us by the Woodland Trust, a mixture of Holly, Hazel, Goat Willow and Hawthorn tree saplings were planted as part of the College’s Seeds of Change project, which aims to create a green campus and healthy lifestyle at Wilberforce.  It also includes wild flower areas to promote mental wellbeing for our students.

The Stockwell children did a wonderful job, each planting their own tree around the College field to help create a ‘Wilberforce Wild Wood’.  These are trees that they’ll be able to come back and visit, and the new woodland area should be thriving by the time they are old enough to come here to study.

That’s TV Humber were there to capture the planting and talk to some of the teachers and children – you can see their report here.



Life on Mars?


It’s not every day you get the chance to look for life on Mars. But on Wednesday evening, 20th March, three of our year one Chemistry students did! Lewis Glasby, Teegan Spaven and Amy Winduss, took part in this year’s Royal Society of Chemistry North East Regional Schools’ Analyst Competition held at the University of Hull.

Their task was to analyse Martian soil samples to look for evidence of molecules related to life.

Nine teams took part including Hymers, Hull Collegiate, Wyke , Hessle and Wolfreton locally. Our team had a hard act to follow from last year’s winners, but they rose to the challenge with confidence.

The event was judged by the University of Hull’s Chemistry department who looked at a combination of reliable and reproducible data and careful practical work. We may not have won, but our students did incredibly well, had a great evening and made the College proud.

STEM students gain valuable experience as they build, design and race our electric car


Aimed at encouraging new students into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, the Greenpower Education Trust is a UK-based charity which challenges students from primary school age through to university to design, build and race an electric car.

They supply age-appropriate Kit Cars which can be built in schools, colleges or elsewhere and raced at Greenpower organised events. The Greenpower challenge uses the excitement of motorsport to inspire young people to choose and then excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects.  Working with over 700 teams throughout the UK involving 10,000 students, they hold over 35 regional events and an International Final each year.

Our team at Wilberforce will be taking part in the Hull Street Race on 28th April. This means that we needed to enter a test race this last weekend in a bid to get our car (brilliantly named Eileen!) into shape.

Building, maintaining and racing this car is another enrichment experience we offer our students. Under the watchful eye of our Engineering teacher Roger Waites, a group of students spend their spare time learning new skills and applying them to the project.  

Roger explained: “The GreenPower project is an excellent opportunity for students to learn new skills and work as a team. Together the happy band have followed industry practice by identifying problems, designing solutions, testing ideas and finally raising money to realise their dream. Those involved have learnt to take initiative, consult with others and take responsibility, skills that any employer would value. Although this project demands a lot of commitment the rewards are great. Whatever the outcome on 28th April all involved are winners.”

Leading the way on Saturday was student Ben Selway, 18, currently studying for a Level 3 extended diploma in Games Design.  Ben has been giving up his spare time recently after classes to sand down the fibre glass and modify some of the parts, whilst testing the batteries it runs off. 

Another of our students, James Booth, 17, currently studying A Level Maths, A Level Physics and for a Level 3 Diploma in Engineering  has also been giving up spare time both after and during college to help with the sanding, fibre glassing and shaping of the body work on the car. James was another of the drivers and engineers at the test race on 9th March.

The third person present at the test race was Ashley Bamford, (Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering). The Wilberforce Greenpower Team has been working together since September, exchanging ideas on how the GreenPower car can be changed and made better for future races. The car was originally designed around Ashley because he drove the car in July 2017 at the KCom race.

So, how did we do? The test race went well. Our team did experience some minor issues – when they originally signed up they were they given the car number 361 which turned out to be wrong as they were meant to be 561 – a problem easily fixed. The other minor concern was the weather!

Ben told us more about their experience: “Our car arrived at 8.00am having been brought by a friend of Roger’s on a trailer. The early start was good as we had some minor adjustments to make on the brakes and the steering, both solved by Ashley and a hammer! Our efforts paid off as the car successfully passed the scrutineering so we were good to race.”

At the Driver meeting they give us information regarding safety, track layout, how to drive the track correctly and then finally what to do in an accident situation; this is vital information which was needed for the test race so everyone knew what to do during the test race should anything happen. We then went straight onto the race track.”

It was at this point the rain, hail and wind arrived. Ben went first. The car battled gale-force winds. With the wind behind he sped down the track, against the wind the story was rather different. “Ashley was flagged down for having the wrong number and no transponder so we changed the 5 to a 3 and fitted a transponder. The circuit times could now be recorded. Still pouring down with rain all three of us took turns to drive the car, with our helmets covered in rain water making it hard to see and soaking wet gloves making it hard to steer. Once all we had all had a go we decided to go inside the café and find Roger, Milica and Paul as none of us could feel our hands or feet, that’s how cold it was!”

To get to the race our full GreenPower team has shown great dedication. Over the weeks they have raised over £500 by making and selling snowman decorations and specially designed ‘Family Trees’ This has helped raise the funds needed to contribute towards materials and the race entry fee.

We look forward to following their progress and cheering them on (yes…“Come on, Eileen!”).

Greenpower is helping to address the engineering skills gap. The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that the UK needs 104,000 STEM graduates per year, and 56,000 technicians, between now and 2020.  Follow our students’ progress as they prepare their car, via their Twitter account.

Syrian civil war story teaches students more about displacement and migration

This week we offered a further enrichment and awareness-raising event to students as part of our Home project when we welcomed the Invisible Man Theatre company into college to deliver an interactive piece entitled “How to be Lucky”.  Based on the life stories of over 70 Syrian families who were forced to leave their homes and arrived in the UK as part of our government’s Vulnerable People’s Resettlement Scheme, the piece focuses on the emotional impact that becoming refugees has on a fictional family, through the eyes of the father, Anwar.

Written by Artistic Director Stephen Burke, it was an emotional piece, and the discussions he conducted between the acts encouraged our students to question some of the news sources they rely on and to imagine themselves in Anwar’s shoes, whilst creating a greater understanding of civil war and the displacement from homes that it causes.

Actor Sid Akbar Ali, who played the central role of Anwar, moved many of the students and staff in the audience to tears and after the performance students went up to the pair to thank them and say how moved they were by the story.

Claire Scott, who organised the event reflected: “I think the performance event was a great success, and opened up the topic of migration in an accessible yet challenging manner. A college education is about so much more than simply learning how to respond to a 40 word question, or a specific grading criteria: it is about preparing young people for life, and this means allowing them to explore big themes and issues, questioning how they feel in an open and responsive manner to formulate opinions they have on crucial societal concerns. As a Performance Arts teacher of some 17 years at the college, I feel that Theatre is a great forum for this kind of discovery. The audience were made up of students from a range of levels of study and curriculum areas, and they listened with respect; responding empathetically. 

After all, in the words of William Wilberforce himself:

’You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.’ 

We are Wilberforce College, and that means a great deal in terms of our duty in raising awareness of individual liberty and refuge regarding the plight of minorities. As such it is only right that we provoke debate on migration within our student cohort.”

L-R Stephen Burke, Claire Scott and Sid Akbar Ali

Students learn about refugees, immigration and tolerance via our Home project

A theme running through our teaching and learning in performance studies this academic year is our Home Project. Focussing on the plight of refugees and stories of immigration, we‘ve been weaving key messages through the fabric of our curriculum.

Performance Arts teacher Claire Scott, who has been responsible for creating these value-added learning experiences explains: “This is of particular importance to us as we feel that we have a duty to honour William Wilberforce’s legacy of compassion and empathy. 

On our Level 3 BTEC Theatre course, and as part of an assessment, my first years prepared a short poetry performance of Warsan Shire’s ‘Home’, under the theme of immigration & tolerance.  The piece lasted 4-5 minutes and we performed it in a ‘flash-mob- style’ at various public venues across the city as a whistle stop tour back in November.”

After this very successful event, some of our students were invited in to BBC3’s No Filter programme to participate in a live debate about immigration with presenter Kofi Smiles.


Digital Skills conference hits all the right buttons with our IT students

“My kids will probably never need to learn to drive.”

This was one of the stand-out quotes from a presenter at our Digital Skills conference at the University of Hull a couple of weeks ago.  He assured us that driverless cars will be part of our daily lives, and sooner than we think. 


With the world of technology changing faster than you could ever imagine, and with interest in our digital, games design, web development and technical support classes soaring, we had decided to arrange this conference for some local experts to present to our IT students and those from our partner colleges.

We were delighted to welcome speakers from

The day focused on bridging the gap between education and employment, and one of the key messages to all the students was to invest in themselves now, to get clued up on effective job hunting, to be pro-active and find ways of evidencing their passion for the subject outside of the classroom.

Tina Jenkinson from LMI Humber shared ideas for effective job hunting, looking at key sectors that are growing in The Humber region which offer digital opportunities.

Jon Polling from Sauce told the students that the digital sector jobs in Hull had increased by 15% over the last four years, beating the national average of 13.2%.

Our guest from GCHQ (and yes we were asked to remove the photos from social media!) made everyone aware of their digital footprint, and said it would be wise to google yourself and see what others can find out about  you before you apply for that job you really want. And even then, deleted data is still trackable. 

Aslan from VISR, specialists in mixed reality technology, encouraged students to get in touch, and told them it was essential that they pursued their passions out of class:

Build that website, develop that app, have something to talk about at an interview that makes us want to hire you.

Craig from KCOM- who employ a lot of local people – talked about the aims of their business and how our students could contribute to their future success in a range of roles which all require up to date digital skills.

John Harrison from the University’s Careers team explained what a huge impact our students can make in the digital sector and encouraged them to listen to careers advice at sixth form / college to help make the best decision.

In the afternoon the students had a tour of the university and were then given the chance to speak to these and other local digital companies in the afternoon’s ‘marketplace’, to explore opportunities and help them consider all their options within the digital sector.

The students agreed it had been both a useful and enjoyable event:

Theo told us “It was good to hear about all of the opportunities available in the digital sector. The information was very informative and I loved talking to the employers in the marketplace.”

Jessica commented, “I enjoyed the VISR talk as it intrigued me and it made me want to learn more about it”.

And Connor agreed, “I enjoyed the VISR talk and would love to go and do the program with them.”

A hugely successful day, and Wilberforce’s Vice-Principal Ben Wallis, responsible for setting up the event remarked:

“This is just one example of the value-added opportunities we afford our students. For them to be able to get this sort of advice, at this stage in their learning, is invaluable. I’ve already spoken to several students who are going to follow up the offers of getting experience with some of these companies, which is fantastic, as at Wilberforce we want all our students to not only achieve the highest qualifications they can, but to have the employability skills that will put them ahead of their peers.”

Community work helps students understand more about dementia

Residents from Elm Tree Court came into College recently to join our Health and Social Care students. Elm Tree Court is a residential home near us that specialises in dementia care and we’ve been embedding the theme of dementia across many of our subject areas to help our students understand it more, and to explore this theme in their studies.

The students ran an arts and crafts session for the residents, where they made Valentines cards and indulged in some Chinese crafts in honour of the HICA virtual food cruise which is currently docked in Hong Kong! The students then showed the residents some of their coursework and enjoyed getting to know them and listening to their stories. Our visitors told us they loved the friendly welcome and felt instantly at ease.

This was a fantastic example of partnership working and how community links work for the common good. At Wilberforce we are very proud of our links to the community and the benefits this can bring to our students. We look forward to meeting up with Our Elm Tree friends over the coming months.

Dance students learn new moves from elite choreographer

It was great to welcome back choreographer and ex-student Gareth Chambers, who studied here in 2004/5. Originally from Bransholme and now based in Cardiff after studying at the Laban Centre, London, he is an extremely talented choreographer, dancer and writer.  We were delighted to hear that he was coming to work with our Y1 and Y2 dance students a few weeks ago. The workshop is part of a larger piece of work with Back to Ours that he’s preparing with our students which will become a prelude to a play “Delicate Flowers” based on the life of ex-World Champion and pioneer of women’s professional boxing, Barbara Buttrick. This mesmerising one-woman play tells the story of a world champion whose tenacity and skill took her to the top of her profession, and one who’s aiming to get there., and will be performed in Hull on 18th, 20th and 21st February.

The students said it was great to have one of our students come back, and to learn a variety of dance styles from him, including ‘trance’. Their next piece of work on the project will be learning to box at St Paul’s Boxing Academy.

Gareth said it was great to return, and come full circle, adding that it was nice to be around young dancers from Hull and to be able to mentor them.

Following on from their choreography session, our Dance students visited St Paul’s Boxing Academy, in preparation for the piece.  Once again, under the direction of choreographer Gareth Chambers, and trainers at the St Paul’s Boxing Academy, they had an intense boxing training session and then went into sparring.

This was then followed by a 3.5 hour work shop on trance dancing and flash mob creating in preparation for the promotional flash mob performance for Delicate Flowers they were due to perform the following Saturday 26th January in Hull Interchange.

And then the day came, and our students gave a cracking flash-mob performance at the Interchange. For more details of the Back To Ours Half-Term Festival, including their performances of Delicate Flowers (which we were delighted to be able to support with Gareth’s help), visit their website.