Activate Learning Oxfordshire entrance

- Schools + FE

Activate Learning: Transforming further education in the South

Activate Learning

Schools + FE



Craig Cullimore


Activate Learning is a group of further education colleges in the South East, including City of Oxford College, Banbury and Bicester College, and Reading College. We’ve completed a number of projects for the group in the past – ranging from campus masterplans to teaching buildings.

Designing spaces for vocational study can present unusual challenges, and we often had to combine features of workplaces with those from traditional learning environments. We also worked hard to make the buildings as sustainable as possible – often as a condition of funding. The Centre for Technology and Innovation in Blackbird Leys achieved BREEAM “Excellent”; on several of the other sites, we took the opportunity of upgrading older, less efficient building stock to improve its performance, achieving BREEAM “Very Good”.

Approach + Solution

Our projects for Activate Learning have provided state-of-the-art facilities for a new generation of students. These include the new Automotive Building in Banbury, where we created a servicing centre that could double as an exhibition space, as well as the nearby Media Building. We also refurbished and extended a 1960s building with new workshops, art studios and media facilities. At the City of Oxford College, we met the challenge of combining a hair and beauty teaching facility with a salon that could be used by the public, using a “shop-front” approach to mimic a high street setting.

Sustainability was key to every project. At the Automotive Building, we used PV solar panels to help achieve BREEAM “Excellent”, while at the Media Building we thermally upgraded the entire site, replacing windows and recladding the building to improve its environmental credentials. In every case, we worked hard to give students the best possible environments to learn the skills they need to achieve their goals, giving the college facilities that could evolve over time as their needs changed.

“We’ve loved working with Activate Learning over the years – and we believe we’ve given them genuinely creative teaching spaces, where their students can truly thrive.”