The winner of the Share the Love (Our Colleges) competition has been announced by the Association of Colleges as a jam-packed Colleges Week 2020 draws to a close. 

A heart made of scrap metal, forged at Cornwall College (pictured), was picked to win the £500 prize because it “stood out and it was really clear how much time and effort went into creating it,” association chief executive David Hughes said. 

The competition was sponsored by law firm Irwin Mitchell and called on colleges to produce or perform creations themed around the message “Love Our Colleges”. 

It drew submissions from around the country, including a Love Our Colleges sign made out of willow and flowers by Wigan and Leigh College (pictured left), a TikTok dance video from Craven College, and a massive Love Our Colleges made out of sports equipment laid out in Blackburn College’s gym

Cornwall College told FE Week, before being announced as the winner, that study programme lead for engineering Darren Reski and his students were “excited” by the task and “quickly” came up with the idea of making a heart from the recycled metal on which they had been practising welding earlier in the week. 

“We are always so impressed with our learners when they are set a task or challenge,” the spokesperson said.  

“This metal heart symbolises people using new skills, creativity, art, resourcefulness and ultimately, it represents people training for rewarding careers.” 

Craven Colleges TikTok video

This is the third Colleges Week to have taken place, and education Secretary Gavin Williamson took the opportunity to say: “I want to thank college leaders and staff across the country for their dedicated efforts during these unprecedented times. The sector has gone above and beyond to make sure their students are supported, can continue learning and return to onsite delivery.”

Shadow education secretary Kate Green used her message for Colleges Week to pay tribute to her local college, Trafford College, sending them her “good wishes” and saying she has had a “great time” visiting them “over the years”. 

Colleges Week 2020 was also marked with a debate in the House of Commons on “the role of colleges in a skills-led recovery”, organised by the chair of the all-party parliamentary group for further education and lifelong learning, Peter Aldous MP. 

“College education is something that we do well in the UK, but at times we unintentionally undervalue our colleges, which are at the heart of so many communities right across the country,” Aldous said.  

“In 2020, more than ever, colleges have demonstrated their value in supporting learners and businesses to deliver quality learning and training, despite the challenges raised by the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

MPs from across the political spectrum contributed to the debate, with education select committee chair Robert Halfon heralding this as “a potential golden age for further education”, as education secretary Gavin Williamson himself attended a college and made a “ground-breaking” speech on further education. 

Halfon also put a motion before the Commons to “recognise the unique role colleges play in supporting people, employers and communities to thrive, and their central role in rebuilding the economy”. At the time of writing this motion has been signed by 17 MPs.

Pictured top: Emma Thornton and William Davison, level 2 Engineering students

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