It’s exam results season. Hopefully congratulations are in order. In a few weeks time students will be returning to Newquay Zoo and our partner college next door, Cornwall College Newquay.
Fresh new students will arrive, full of enthusiasm; this new 2019/2020 intake or student cohort will be, if I counted correctly, our 20th intake.
If you want to apply to Cornwall College Newquay today or in the future, try their website: https://www.cornwall.ac.uk/location-pages/newquay-campus.html
We look forward to celebrating this long running partnership with the next year’s 2020/21 intake, which will be exactly 20 years since the first intake arrived in September 2000.
Since then, thousands of young and mature students have passed through our college on their way to careers in zoos, conservation and the wider business world.
Many Cornwall College Newquay alumni and students have worked or volunteered here at Newquay Zoo. Some are still here many years later. All something to celebrate!
First discussions 1999
20 years ago in August / September 1999, when the letter above was written, we were still a year way from enrolling our first students and busily working towards getting a college building and a syllabus approved to run 16 to 19 (Further Education) and 18+ (Higher Education) courses in place.
Many of the early leaflets have the dreaded words ‘Subject to validation’, the long and intricate process of having your course, staff and venue judged suitable to offer courses. With lots of goodwill and lucky timing, we amazingly cleared validation in the record speed of 18 months.
Taster Days were run in the year 2000 to promote the new courses to students, often pictured in the local and national press with animals very close up to students at the request of press photographers.
We already had experienced zoo staff ready to share their knowledge of animal management, business, marketing and animal health either onsite in our classroom or around the zoo, working with students on section. However lots of other things were needed to be ready by September 2000.
Would the courses be approved and ready on time?
Would we recruit sufficient college staff and students to run the courses?
Would we have a college building offsite in time?
The 1999 leaflets promised the wonders of up-to-date teaching, taught by experienced staff with practical knowledge from zoos and conservation. We looked forward to using IT wonders such as videoconferencing (tricky then in 1999) and making links via WWW (the World Wide Web as it was known in its younger days)!
We had a few leaflets, initially photocopied sheets to hand out at the Zoo, at careers and science events to those interested in being the first ‘guinea pig’ cohort to see if this zoo college project would succeed.
For our Newquay Zoo 50th anniversary NZ50 in May 2019, we reunited three of the founders – Mike Thomas The Zoo Director at the time, Dr Mike Kent (who wrote the letter above) and myself (Mark Norris, still teaching at college on behalf of the Zoo). We talked on camera to talk about the ups and downs of starting a conservation and zoology college. You can watch this 25 minute YouTube video here:
The college project was announced in our November 1999 edition of Paw Prints the Newquay Zoo newsletter: https://newquayzoohistory.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/paw-prints-november-1999-eclipse-edition/
Within the first year or two, plans were underway to build a purpose-built College building on land next to Newquay Zoo.
I remember Mike Thomas the Zoo Director at the time being asked by a newspaper photographer to show his ‘vision’ of the new zoo college … so he joyfully flung up his arms with a big grin and pointed around the empty field. A wonderful moment!
By 2002 we started digging the college building foundations, with the hands-on support of the college management and then local Newquay Mayor Andrew Waters. It would be another good thing for the town of Newquay and Cornwall.
As we moved into charitable ownership (now the Wild Planet Trust), we received a national BIAZA / Zoo Federation award in 2003 for this college partnership, one of the first of its type in Britain and Europe at the time.
Recently we received an updated BIAZA award (2017) for over 15 years continual partnership with these courses. The greatest complement (and compliment) to the project is the range of other UK zoos that now run this kind of partnership course for their local students.
Within the first year of our college, Newquay Zoo closed for a month or two to the public during the national Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in early 2001 but we taught on at college. It was a fascinating but distressing real world example of an animal health and disease outbreak, a little too close to home. A lot of foot baths and boot dipping was involved for zoo staff working between both sites. I remember that my zoo boots rotted and fell apart with the constant foot dipping.
There was a lot of press coverage to do with problems with exotic pets that were widely publicised at the time, another good discussion topic with students and visitors.
Over the years we have had a range of leaflets advertising various courses, including the first colour HND leaflet with our lovely old lioness Lizzie yawning on the first one in 1999 / 2000. An attraction to sleepy students?
Very soon a wider range of courses developed including Marine Biology / Marine Aquaculture and Wildlife Education and Media. HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) became Foundation Degrees (FdScs). We offered first BTecs, then now City and Guilds at 16-18.
Some of the staff from the first year or so – Lawrence Moores, Rebecca Allen – are still there teaching and undertaking research. Some of our ex-Zoo staff have gone onto teaching at Cornwall College Newquay such as Ruth Martin and Jamie Strike.
In time we moved on from being part of St Austell College to being part of Cornwall College. We were proudly part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) which, with some European funding, aimed to bring wider FE and HE opportunities close to home for Cornish students and attract bright minds to the county. Slowly reversing the previous ‘Brain Drain‘ of talent out of Cornwall upcountry!
Eventually we were able to offer a top-up year to our Foundation Degree to a full BSc degree level, so students can now study in Cornwall College Newquay from the age of 16 through to 21, from Further Education through to Higher Education degree.
I’m sure that local west country species and habitats have benefitted from the close scrutiny and support, as well as worldwide conservation in more exotic places.
If you want to apply to Cornwall College Newquay today or in the future, try their website (on the WWW!) to look at the range of FE and HE courses on offer:
So here’s to the new intake of students and another busy college year or twenty.
Blogposted by Mark Norris, Newquay Zoo Archive, 22 August 2019.