York College

Russell Rafton - Managing Director of Dryfix Preservation Ltd

Aged 17, Russell Rafton studied a City and Guilds NVQ qualification in Bricklaying at York College. Ten years later, as a damp and timber surveyor, he was made redundant due to the 2007 recession. Even though companies were laying off employees and businesses were going bust, Russell remained positive and decided to start his own business; Dryfix.


Now in its eighth year of trading, Dryfix is now a successful award winning business and Russell has not looked back.

Said Russell; “After completing my Level 3 course at College I progressed to study a qualification in Site Management, from there I went onto a HNC. It was whilst I was doing the HNC I was offered the position as a damp and timber surveyor.

Being made redundant was a frightening time; I had a large mortgage and no job! Making the decision to start my own business with the only savings I had was daunting. The company was brand new, with no finance, no trading history and no accreditation, except my own personnel qualifications. My College friend, Alan, was also out of work and he came to work for me. I forfeited my wages for him and it all paid off, he is still with me now and the business is going from strength to strength!”

Since then Russell has gained a number of other qualifications including attending the National Flood School where he took qualifications in flood and fire damage. He prides himself on getting involved in problems and figuring solutions, even going as far as designing specialist systems to dry out complex buildings.


Dryfix employs a team of ten people, including Russell’s award winning brother who followed in his footsteps and attended York College.

Said Russell: “I think Business is about being honest with clients; I explain the problem, what needs to be done to fix it and how long it will take complete the job. To be successful you must turn up, be responsible, responsive and receptive to your customers. If you focus on what you are good at people will pay for good work. My team have their own specialist areas and I involve myself in all of the projects the company undertakes.

The construction industry is tough and needs driven individuals. It’s really important for students to have a goal, to find something they enjoy and that they are good at. The College was a great place for me and my brother to study, with some fantastic and knowledgeable tutors who really gave us the inspiration to succeed.”

Take a look at Russell's company, Dryfix here.


Lauren Winfield – England Women’s Cricket Team

A York College graduate is currently touring the world with the England women’s national cricket team.

Lauren Winfield (formerly of Archbishop Holgate’s School) studied the National Diploma in Sports Science between 2006 and 2008. She loved the balance between studying and getting a real taste of a sporting environment through her practical work. She appreciated the expertise of her tutors’, coming from strong sporting backgrounds themselves.


On leaving York College, Lauren received a scholarship to study sport science at Loughborough University. In her final year, she was thrilled to get into the England Cricket Academy, with the University allowing her to change to a part-time route of study to allow for her cricketing commitments.

Upon graduating university, Lauren was chosen for the England Women’s cricket squad, and has since travelled to Sri Lanka, Australia, the Caribbean, New Zealand and Dubai, as well as representing her country in the England Ashes.

Lauren said: “When I left school I was only really interested in sports, so the vocational course at York College really appealed to me; it was the perfect stepping stone for me to pursue my key interests. My time at College played a big role in my sporting career; it enabled me to get a taste of training in an elite environment three to five days a week.”

Lauren was in the Football Development Centre at College. She then chose to focus solely on cricket at 17 when she was successful in getting into the Yorkshire Academy. The England cricket squad do, on occasion, have football games when they get the chance.

Lauren’s ex-tutor, Gordon Staniforth, said: “We’re delighted to see Lauren in the England Squad and we’re following her progress on Twitter. There are more opportunities than ever for female cricketers now, and Lauren took them!”

Take a look at Lauren's ECB player profile here.


Tom O'Sullivan

Art and Design Foundation Diploma Post Level 3

Tom O'Sullivan has been a practicing contemporary artist for 20 years and he is also a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Northumbria University. He remembers with fondness the start of his creative journey, studying for a year on the Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at York College in 1987.


Tom says: "I learned an enormous amount from the course and tutors - it was a very exciting time for me that opened up all kinds of possibilities. In particular it opened my eyes to the potential of working in a variety of media and how to be ambitious with visual work. The tutors really tested and pushed me to help realise my potential. I remember the facilities were very good, in particular the darkrooms where I was left alone to experiment and test things out. I met some great people on the course and the college life was hard work, working all day, everyday (if not out drawing) - but good fun."

After York College he progressed to Leeds University to study Fine Art. He then worked for a year at the Serpentine Gallery in London where his eyes were opened to the contemporary art world. He went on to study an MA in Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art in 1991. Tom says: "This was a tremendously important time for contemporary art in Glasgow and I count myself very fortunate to be part of the artistic community in that city. I stayed on in Glasgow for nearly 20 years working in collaboration with the Artist Joanne Tatham. Together we have since exhibited all over Europe and the UK and have been in numerous significant exhibitions. This has included the Berlin Biennale in 2001 and representing Scotland at the Venice Biennale in 2005. Three years ago Tom moved to Newcastle to take up a position as Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University. He continues to exhibit with Joanne and in 2011 they were shortlisted for the Northern Art Prize.

I think my Foundation Diploma course at York College really introduced me to the excitement and possibilities of making art. It was an exciting time and I still often think back to that feeling I had working in the studios in York, even though it was over 25 years ago. The tutors empowered me - they gave me a sense I could achieve almost anything I set my mind to. In my current role at Northumbria University I continue to be impressed with the excellent Foundation students from the College."

Follow this link to view Tom's highly influential gallery, The Modern Institute in Glasgow: www.themoderninstitute.com


Sarah Cilia

Studied BTEC ND Design (crafts) and BTEC HND Art and Design (crafts)

Now an Arts and Retail Co-ordinator at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield as well as a Jewellery Designer, Sarah Chilia started her education at All Saints RC School, progressing to York College to first study a BTEC ND Design (crafts) and then a BTEC HND Art and Design (crafts) qualification.

Sarah's impressive CV includes having her work commissioned by Wedgewood and English Heritage as well as being published in two of the Lark craft books.

More recently, Sarah was asked by English Heritage to re-create a 17th century love token given to Elizabeth Bassett in 1620 by her husband William Cavendish in the form of an earring in enamel, gold, diamonds, pearls and human hair. The new earring will be on display in the Riding School at Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire, in an exhibition for the next ten years.


Said Sarah: "I am from York; it was a natural first choice for me to attend the College, after viewing the facilities I was happy to apply and looked forward to the whole experience. This was my starting point of jewellery design, learning new techniques and processes for making jewellery. It was here I discovered I wanted to be a jewellery designer and maker.

"I have fond memories of the College. The tutors were friendly and knowledgeable; the facilities were well equipped and spacious which allowed all of the students to study in a great environment. It was very welcoming. Once I had completed studying at College I became a self-employed Jewellery Designer. The qualifications I achieved at College helped me gain a place at the Birmingham School of Jewellery University."

You can view Sarah's work at: www.sarahchilia.co.uk/ 

 Lucie Wishart - Estate Agent

Studied an AVCE in Information and Communication Technology 

Proud of her northern roots, Lucie Wishart moved from Teesside to York where she studied at Tadcaster Grammar School. After this, Lucie progressed to study an AVCE in ICT  at York College, completing her course in 2002.

Said Lucie: ‘’During my final year at school I was offered a full time role by my weekend employer. My Mum suggested I study IT at College as I would need these skills no matter where my career path took me. So, not knowing what I wanted to do as a career, I chose a course that had transferable skills and gave me options in the future.”

Lucie didn’t enjoy school; however she was surprised to find she enjoyed College: “I made some fantastic friends. Those friendships carried on after College and we still keep in touch now. I remember feeling ‘grown up’ in college; we were given choices and responsibility rather than being told what to do. The tutors were more like friends, they supported and encouraged us. 
Having left school with average GCSEs grades, I left college with two B’s, I was ecstatic.”

“I felt like I’d been given a second chance after my grades in school. Employers noticed my achievements as well as my part-time work experience and I was able to gain full-time employment after leaving College.”

Lucie worked full-time in order to gain career experience before applying to Manchester Open Learning. She was accepted onto the Diploma in Residential Estate Agency course with her qualifications and career experience.

Since leaving York College Lucie has been able to experience a variety of jobs before deciding on the right career path for her. She said: “The confidence I gained at College enabled me to enter straight into work, rather than going to University. This meant that when I did pursue higher education, it was in a relevant subject and is useful to my current career.

In more recent years, the results I achieved at York College allowed me to undertake the Diploma in Residential Estate Agency. I am now one of the most highly qualified estate agents in the country. Since passing the DipREA I have gone on to set up my own Estate Agency in York.”

Lucie and Wishart Estate Agents have just won an ESTAS award. The ESTAS determine the best estate agents in the country through research carried out amongst customers. The award was announced by Phil Spencer, the TV property expert at a lavish luncheon & ceremony at the Hilton Park Lane London.


“I really enjoyed my time at York College. Despite not knowing which career path I wanted to follow, College gave me the confidence and support to achieve the grades required to go on to become a successful business woman in a field that I love.”

You can view Wishart Estate Agents at www.wishartestateagents.co.uk

 Ben Wheeler - College Tutor

BTEC National Diploma in Film and TV (Graduated 2009)
PGCE (Graduated 2014)

It is always a pleasure for York College when a past student returns to study with us again, but it is especially exciting when it is with the intention of being on the other side of the classroom as a tutor.


Ben Wheeler completed a BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television at York College between 2007 and 2009, after discovering his talents in filmmaking over a summer spent with like-minded friends. He left his first College, which was closer to home, to travel to York College as he was so interested in the course on offer here.

Gaining a triple distinction in the course, in which his highlights were working on video projects and using the impressive technology at the College, enabled Ben to progress onto the University of Bradford, where he gained a BSc (Hons) in Media Technology and Production, graduating with a first class.

Remembering his enjoyable time at York College, Ben contacted one of his ex-tutors to discuss the possibility of returning to volunteer in the Media department. This led Ben to complete a PGCE whilst working in the vibrant department as a Teacher, Progress Tutor and Course Leader.

Whilst completing his BTEC, one of Ben’s favourite aspects of the course was working with other departments to carry out photography and filming for them. This is something Ben has now enabled his students to do; He is currently working on a project with the College’s catering team, Duets, in which Ben’s photography students will be upgrading and improving the food court’s wall art by producing imagery of the locally sourced and delicious food at York College.

In his spare time, Ben runs his own photography and videography business, which also specialises in graphic design and illustration. When he is not teaching or working on his business, he is out with his camera embracing his passion for photography.

Ben says : “It’s great that my hobby became my College course in 2007, and is now a large aspect of my job at York College.”

Sam Hood - International Chef

Level 1 and 2 Hospitality and Catering - Professional Cookery (Graduated 2009)

Hospitality and Catering students enjoyed an interesting and informative visit from a York College alumnus who had studied the same course as them five years ago. Sam Hood was keen to return to York College to remind Professional Cookery students that there are opportunities aplenty upon graduating from a course in hospitality and catering, aside from the obvious restaurant work.

850 Hospitality and Catering Alumnus Visits Current Students

Sam completed his level 1 2 qualifications in Hospitality and Catering (Professional Cookery) at York College in 2009. He found, upon graduating College, that his College course had been really useful when he was thrown into a professional kitchen environment; He encouraged students to stick at it, even the boring theory work!

Sam told current students: “Hospitality and catering is one of the most diverse industries on the planet” before going on to tell the group of the vast range of opportunities; from commercial food production to private catering, working on yachts and cruise liners and sports events , to name but a few.

Sam has particularly thrown himself into catering for ski seasons abroad. His interest in skiing and snowboarding has led Sam to complete three ski seasons in the French Alps, where he provides private catering for other keen holiday makers, which includes designing his own menu and shopping for his own ingredients.

Sam said: “By the end of College I was inspired to leave the area and explore the world, whilst being paid for doing something I love. I think it’s important to break away from doing the same thing for a long time, and there are so many more opportunities out there than just working in restaurants and hotels.”

Sam is about to embark on his next international adventure as a sous chef at a top restaurant in Australia. He added: “This opportunity is proof how far you can go with this invaluable qualification, I wouldn’t have received the chances I have without completing my course at York College.”

Sam still uses some of the recipes he learnt at College in his work today. During his visit, he advised current students to start writing down their favourite recipes in a personal notepad, which they will be able to take with them and use for years to come after leaving College.

The hospitality and catering students asked a range of interesting questions at the end of Sam’s presentation, with some keen to follow in his footsteps and work in the French Alps for ski seasons. The session concluded when Sam provided the current students with some useful contacts, should they wish to emulate his successful career to date.

Jack Leaning - Yorkshire Cricketer

National Diploma in Sport (Graduated 2011)

During his time at York College, Jack Leaning was not afraid to speak of his ambitious goals of becoming a professional cricketer. Just a small number of years later, and Jack’s dreams are in reach, as this year he has become a regular player for Yorkshire’s first team, an achievement he has had his sights set on since his time as an ND Sport student here.


Not only has Jack played for his county, he’s even played for his country, being selected for the Under 19’s England team during College, which led him to play across the world in locations such as South Africa. Since then his list of worldwide escapades has grown longer by the season, and he has recently jetted off to Australia to play for club side Sutherland over the winter, which he is particularly delighted about as playing a season abroad is something he has always dreamed of doing. These opportunities have truly boosted Jack’s confidence. He says: “I have loved the experience of playing for the Yorkshire first team, getting a taste of it has made me want to push for a more regular place in the side even more.”

Based in Heworth and formerly of Archbishop Holgate's School, Jack is professionally considered a batsman, but he also impressively bowls off-spin. Jack’s love of sports originates from his Dad, who was a professional footballer himself, a sport Jack is also passionate about. Jack’s enjoyment and sportsmanship grew further still at College, and he loved the practical aspect of his National Diploma in Sport. Jack says of his course: “It will give me a solid qualification to use in the future” and he certainly seems to be having every success so far.

Recently, proudly playing an innings infront of his Mum at Scarborough, Jack was delighted to score a hundred. "It was one of the best feelings of my life", he beamed. 

Xalvador Tin-Bradbury - Actor

Extended Diploma in Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) (Graduated 2011)

Xalvador Tin-Bradbury loved his time at York College, receiving an excellent grounding in all disciplines of musical theatre as well as having access to great facilities such as voice rooms and dance studios. With many opportunities to perform on stage, he tells us that he made some amazing friends at the College, as well as having great mentors who have been extremely supportive of his career choices since graduating. “The College gave me a taste of what I would be getting in a professional environment as well as a solid foundation in all disciplines, so I definitely felt less like a deer in headlights at drama school.”


Achieving a triple distinction in his performing arts course, Xal was awarded a scholarship to study at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has had a thriving acting career in the US ever since. 

Since graduation Xalvador has worked closely with Sam Underwood (Dexter, The Following) and has performed in The Cripple of Inishmaan alongside Tony and Golden Globe award winner Shirley Knight, Benjamin Button the musical and the workshop of SuperSoldier written by Jim Rado, co-creator of the musical Hair. He starred in Madame Infamy at New York City's Signature Theatre as part of the 2014 New York Musical Theatre Festival. In 2015 he was a lead puppeteer in the US national tour of Jim Henson's Dinosaur Train Live directed by Tony Award Nominee John Tartaglia. Xalvador most recently performed alongside Meryl Streep at Theatre Workshop of Nantucket's 60th anniversary concert directed by John Shea.

Xalvador says: “Thanks to the support I gained from York College I have been able to make a successful career out of something I am passionate about, which I am very grateful for.”

Lauren Hood - Actress

BTEC National Diploma in Acting and National Award in Dance (Graduated 2005)

After leaving York College, Lauren Hood fully pursued her acting dream, landing some fantastic roles on stage: starting in the West End production of Carousel to touring in Number One tours around the UK & Ireland.

Lauren Hood Headshot WEB

Lauren gained her initial training at the fantastic Kirkham Henry Performing Arts Centre in Malton, and was a member of Ryedale Youth Theatre where she began to find her passion for playing roles. Lauren came to York College at 16 to complete a performing arts course, before moving on to the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, from which she graduated with a first-class honours degree and the Gyearbour Asante Award for Acting.

Lauren made her professional debut as Carrie Pipperidge in aforementioned West End production Carousel, and she was nominated for a TMA award for Best Supporting Actress for this role. Lauren has also featured on screen in Victoria Wood’s Christmas special ‘Midlife Christmas’ for the BBC playing the role of Betty. Lauren’s on-stage credits have included leading role of the timid agoraphobic ‘LV’, a Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland and more impersonator, in Jim Cartwright’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’, as well as playing the Angel Gabriel in Tim Firth’s Flint Street Nativity, both at the Hull Truck Theatre in 2011. She has also starred as Laura in Dreamboats & Petticoats, Martha in The Secret Garden, Frenchy and Sandy in Grease UK Tour and in 2013 Lauren starred as Penny Pingleton in a national tour of Hairspray.

Lauren then went on to work at the Stratford East Theatre in their production of Oh! What A Lovely War which then toured the UK directed by the wonderful Terry Johnson. Lauren was then thrilled to work with director/writer Terry again when originating his role of ‘Vera’ in Mrs Henderson Presents which premiered at the Bath Theatre Royal before transferring to the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End. Lauren can be heard on the wonderful Mrs Henderson Presents Soundtrack.

Griselda Goldsborough - Artist and Education Consultant

BTEC Diploma Foundation Studies in Art (Graduated 1993)

Over twenty years ago, Griselda Goldsborough began studying at York College, and she still maintains her artistic connections to the College today.

Griselda WEB

Photo credit: James Drury

After completing a BTEC Diploma in Fashion Design in 1992, Griselda decided to continue on to a BTEC Diploma Foundation Studies in Art. Graduating with distinctions in these courses allowed Griselda to pursue a BA (Hons) Textiles and Printed Surface Pattern degree at Leeds College of Art, which provided a solid foundation for her consequent success within the art world. Griselda told us that the College was a great experience and very exciting, with a real variety of tutors who teach with a very ‘hands on’ and keen approach in enabling students with the right skills and outlook to progress. She has even returned to the College in more recent years to study ‘Introduction to Counselling’ and ‘Approaches to Counselling’, which have been most beneficial for her post-graduation career. Griselda has also returned to College to work with students, and has found that the buzz and energy here is just as exciting as it was twenty years ago. She says: “There is a very positive approach and a definite enthusiasm for new ventures and opportunities from both staff and students at York College.”

Griselda is an Artist, an Educator and an Education Consultant, as well as Visual Artist at York Minster and Director of an arts and events company. She specialises in textiles and surface pattern, writing, fine art and mixed media. Griselda has over ten years’ experience in devising and managing creative art, science, literature and music workshops within York schools. She has enjoyed creating murals, fabrics, screens, books, sculptures and poetry with pupils. As Curator of Arts Learning at York Art Gallery, including formal (core educational provision for children 5 to 18 years) and informal (partnerships, individuals and community groups) projects, Griselda has developed and implemented a range of opportunities, programmes and products to encourage lifelong learning. She has curated exhibitions and delivered art sessions and events in a wide variety of settings throughout York and within the Yorkshire region. Griselda is also co-creator of 'Spike and Sponge', a creative North Yorkshire partnership, which brings artists, arts and events to community settings and festivals. For the last three years she has worked for the Deer Shed festival bringing together some of the best and most creative artists from across the region. 

Griselda's most recently gained position is as an Art and Design Development Manager at York Teaching Hosptials NHS Foundation Trust, which she does alongside developing and creating workshops with hard to reach groups for museums and galleries, such as a recent programme of community activity for York Castle Museum working with their WW1 exhibition. This is all as well as working as an Education Consultant for Museums Development Yorkshire.

As a professional artist Griselda creates images and objects, such as collages, books and boxes, which interpret and investigate memory, science, vision, words, landscape and the senses. She loves using fabrics, found objects, drawing, language and print making in her work. Griselda originally came to the York area for College, finding the idea of studying in York amazing. She still considers York a beautiful city with a fascinating history, and she appreciates the opportunities within the city to mix with people from all over the world. Griselda has remained in York ever since her time at York College.

Taj Atwal - Actress

National Diploma Acting (Graduated 2007)

Former Performing Arts student Taj Atwal is appearing in her most recent role as ‘Jasmin’ in Kay Mellor’s new BBC One drama comedy; ‘In The Club’. Ever since leaving York College in 2007 Taj has treaded the boards in a number of leading roles. She says: “Being a working actress is something I worked hard for and dreamed of becoming my whole life.”


Taj has commented that Further Education helped put her on track to achieve her dream of becoming a successful actress. She graduated from York College in 2007 with a National Award in Dance and a National Diploma qualification in Performing Arts (Acting) and, importantly, received help and support to apply to the top drama schools. Taj auditioned and secured a place at the Guildford School of Acting, graduating with a BA (Hons) degree. Taj says: “I am grateful to the drama department and support staff at York College who were instrumental in nominating me for a Helena Kennedy Foundation Award and helped me apply to different charities and organisations to gain funding toward my tuition fees and living costs.”

Fast forward a few years and Taj is probably best known for playing the role of Jasminder in the Ruth Jones BAFTA Cymru award winning comedy ‘Stella’ aired on Sky 1. She has also played a number of guest roles in comedies such as ‘Miranda’ and ‘In with the Flynn’s’ – both on BBC. Taj played the tough role of newly qualified teacher Armani Sarin in the BBC’s ‘Moving On’ series created by Jimmy Mcgovern. You can currently see Taj starring as Jasmin in the BBC’s new Kay Mellor British drama comedy ‘In The Club’. Taj will make her West End debut in October in the revival of hit play ‘East is East’ at the Trafalgar Studios alongside Jane Horrocks.

Says Taj: “The York College staff made me ‘want’ to attend classes. They believed in me and totally encouraged me to carry on, they helped me to reach my goals and spent extra time with me on drama school applications and rehearsing my audition pieces. They had real faith in me and taught me to believe in myself.”

The Performing Arts Division at York College is very proud of Taj’s achievements and wishes her continued success in the performing arts industry.

Mark Hearld - Artist

Art Foundation Course (Graduated 1994)

With a varied portfolio from designing merchandise and wallpaper to working on the set design for a blockbuster movie, Mark Hearld is truly a successful British Artist, and we are delighted to say he took his early steps towards his impressive career at York College. After completing an art foundation course with us in 1994, Mark then progressed to Glasgow School of Art, graduating with a BA (Hons) in Illustration (1997). His thirst for the subject didn’t end there, with Mark building further upon his educational achievements at the Royal College of Art, where he achieved an MA in Natural History Illustration in 2000.

 Mark Hearld 1

With a master’s degree under his belt, we were delighted to see Mark return to the College in 2000 as a part-time tutor in the Art and Design department, and Mark has maintained a strong link to the College since. Our students had the pleasure of viewing Mark’s work during his exhibition in the College’s Gallery space, and Art and Design students were delighted to visit his major show at The Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2012. Their excitement grew even further when Mark himself returned to College once again to work alongside the students, providing a workshop for our budding artists hoping to follow in his footsteps. He was also the guest speaker at last year’s VQ awards, presenting the students’ with their certificates and congratulating them on their achievements.

Mark’s work since graduating university has certainly been widespread, exhibiting his work up and down the country over the past decade. He has designed fabrics and wallpapers for St Judes and has even designed merchandise for the iconic Tate Britain Shop. Contributing his talents to the film industry, he has also worked on set design for the 2005 children’s hit, ‘Nanncy McPhee’. Not only has Mark had the honour of a book published about his work, he also won the English Association Non-Fiction Picture Book Award this year, for his illustrations in Walker Books’ ‘First Book of Nature’.

One of Mark’s most fascinating projects is his current role, proudly being appointed artist-in-residence on a two year project with York Museum’s Trust. He plans to create an installation during York Art Gallery’s closure period, and new work based on themes of social history, archaeology, natural science and fine and decorative art collections. By the time it re-opens in 2015, York Art Gallery will be full of the inspirational work of a York College graduate.

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