Latest News

Meet our new Chief Executive

Owen Mapley

The HAFLS team welcomed the news that Owen Mapley was appointed by councillors as the new Chief Executive for Hertfordshire County Council at a meeting of full council back in October and has now been in his new role since the start of the New Year.

Owen is a keen supporter of the work HAFLS does and even presented some awards to learners at last year's 2018 Adult Achievement Awards. He later tweeted;

'This was a wonderful event - I had the honour of presenting awards to two brilliant ladies who overcame confidence and language challenges to develop their skills and secure new jobs. Very proud to help celebrate @HAFLS and their inspirational service users'

Owen was recommended for the Chief Executive role by the council’s Employment Committee following an extensive recruitment and selection process to identify the best candidate to lead the staff of the council. He joined the council as Director of Resources in early 2016, and has a wealth of financial and senior leadership experience from previous roles in the private sector and the civil service. After graduating from the University of Leicester with a degree in Business Economics, he worked for professional services firm PwC for 12 years before holding senior leadership roles with the Ministry of Justice, Her Majesty's Courts Service and the Legal Aid Agency. Prior to joining the council, he was Director of Finance & Estates at the Home Office. 

A Hertfordshire resident for the last 18 years, Owen said: “I am very proud to be appointed as the next Chief Executive for the County Council. Having close ties to Hertfordshire both personally and professionally, I look forward to working with councillors, staff, residents and partners to deliver the wide range of important services that we all rely on.”

David Williams, Leader of the Council said: “I am delighted that the recommendation of Employment Committee has been approved by Full Council and that Owen will be taking on his new role as Chief Executive of Hertfordshire County Council early in the New Year. He will inherit a very strong legacy from John Wood who will be retiring after 6 years as an outstanding Chief Executive”

Stephen Giles Medhurst, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: 

"We welcome Owen’s appointment as Chief Executive designate and we trust he will follow in John Wood’s footsteps and look forward to working with him ensuring the council is open and engaging with the public and all councilors."

Judi Billing, Leader of the Labour Group said:

“I am delighted that Owen’s appointment has been wholly endorsed by the full council. I look forward to working with him and John Wood in the handover period and with Owen as the new Chief Executive. 

“I know that he appreciates the importance of effective opposition in local government and understands the roles and responsibilities of all 78 County Councillors in ensuring that Hertfordshire serves its communities sensitively, fairly and effectively.”

Prize draw winner all 'Fired' up for 2019!

Christmas prize draw winner

The Christmas Light Switch On event at Stevenage Town Centre on Thursday 22nd November was another huge success. HAFLS was given a VIP stand next to our valued friends at Age Concern and right next to the Main Stage. It was hard not to boogie to the great live music and it helped to keep out the cold!

We ran a prize draw which offered participants the chance to win an ‘Amazon Fire Tablet’ and there were 9 free HAFLS courses offered as runner-up prizes. The lucky “Amazon Fire Tablet winner was drawn at random on the night by Santa! The lucky winner was presented with her prize on 3rd December when we held a small celebration event.

The Study Plus team were out in force selling beautiful decorations, gifts and Christmas bunting made by the young people. A total of £62.00 was raised for their chosen charity which this year is The Living Room. Thanks to all the young people for their terrific efforts.

Chair of the HAFLS Advisory board awarded CBE in New Years Honours


The New Year started with the fantastic news that Lynsi Hayward-Smith, Chair of the HAFLS Advisory board and a trustee for the Education and Training Foundation, received a CBE in recognition for her services to FE.

The head of adult learning and skills at Cambridgeshire County Council has served on the board of the ETF for almost five years, having first been appointed in 2014.

David Russell, boss of the ETF, said Ms Smith’s award was “extremely well-deserved” and gave “due recognition” to the “sustained impact” she has had in her career.

“She has been instrumental in shaping the success of the ETF over its first five years as a trustee, ensuring we never lost focus on adult learning or on overall impact,” he said.

HAFLS welcomes guests from Myanmar - Thursday 24th January

HAFLS was honoured to host special guests from the Department of Alternative Education in Myanmar and VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), who visited us in a bid to learn more about our county’s approach to community learning, as part of a wider trip to learn about adult education in the UK.

Following years of military rule, Myanmar is rapidly experiencing significant change as it transitions to become a democracy with heightened expectations of quality of life.

Myanmar remains one of the world’s least developed nations despite being a fertile country, rich in natural resources. The 2014 census found that 29% of people in rural areas live below the poverty threshold, while in urban areas the poverty incidence is estimated at 15%. The annual budget allocated to education by the government is low; only about 1.2% is spent per year on education. Subsequently education benefits mainly those who can afford to pay for it. Schooling is compulsory until the end of elementary school, probably about 9 years old, but many drop out of school earlier as they are sent off to work.

 Arriving at County Hall, ready to learn more about HAFLS, were Dr Zaw Win (Acting Director General), Dr Win Pe (Director of Policy, Planning and Management), Dr Win Win Kyaing (Director of Literacy Education) and Dr Li Li Myint (Director of Quality Assurance, Accreditation, Monitoring and Evaluation).    

The visitors from Myanmar were accompanied by Clare Crocker, Ben Williams and Gwen Harris from VSO (https://www.vsointernational.org/) who are supporting Myanmar’s transition to a more equitable, open and accountable society in a number of ways, including improving education services. Since 2012, VSO has been working with the government, local and international partners to ensure the most disadvantaged participate in development that benefits them.

Our guests were met by Chantal Lommel (Head of HAFLS) and Philippa Morton (Strategy and Innovations Manager), who introduced HAFLS and gave an overview of how the service runs.

The complexities of the HAFLS service were then discussed further, including protocols and best practice with regards to the procurement of community learning, project models, quality monitoring, partnership building, contract/partnership management and project management. The visitors were able to ask questions and consider how the principles presented by HAFLS could potentially be incorporated into their vision for the future of Myanmar’s adult education.

Myanmar visitors - ch

(Chantal and Philippa present the workings of HAFLS)

Following a brief break for lunch, the visitors were taken to a children’s centre in Waltham Cross, where HAFLS run some of their courses allowing learners to take advantage of the crèche facilities at the centre.

Here, the visitors were able to observe a mixed-levels English literacy lesson in progress. When asked, the learners revealed their diverse backgrounds. With ethnicities ranging from Algerian, to Iraqi, Russian to Nigerian, it was heartening to see the learners in their work groups, planning a day out in London, using leaflets and other materials that the tutors had acquired.

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(Our visitors pictured with the class tutors at the Waltham Cross children centre)

Following the conclusion of the lesson, the tutors, Gill and Maria, answered questions from our Myanmar guests, including queries on the learning records and course structures.

The day concluded with a visit to the Waltham Cross Community hub. Here, our guests firstly met with HAFLS Health & Wellbeing and Family Learning tutor, Dionne Phillips, who gave a presentation on HAFLS Health and Wellbeing provision which aims to engage adults with the most barriers to learning and employment. Then, representatives from some of HAFLS’ valued partners met with our Myanmar guests and discussed how the HAFLS partnership works for them. The partners who agreed to share their perspective about subcontracting and partnership arrangements were: East Herts and Broxbourne CVS, Herts Mind Network, Oaklands College and SPS Training Limited.

Our visitors appeared to have found the insight into all that HAFLS offers very useful and inspiring. With a first-hand experience of a lesson in progress and a discussion with our valued partners, we could not have been more proud of all that HAFLS stands for and hope that, in time, lessons learnt during their trip to the UK can help in bringing together the community in Myanmar to develop a love of lifelong learning.

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(Our guests, pictured with partners at our Waltham Cross community hub)

Government updates

WEA 2018 impact report reinforces HAFLS's key messages

The team at HAFLS were encouraged by the WEA's 2018 recently released impact report. It demonstrates that adult learning has an enormous impact on individuals and communities in the UK;

The WEA Launches 2018 Impact Report - Empowering Adults Through Education

A new report from The WEA "Empowering adults through education" – has revealed the transformative effect of adult education to individuals and communities across the country.

The WEA, the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education teaches around 50,000 students across the UK and they represent some of the hardest to reach in society. The report demonstrates that adult learning has an enormous impact on individuals and communities – transforming outcomes for people in deprived communities; boosting employability, reducing social exclusion and increasing social mobility, enabling them to contribute more and rely less on the health service and government funded financial support.

Over 4,000 students from The WEA were surveyed for the 2017-2018 impact report - which focused on Employability; Health and Wellbeing; Community Engagement and Personal Development.

Key findings from the report include:

Enhancing employability

  • 44% of students who were unemployed and looking for work before the course became employed after
  • 81% of job-seeking students said their courses boosted the skills they would need for work
  • 68% of students in work gained employability benefits as a result of their course
  • 24% of students taking multiple courses reported earning more
  • 13% of students stopped claiming means-tested benefits following a WEA course
  • Improving health and wellbeing
  • 82% of students with mental health issues reported improvements in their condition (68% reduced stress and 65% managed stress better)
  • 72% of WEA students made fewer visits to the GP compared to the national average
  • 64% reported an increase in self-confidence
  • Delivering skills for life
  • 54% enhanced their critical thinking skills
  • 51% boosted their communication skills with 23% improving language and literacy skills
  • 29% improved their problem-solving skills
  • 55% were inspired by their WEA course to continue learning
  • Social cohesion
  • 40% felt a heightened sense of belonging to their community
  • 39% gained a greater understanding of other cultures and 29% felt more respectful to those different to themselves
  • 23% wanted to improve their local area after attending their WEA course

You can download the full report here

Hear from our learners

Mindfulness benefits revealed by course learners


One of the popular courses run by Hertfordshire Adult and Family Learning Service is our Mindfulness course.

 On this course you will learn how mindfulness can help reduce your stress levels and re train your brain to deal with life's challenges more objectively

 Find out how to: 

  • Enhance your mental health
  • Help you to connect better with those around you
  • Focus your mind and reduce brain chatter
  • Lower stress levels
  • Help you to develop resilience and self-compassion

 Some of our learners have been so happy with the techniques, they wanted to share with us how they have benefited from the course:

"I have been putting off going to the dentist despite some chronic pain I have been having.  The Mindfulness course gave me the tools to beat it and I have now been to my first appointment and have sat through the drilling.  I didn’t love it and I have to go back for another appointment, but I drew on the content I had been taught to deal with my fear."  (From a learner who has chronic anxiety and hardly leaves the house)

"From doing the work in the sessions together, he has started asking for a mindful meditation before sleep.  I can now leave the room and he is asleep within 15 minutes." (From a learner whose child has ADHD and has trouble sleeping) 

"My child was very reluctant to try mindfulness or attend the sessions with me, but after week three she told me that she had been drinking water mindfully at bedtime and this was helping her to feel calmer."

A Headteacher was interviewing a child who began the meeting in a very quiet and calm manner.  The Headteacher asked what was going on and the child said she was being mindful!

www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/hafls courses

HAFLS learner's story featured in TES (Times Educational Supplement)

Maria_BBO Case Study_July 2018In our last issue, we wrote about the story of Maria Bunker from Watford who participated in a sculpture course run by the Hertfordshire Adult and Family Learning Service.

“I’d had depression in the past and had reached a point where I was getting very down,” she says. “I was reaching 50 and didn’t know who I was any more, I didn’t have any social life.”

Bunker found out about the course from an advert on Facebook; “I was very, very anxious and nearly didn’t go through the door,” she admits. “But I did, and they were absolutely lovely and I met some wonderful people there. “It’s given me a lot more confidence; I wouldn’t have spoken to you a year ago.

Community learning should be more widespread, more readily available and accessible to people everywhere – it does make a difference. I have a life now. I had my children, I had my granddaughter, but my life was around them. Now I have a life for me.”

Maria's story made an impact online and we were contacted by a journalist from TES (Times Educational Supplement) who wanted to feature Maria's story in an article he was writing to investigate the barriers preventing more joined-up working between healthcare and education.

Maria is just one of the many learners on our courses with inspiring back stories, highlighting the importance of our courses that are run in the community, for the community. Please do take a moment to 'like' and follow our Facebook and Twitter feeds (@HAFLS) to see our latest events and news from the HAFLS community.

Budding BBO artists come together to showcase creations

BBO competition

The ‘Building Better Opportunities’ project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the European Social Fund. The funding supports projects in Hertfordshire to tackle poverty and promote social inclusion.

We held an art competition for BBO participants, hub users and engagement activity attendees. This was to promote ‘sustainability’, one of our cross-cutting themes. We wanted to see smart, innovative and creative representation of what ‘sustainability’ meant to them. We accepted pictures, sculptures, photographs and pieces of art made from sustainable/recyclable materials. We wanted to encourage the public to be more aware of the process of maintaining change in a balanced environment in which resources are exploited.

Many participants got involved and all ideas were quite remarkable. We awarded the winners with vouchers at an award ceremony. Everyone that took part in the competition received a certificate, had their artwork displayed in Hertford County Hall and was featured in an Art of Sustainability Picture Book.

Please see footage taken at the Art of Sustainability Awards Ceremony by clicking here.


Hear from our partners

HAFLS partner scoops prestigious award

SPS Award Image

HAFLS offers its congratulations to partner SPS Training Solutions, who recently received an award from the Jobcentre to celebrate the role that they have played in the “Training and Recruitment of Jobcentre Customers”


SPS were nominated for the award by DWP (Department of Work & Pensions) for the employer work they have been involved in recently, most specifically with Debenhams and Top Golf in Watford over the months of June, July and August 2018.

Equality & Diversity

Safer Internet Day - What is it and how can you get involved?

Safer Internet DaySafer Internet Day 2019 will be celebrated globally on Tuesday 5th February with the slogan: ‘Together for a better Internet'.

Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre the celebration sees hundreds of organisations get involved and join a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.

The day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community. It calls upon young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, policymakers, and wider, to join together and help to create a better internet.

Each year for Safer Internet Day the UK Safer Internet Centre creates a range of resources to help educational settings and wider to celebrate the day.

This includes:

  • Lessons plans, assemblies and films tailormade for all ages
  • Resources to support social media involvement on Safer Internet Day

  • Registration as a Safer Internet Day Supporter

  • National research looking at young people’s use of technology

The UK Safer Internet Centre invites everyone to join Safer Internet Day supporters across the globe to help create a better internet on Tuesday 5th February 2019, and throughout the whole year!

UK Safer Internet Centre

The UK Safer Internet Centre is a partnership of three leading charities – Childnet International, the Internet Watch Foundation and South West Grid for Learning, (SWGfL) - with a shared mission to make the internet a better place for children and young people.

The partnership was appointed by the European Commission as the Safer Internet Centre for the UK in January 2011 and is one of the 31 Safer Internet Centres of the Insafe network.

The UK Safer Internet Centre delivers a wide range of activity to promote the safe and responsible use of technology by children and young people:

  • Coordinates Safer Internet Day in the UK, reaching millions every year. In 2018 Safer Internet Day reached 45% of young people and 30% of parents in the UK.
  • Founded and operates an online safety helpline for professionals working with children in the UK, including teachers, police officers, GPs and more
  • Operates the UK’s hotline for reporting online child sexual abuse imagery
  • Develops new advice and educational resources for children, parents and carers and teachers to meet emerging trends in the fast-changing online environment
  • Delivers education sessions for children, parents, carers, teachers and the wider children’s workforce, including free events across the UK
  • Trains children and young people to be peer educators and champions for the safe and positive use of technology
  • Shapes policy at school, industry and government level, both in the UK and internationally, and facilitates youth panels to give young people a voice on these issues.

For more information visit www.saferinternet.org.uk and the websites of the partners: Childnet, the Internet Watch Foundation and SWGfL.

HAFLS gears up to celebrate LGBT History Month


HAFLS is gearing up to celebrate February's LGBT History month - an event with the aim to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public.

This is done by:

  • Increasing the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (“LGBT”) people, their history, lives and their experiences in the curriculum and culture of educational and other institutions, and the wider community;
  • Raising awareness and advancing education on matters affecting the LGBT community;
  • Working to make educational and other institutions safe spaces for all LGBT communities; and
  • Promoting the welfare of LGBT people, by ensuring that the education system recognises and enables LGBT people to achieve their full potential, so they contribute fully to society and lead fulfilled lives, thus benefiting society as a whole.

There's more to learn about the LGBT History month here - they've got some great resources to use, including a very interesting, informative poster showcasing the development of the LGBT rights movement - download it now.  

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