From education to employment

Media student Joe Watson wins Paul Head Award

A truly inspirational student @CollegeNELondon, Joe Watson, has overcome a number of barriers in his life to successfully pass the first year of his Media Production Level 3 diploma. Brought up in care and living independently at a young age, he has shown huge commitment and enthusiasm during his studies.

In December 2019, Joe won the Paul Head Excellence Award, (an award in memory of CONEL’s former principal), which recognises learners who have overcome significant barriers to their learning.

We caught up with Joe to ask him about his time at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) so far:

When and why did you join CONEL?

“I joined CONEL back in 2018 when I was looking to find a college that not only had a great media team but also a college that would help me get a foot in the door in the media industry. This qualification will allow me to eventually go to university too.”

How has CONEL helped you develop your skills and knowledge?

“I had a few self-taught skills, but felt like I really needed to dive deep into media and not just the areas that I was interested in. At CONEL I have learnt about the legal and ethical issues, as well as practical skills like filming a live multi-camera show. I have gained the skills and knowledge that I’ll need to work in the industry at CONEL.”

Has CONEL helped develop you in any other ways?

“Yes, the college has definitely helped me develop my soft skills, especially my social and communication skills. Being a closed person it was quite a challenge when faced with a group task. I really had to push myself to share my thoughts with my teammates but through the help of the staff and my learning support teacher, I was able to really grow in that aspect.”

Joe’s media tutors say he now demonstrates a real flair and ability to communicate, pitch and develop creative ideas.

You’ve been living in care. How has CONEL supported you through that?

“CONEL helped me apply for a college bursary that helped support my travel costs as I lived a little way from the college. Being able to receive that fund was really helpful. My amazing form tutor Selda Yuzdik and the rest of the media teachers where aware of my situation and they were amazing in making me feel comfortable and normal and just like any other students, not making my care a big issue. I’m especially grateful to the staff for taking me for who I am, not the label that of a looked-after child. Also, for being there for me in any situation where I felt like I needed to have a conversation about anything home or work-related.”

What is your favourite thing about college and your course?

“My favourite thing about the college is how diverse it is. Over the years at college, I’ve gained an amazing group of friends and met people that I would have never met in my life if I hadn’t chosen to study at CONEL.

“My favourite thing about my course is the teachers, how driven they are and how they push us to work harder and always obtain distinctions. That mentality has stuck with me and I don’t think I will ever forget the teachers from CONEL. They have always gone above and beyond for me.”

How did it feel winning the Paul Head excellence award, the most prestigious award at CONEL?

“I was told I was getting an award. I thought it was going to be for media. I sat in the hall thinking ‘where was my name?’ in the little booklet that was on all our seats. I couldn’t find it. I thought there was an error. It wasn’t until my cousin pointed out to me that the Paul Head award was the award I was winning. I cried. I had never won anything before especially a big award like this.

“It was a real sign that all the work and pain that I had gone through was for a reason and that just because you in care or have had been in the system, doesn’t mean that defines your life. You really can go onto doing big things. It was truly an honour.” Joe recently appeared in a video for BBC Bitesize about moving from care into college, and he is also set to feature in a BBC documentary.

What was it like working with the BBC?

“Working with the BBC and building a relationship with such a massive company is a dream come true. The opportunity came about from me posting some videos on YouTube about my experience in my past care homes and what I went through back in 2012. Someone from the BBC saw them and wanted to work collaboratively on some projects. These projects were BBC three documentaries about living in care homes and more. This was a dream and so unexpected, as even when I posted the videos being 12-15 years old I wanted to change the message that the media portrayed about care homes.

“The idea that care homes aren’t like Tracy beaker, which was the only media representation that we had about them, was far from true. It was either I get someone like the BBC / ITV to push my content or I write my own book or documentary. So for the BBC to find my content online and them wanting to work with me was honestly incredible.”

What are you plans for the future?

“I plan to attend university and study fashion PR to take my education further. I also want to work with more brands and hopefully write my first ever book and publish it. Apart from that, the future could have anything in store for me, but the college has put me on a path of greatness and brought me closer to my dreams.”

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