Elizabeth (top left) and Inez (bottom centre) during the online class.


As schools and colleges start the new academic year under the restrictions imposed by the global pandemic, Newbury College tutors are finding innovative ways of using technology to thrive under the ‘new normal’.

Newbury College Spanish Tutor, Elizabeth Vega de Marquez, likes to invite guest speakers to her adult Spanish classes to help students develop their vocabulary and experience a range of different accents and dialects.

Since moving her popular courses online in March 2020, as a response to the government’s national lockdown, Elizabeth has been experimenting with different techniques to enrich her lessons. While many people may look closer to home for guest speakers, Elizabeth has crossed the Atlantic and taken advantage of the technology available to welcome one from New York City.

Inez McMahon is a New York-based Spanish Teacher who has travelled the Spanish speaking world extensively and joined Elizabeth’s Advanced Conversation group on Wednesday evening to share her experiences and deliver a presentation on traditional and sustainable fishing practices.
“I like to reflect current issues in my classes and encourage my students to look at international perspectives, as this gives them a greater insight into the language, how it was formed and how it is used” said Elizabeth. “We have previously looked at deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and more recently the impact of Coronavirus on the Spanish economy. Inez provided the students with a fascinating presentation on the ancient tuna fishing practice of La Almadraba, a Phoenician technique that is still used in some coastal regions of Spain, Portugal and Italy.”

Students have adapted well to online learning thanks to the support the College provides and are enjoying the range of new techniques that tutors are able to use in their sessions. Trudy Izzo, an Advanced Conversation student, said: “Elizabeth makes learning fun and is always introducing different learning materials to keep study fresh and interesting.”

Newbury College uses the Microsoft Teams platform for delivering online classes as part of its shift towards a blended learning approach. Curriculum Manager for Community Learning, Sarah Hemmings, said: “We are using all available technology to ensure that our Adult Community Learning courses can continue while keeping our students and staff safe. Elizabeth is one of our shining stars in the department who has embraced this technology to deliver innovative activities and engaging sessions to her students. She regularly works with other colleagues to share this good practice and we are incredibly proud of the provision our tutors are continuing to provide.”

It’s not too late to enrol on adult courses at Newbury College. Language courses in Spanish, French and Italian are available from beginner level through to advanced, alongside other popular subjects including art, computing, dance, dressmaking, flower arranging, photography, pottery and psychology

Newbury College and West Berkshire Council

have been working together to ensure that residents of West Berkshire Care homes

were able to have a creative outlet, during a time in which contact with the outside

world has been severely limited. The overwhelming response received from

residents has led to this creative display being transformed into a virtual art

exhibition, for the whole community to share.


Newbury College has been delivering art sessions to residents of several West

Berkshire residential care homes for many years. These offer residents not only a

chance to learn new skills but also an opportunity to meet new people, improve fine

motor skills and cognitive ability, and improve mental and emotional wellbeing.


When the lockdown hit in March, all site visits were immediately halted and it was

essential to both the College and West Berkshire Council, who fund the initiative, to

find a way to keep residents actively engaged in learning during this difficult time.

There is overwhelming evidence to support a strong link between mental and

emotional wellbeing and creativity.


As a result, Tanya Reid, Newbury College Art Lecturer, emailed the care homes

each week with an art project. The weekly projects focussed on different artists, with

some history, interesting facts and detailed accounts of their style and examples of

their work. The artists studied were Van Gogh, Vlaminck, Cezanne, Matisse,

Picasso, Kandinsky, the Pointillists and Banksy. Residents also learned how to make

sculptures out of scrunched up paper.


Tanya Reid commented; I wanted to give the learners a focussed activity each week,

with examples to guide them as starting points and inspiration. The heart of the

initiative was addressing the wellbeing of the residents through creative



With limitations on materials available within the homes during the lockdown, I had

to think outside of the box and encourage the use of recycled materials where



There were 65 pieces of artwork sent in altogether, mainly from Walnut Close in

Thatcham and Willows Edge in Newbury. As Tanya explains: The exhibition is not

only a celebration of the wonderful artwork produced but also the fantastic work and

dedication of the care home staff, who had to step into the role of teacher and guide

the learners through the sessions; it was a real team effort!


Community Learning Curriculum Manager Sarah Hemmings commented: We were all so impressed with the artwork the learners had produced, and Tanya's efforts, especially at a time when they were cut-off from friends and family.


We are grateful to West Berkshire Council for providing an opportunity to share this amazing work with the local community, and their support in creating the virtual exhibition.


Graham Bridgman, West Berkshire's Executive Member for Adult Social Care said: We're delighted to be able to support this wonderful project that illustrates, literally, that the benefits of creativity are absolutely boundless in terms of mental and emotional wellbeing.


This is particularly pertinent at a time when so much else is restricted.


The virtual exhibition can be viewed on the West Berkshire Council website

To find out more about the creative options available at Newbury College visit www.newbury-college.ac.uk/adults/community