Westminster Kingsway College’s Deputy Director for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) has been awarded an MBE in the 2023 New Year Honours.

Paul Nee, who has worked for the college for nearly a decade, was recognised for services to further education in the first honours bestowed by His Majesty King Charles III.

He said: “When I learnt I was being awarded an MBE, I thought it was a wind-up. It was just a feeling of disbelief. But of course, I’m extremely proud. It’s one of the highest honours you can get.”

Paul joined WestKing as Head of Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LDD) and High Needs in September 2013 and was promoted to Deputy Director for SEND in December 2020.

He oversees around 120 specialist SEND staff across all WestKing’s sites including those looking after students with more complex needs at the college’s King’s Cross Centre, Alexandra Centre and Kennet West Skills Centre.

During his time at WestKing, Paul oversaw the transformation of the Alexandra Centre into an outstanding service, which had been deemed inadequate while under a different provider.


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Among his other career highlights was a SEND student who progressed into mainstream education at the college and is now studying for a degree at UAL: London College of Fashion.

Paul, who lives in Coventry and commutes to the college most days, said: “When you look at special needs, I’ve almost done the full circuit of what you can work in from senior management in specialist colleges to working in a special school and a number of SEND roles for FE colleges.

“It’s just so meaningful. It’s a bit of a cliché, but you are truly making a difference to the lives of young people with learning disabilities. It’s often about tiny steps that may seem quite trivial, but for them are momentous moments. That’s what I love about it, and it’s fun.

“I am proud of what we’ve achieved in SEND and privileged to work with some fantastic managers and staff. It’s not just down to one person, you’re only as good as the team around you.”

Former Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi MP, recommended Paul for an MBE after being impressed on a visit to the Alexandra Centre when he was Minister for Children and Families.

Jasbir Sondhi, Vice Principal at WestKing, said: “Paul has been unwavering in his commitment to supporting students with learning disabilities and additional needs. He and his team were instrumental in turning around the Alexandra Centre into a high-quality provision to improve their independence and everyday lives.

“I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Paul on his MBE. This is a huge achievement and one I am sure he will agree is not just testament to his own success, but also recognition of the work of his fantastic team.”

Find out more about Foundation and Supported Learning at WestKing here.

Aspiring actors from Westminster Kingsway College took to the stage when they starred in Shakespeare’s romantic comedy Twelfth Night.

Two casts of Performing Arts students performed abridged and pantomime versions of the Bard’s work at the college’s theatre at its King’s Cross Centre from 7-8 December.

Twelfth Night tells the story of twins, Viola and Sebastian, who are separated after a shipwreck. Viola, disguised as a page boy, falls in love with Duke Orsino. However, Duke Orsino is in love with Countess Olivia who in turn, falls for Viola thinking she is a man.

Zaris-Angel Hator, 17, who played Viola, said: “I’d never read the play before, so I’ve had to explore it and understand Shakespeare and the language. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s been really fun to do.

“Viola’s quite reserved and wants to do the right thing but has a crush on her master who is in love with Countess Olivia. We’ve all had crushes and trying to get them to fancy you when they like somebody else. I’ve been through that and I used it to develop her character. I also worked with my teacher on my voice to get make myself less feminine. It was quite challenging because the audience needs to know it’s still Viola but she’s also playing someone else.”

Shakira Yearwood-Hines, 18, who played Duke Orsino, said: “Orsino is in love with Countess Olivia and really wears his heart on his sleeve. I tried to be really manly and pick up on the little things he does. I actually enjoyed playing a man, I’m a bit of a tomboy and the females in Shakespeare are just too dainty.

“I loved doing the play. It meant stepping out of my comfort zone. I mainly sing and dance, and acting isn’t something I would never normally have tried. It was difficult at first, but my teacher has helped me come along way and given me more confidence.”

“I love the creative process of starting with nothing and building your character, and each time you add something you reveal more about them. I love that you can change an audience’s perspective or way of thinking, or if they are having a hard day you can make them smile.”

The play was directed by Performing Arts lecturer Rob Alexander who will be leaving WestKing this academic year after nearly two decades at the college.

His former students include actors Jumayn Hunter, Tobi King Bakare, Francis Lovehall, Romario Simpson, Babyre Bukilwa and comedians Babatúndé Aléshé and Jamali Maddix.

Rob said: “This was the first full production the students have put on in two years because of the pandemic. They all worked incredibly hard on what were quite complex scripts and deserved all the plaudits they received.

“I’ve had a fantastic 19 years at WestKing. We’ve worked with professional companies, put on some fantastic productions and taught some very talented students. I’m not aware any other FE college has the same number of alumni we have working as actors or in music or comedy.

“To quote Twelfth Night, ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.’ I hope in some small way I have helped each of my students be the greatest they can be.

“I will miss WestKing enormously, but as they say the show must go on.” Apply now for Performing Arts courses.

Apply now for Performing Arts courses.

On Tuesday 19 November, Westminster Kingsway College held a General Election hustings event, where candidates from the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Brexit parties came to the college’s Kings Cross Centre to pitch on behalf of the parties for the Youth Vote at the upcoming general election.

Around 60 students were in the college’s theatre space to hear the pitches from the four candidates:

  • Councillor Abdul Hai (Labour Councillor for King’s Cross Ward, and Camden Council Cabinet Member for Young People and Cohesion)
  • Matthew Kirk (Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Holborn and St Pancras)
  • Kirsten de Keyser (Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Holborn and St Pancras)
  • Hector Birchwood (Brexit Party Parliamentary Candidate for Holborn and St Pancras)
Candidates and Westminster Kingsway students at a general election hustings event held at the college on 19 November 2019

After the pitches, the students posed a variety of challenging questions to the candidates. Top priorities for the young people were issues close to their hearts, like knife crime, stop-and-search, tuition fees, the funding of youth services, young people’s mental health, Brexit and the future of the NHS. Rather like last night’s televised debate on ITV between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, the debate got quite heated at times, as the four candidates alternately tried to respond to the questions and attack each other’s record on the issues raised.

Afterwards, Rosa Kurowska, A Level Politics lecturer at Westminster Kingsway College, who had many of her students at the hustings, said: “The students really appreciated the opportunity to meet several party candidates and question them about issues that matter to them. Our students are highly engaged in politics both in their studies and outside of college, but they often find that mainstream politicians often don’t address the issues that matter to them.

“Therefore it was great to hear so many insightful and challenging questions from students for the candidates, as well as from those who stayed behind to debate further and speak with the candidates and the BBC about their views. Hopefully, this event will encourage more young people to register to vote, because, as reported yesterday by the Electoral Commission, a worrying one in three teenagers of voting age aren’t actually registered to vote in the general election at all.”

The college organised the event in partnership with Vote for Your Future, a non-partisan body that aims to get as many young people to register to vote as possible. A futher hustings will be held next week at our Victoria Centre, giving more students the chance to grill local election candidates.

In addition, a crew from BBC London News came to the hustings too. After filming at the event, we took them and a group of our students to a classroom to interview them in more depth about their views on the election and voting. For these students, the lack of diversity in Parliament and representation by people from their ethnic groups was a major issue. “To be honest, we’re just represented by white people. How can they understand what we care about and what we feel matters?” was one reaction. Expanding the voting age to 16 and 17-year-olds is also important to the students – as long as young people – and voters of all ages – can access the information they need to make a truly informed decision.

Westminster Kingsway College students talk about politics, voting and the election

Anyone aged 18 or over can vote in elections, but you will not be able to vote in the 2019 General Election on 12 December unless you have registered to vote. There is still time to register – the deadline is 11:59pm on Tuesday 26 November – register to vote online now.

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