On 10 February, students and staff up and down the country came together for the launch of this year’s Themed Learning Week. The event, which was born at City and Islington College six years ago, aims to unite different college faculties around an academic or political idea central to our life and times.
2020 marked an unprecedented success for the event as over 100 schools, colleges and universities took part in the event throughout the United Kingdom. With the support of TES, NEU teaching union, the National Union of Students and the University and College Union (UCU), a record number of academic institutions organised around a unique theme and invited different disciplines to collaborate in the production of fresh new teaching materials.
At the official launch in Islington, the founding college tackled the conversation around climate change and power, featuring guest speakers including Shadow Chancellor of the Exchquer John McDonnell and Campaigns Coordinator for the Campaign Against Climate Change, Claire James.
Mr McDonnell said: "This is happening across the country. This is a huge initiative spread out across the colleges and schools, and what's happening out there across the country is people are saying, 'we cannot go on like this any more - we've got to change.'"
CEO Roy O'Shaughnessy used the opportunity to speak about the value of collaboration, continuing: "The challenge today is to take the greatness within each of us and combine that to find a way to move forward with purpose."
Over the five day period, students and staff formed a challenging and relevant new syllabus around the key theme. Visual and Performing Arts students were invited to create art installations at the Tate Modern, and campaigns across the college's five centres fostered conversation on sustainability, recycling and alternatives to fossil fuels. Similar events were replicated across the country.
Later in the week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn visited students in Holloway and urged them to "be out there, demand, demonstrate and force companies, government and councils to change their ways."
Speaking about the creation of the Themed Learning Week, organiser and lecturer Sean Vernell told an audience:
“A few teachers got together in 2014 and thought ‘what can we do just for one week of the year where we all get together and act collaboratively and see if we can teach an interesting thing?”
He added that staff are “now more confident to teach these issues and integrate into their teaching.” As well as raising general awareness, the Themed Learning Week allowed staff to share resources on the college’s Virtual Learning Environment, headed ‘Learning for a future that does not cost the earth.’
With backing from senior politicians and media outlets, the week successfully helped unite UK institutions around the main issues of a generation.
The 2020 Themed Learning Week follows on from last year's campaign 'Skin Deep - #WeAreAllImmigrants', which looked at migration and its impact.