ELATT’s Early Years - The founding of THATT


Charles Buxton was one of the original founders of Tower Hamlets Advanced Technology Training (THATT), Whitechapel in 1984 which later became ELATT. He also was part of the team that renovated the Davenant Centre which was one of THATT’s early locations. He left in 1995 to work for VSO and in 2002 moved to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to work for Intrac where he still lives. He recently published his book Ragged Trouser NGOs which includes a chapter on the creation of THATT and its first ten years. In Summer 2019 Charles visited ELATT and met some of the current team. Here is his interview with Catherine O’Shea ELATT’s Communications Officer. 

Charles Buxton Interview

You were part of the team that founded THATT in 1984. Where did the initial idea come from? 

The idea for THATT came from really two directions, one was from the new regime at the GLC which was trying to look at anything that would be progressive and for the benefit of Londoners. They were looking for things that responded to equal opportunities. And the second part of the direction was from the Tower Hamlets Trades Council who in previous years had been very much involved in questions around employment and unemployment and they created a subcommittee on employment and vocational training. At that time everyone was concerned about the quality or lack of quality of some of the government training schemes and that the trade unions were not being consulted as much on training policy. 

The people who were involved in this sub-committee were involved in setting up THATT which then became a kind of training project to respond to the ideas from the trade union on one hand and the new GLC and the other.  

I read that on the final day of the GLC you were given the money to set up the Davenant Centre

The money for THATT came through earlier and we were grateful for the help from the Greater London Training Board in that first year. I was the development worker for the working group so I got a little bit of money to work on it a few days a week, and then suddenly we got 10 staff and started with 25 trainees. That was a big budget for full time training and the GLC helped us because the European money always came in late. The first year the GLC paid the money up front and then we paid them back later when the money from the EU came through. 

THATT came through and we were very much helped by the GLC, but the other project, the Davenant Centre, was quite important as well. At the same time as doing the development work for THATT, I was also working on the Davenant Centre as well, and that one came through much later because there were all these architectural issues and plans to be sorted out. We got that cheque on the eve of the abolition of the GLC and then we were landed with a big problem because the people who had sponsored that renovation project then went out of business and we went over budget which is quite normal. You know we had no extra money for the overspend.  

Was the plan always that THATT would be one of the organisations in the Davenant Centre? 

Yes, because the Davenant Centre was set up as a consortium and that was written into the constitution, so there were 5 or 6 organisations each of which sent two people to the management committee and there wasn’t any provision for new members. We did that later when 3 or 4 of the original groups couldn’t take up paid space and we filled them with people who paid, but they didn’t become members of the management committee.  

Who were the students in the initial classes of THATT? 

The students were a great group and, as it says in the book, they helped us to develop the centre physically, testing out the equipment, setting up the library, taking on the cleaning. People were collectively joined up with the National Union of Students. We met every week for a meeting. And one of the things I remember is that we had 3 students with quite significant disabilities and taking them on was a considerable statement about wanting to include people with disabilities. They really got something out of it and they put something in as well.  

The trainers in many cases were new to training in general. They might have known about computers or electronics and in general the students were very constructive.

That’s mirrored in what we do now where we have volunteer students helping in every part of ELATT. So many of the core principles of ELATT were there in what you describe in the book. It particularly struck me that the requirement for 50% women and 50% BAME staff was built into the original plan.  

I think that was a very important thing and it was a political decision. We were very aware of issues around race and gender. A lot of people came from the community side, and then there were people from the technical side but not on the management committee. The management committee was very dominated by community and political issues. At that time, we were reluctant to have employer reps although we did get them over time. While I was there, there weren’t so many employers involved. We never had a problem getting women and BAME people involved and we quickly became known in the network for that. And nor did we join in the government schemes you would take people with the highest qualifications. We interviewed for positions at ELATT but it wasn’t just on the basis of a CV. We employed people if they were around about the right level and showed interest. 

 What kind of jobs did students go onto do? 

The majority of people were going into office work. We had foreseen micro-electronics from the start but that was a bit more difficult. A lot of the women went into further education, our women into technology course was a route into polytechnic and university courses. The majority went into computer and office type work. Having been in a training scheme for a year they had more confidence and recent experience of communicating and coming into a job every day. THATT services also helped a lot because they began to do different database jobs for public and private employers and so made contacts for our trainees.

Was ESOL teaching a specific part of the provision? 

English and maths, including ESOL was there from the start, it was part of the philosophy. All the needs of trainees and basic educational qualifications are important for everyone and it was quite surprising how many of the people who came forward didn’t have English or maths GCSEs. It was a really important part of the project that from September to July you could do a course and in that time gain GCSEs. A lot of the people at that time really felt a lack. And then the English classes became very important for discussions of all times. And there were also students from refugee communities who couldn’t go for the GCSE straight away so they did an ESOL course. We had a lot of part time teachers from the Further Education sector. There was just one coordinator on a full-time salary and the other teachers were all hourly paid.  

We tried to keep things connected, for example our English language teachers became very expert in technical language. 

What did you learn about management in that time as a coordinator? 

When I started developing the project for THATT I was just 31 or 32 years old. I think the essence of it was that we did have a very committed set of staff and that we were able to work as a collective, the workers management group were able to take on a range of tasks and it was a very satisfying experience. We had to run the management committee, we had to run the budgeting. We had to set up a staff management system and an appraisal system.  

We were very lucky we had such a committed committee and I had such strong support from them. That helped a lot. We also had two or three rounds of consultants coming in and helping us, promoted by some of the government schemes, reconstruction schemes who wanted us to become more business-like.  

How does ELATT compare to what you imagined? 

When I first came back to ELATT and it was on Kingsland Road I thought that that was great. What a great place to be and being able to make renovations. I was impressed by the advancements that Anthony and the team had made with the help of Matthew Wintersgill. We had moved around different centres and never owned so that was a big step forward. 

It has a great future, the technological and employment sector is very much in demand will be. The problems of competing for jobs especially in more advanced industries, it’s an area of needs and opportunities where ELATT can play a big role in giving people the qualifications they need, the technical skills and the confidence to get those jobs.


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Let's hear from our work experience students from ELATT


This summer holiday two ELATT learners from our Business Administration course secured placements with Mobius PR.

Rashid: I enjoyed my 4 weeks of work experience with Mobius. Mobius is a PR, marketing and printing agency for theatres, based in Holborn. I worked every Tuesday from 10:30-5:30. Before I arrived at my placement, I had a little idea of what I will be doing. It was a great opportunity for me to get experience on how it will be working in an office environment. Before my first day I met with the PR Director Elin and Distribution and Print Coordinator Isobel to talk about what route I want to take and what I want to do in the next 5 years. We also talked what kind of company Mobius is.

Adnan: I was greeted by Elin and showed around the office, and I met Isobel and I met the Managing Director Richard Fitzmaurice. The staff were very welcoming and friendly when I went there in my first week. I was then handed some tasks to do. My first task was to put press nights they had for upcoming theatre shows on to a Google calendar. The second task was to do some research about Edinburgh Festival and also theatre. This was a good way to develop my research skills. The first day was using my knowledge and understanding on how the company runs and what kind of admin work they do. It made me to get some ideas of what expectations they have for me.

Read more about Adnan and Rashid's experiences here:

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Ready for Industry: ELATT's work experience campaign for 2019/2020


Can you help us close the opportunity gap in London?

Our vision is a London where everyone can flourish in their lives, no matter their age, background or circumstances.  When it comes to learning, we’ve got it covered, but our students tell us that the missing link to help them progress is work experience.

A former student Georgia explained the value of doing a work placement:

‘During my time at ELATT I secured two work placements where I learnt extensive skills in the business administration sector and also how to be part of a working environment, which I lacked experience in until now. I also achieved multiple qualifications as well as gaining experience that will help me in the future.’

Ready for Industry

Our students are so passionate about gaining these opportunities that they have created a campaign with Citizens UK to raise this need amongst businesses in East London.  Here they are campaigning for work experience opportunities in the Olympic Park, Stratford.

We want to help our students find opportunities in tech, corporate, education and a range of other environments to enable them to develop their practical skills and apply what they are learning in class.

The ELATT learning community is made up of a diverse range of students including young people with autism and learning difficulties, refugees and migrants and adults returning to work. Our students study Business, IT, Web design, Media, English and Maths and take part in a wide variety of extra-curricular and community activities.

Hear from Freddie

The young people at ELATT have diverse and often complex needs. We also know that we do not yet have the skills and confidence to navigate the system and access the support that we need. While the urgency to work becomes ever greater in an environment of high youth unemployment in East London...We want a mentor to support us.’

In this video our Digital Media Production student Freddie tells you about his current studies, his hopes for the future, and why mentoring and experience will make all the difference to him.

How you can help:

We know that the first step towards employment is the hardest: with no recent work experience, only 30% of our students get into work.  But once they have experience, 80% of our students move into employment.  Be part of this change: our Industry Partners support us by offering mentoring, work experience and work placements to our talented and dedicated students. Work experience could be for 1 or 2 weeks or for 1 day a week over 3 months – this can be tailored to what suits your company.

Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you think you can help or to suggest other organisations you know who may be able to offer work experience of any duration to our students.

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Language Labs with Second Home


ELATT loves its newest Industry Partner Second Home!

Read all about our work together here: 

Second Home's Blog Page

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ELATT shortlisted at the TES FE Awards 2019


The most outstanding individuals and institutions that the FE sector has to offer have been recognised in the shortlist for the 2019 Tes FE Awards.

Elatt has been shortlisted for the Training Provider of the Year award. Elatt have been shortlisted for these awards every year for the last four years. Elatt is based in Haggerston and delivers English, IT and a range of programmes for young people and adults, including refugees and migrants across five London boroughs. Elatt previously won Training Provider of the Year in 2016 as well as awards for Overall FE Provider and Employer Engagement. Last year Elatt won the award for Contribution to the Local Community.

Tes FE editor Stephen Exley said:
“Excellent practice exists right across the further education sector, and those shortlisted for the Tes FE Awards are the cream of the crop. Our judges were extremely impressed with the calibre of entries. We had more entries for this year’s categories than ever before, and the standard was higher than ever. To be shortlisted is an extraordinary achievement.”

Elatt Senior Life Skills Tutor and Project Lead Tammela Platt explains
“It is important to recognise that charities play an important part in further education, too; that's why the Tes Awards are important for us. At Elatt, our range of funding means that we can provide free courses for many learners who would not be eligible, or not have the finances, to study at a college. At Elatt, we offer many different points of entry for our adult learners, which makes us able to place learners in the most suitable setting. The Tes Awards help raise Elatt's profile and thus the profile of other charity training providers.”

Lola, a current ESOL student said
“I like ELATT because I feel confident here. There is more communication between the students in English because people are from many different countries”.

Georgia, a former 16-19 student said
“they support you and they actually want you to succeed. I’ve always been determined, but now, thanks to ELATT, I have a real pride in myself.”

The winners will be revealed at a gala awards evening at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane, London on Friday 22 March 2019

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Sopra Steria Welcomes ELATT


On Monday 14 January Sopra Steria Graduates will take part in a Tech for Good hackathon for our London charity partner, ELATT. In a day-long hackathon event, our grads will work in teams with Sopra Steria coaches to create solutions to one of ELATT’s critical business challenges. At the end of the day, the best ideas will be selected by the senior team from ELATT, and the charity plans to implement the solution or solutions that best meet their needs.

This event is co-sponsored by the Early Careers, Community, and Digital Innovation teams, and is part of our Tech for Good Programme, which is focused on using our digital, technology and business expertise to create positive impacts in the world.  It is also an important part of our hands-on, impact-focused approach to learning and development in our Graduate Programme.

ELATT is an award-winning digital skills training college offering opportunities for learning and qualifications to under-served people, helping them get the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.

Anthony Harmer, CEO of ELATT, said,
‘As an education charity with big ideas but limited resources, this Hackathon provides us with an invaluable opportunity to draw on the insight and expertise in the Sopra Steria team to help us improve our services for our students and turn our ambitions into reality.’

Kaila Yates, Sopra Steria Chief Marketing Officer and board sponsor of our Community Programme said,
‘We know that digital technologies are transforming organisations every day.  We believe that our charitable partners like ELATT will be able to do more with digital, and helping them make a difference for their students and the London communities they serve is an exciting opportunity for us and a great example of our Tech for Good programme.’

For more information, have a look at the original blog on Sopra Steria's website:

Read more

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How mentoring can support your learning at ELATT


“ELATT is a place that motivates you to achieve your goals. The staff are always happy to help you.” 

Sheldon’s experience of helpful tutors and mentoring during his studies shows our dedication to students getting first-rate support; that’s why our tutors are among the only 5% who received Grade 1 (outstanding) at our last Ofsted inspection and are here to support you through your studies. 

Martina also turned to her mentor when a challenge arose, and a solution could be found that allowed her to both work and make it through her course successfully. “I got a job and thought I would have to stop the course as my shift pattern fell on my study day. My advisor said I could continue with the course and arranged for me to have support on my days off to cover the course and class hours.” 

Starting a course or developing your skills is a process of discovery and is, often, a struggle. It may be that mentors lending you a hearing ear or advising you during your studies is just what you need to get support and complete your course successfully.

Meet Oran

“I believe it is important to understand what is going on for our learners, in all aspects of their life, to help them to achieve. This is why our provision is so successful”. Oran is here to mentor students or provide coaching when they need it, and has been doing so for 15 years, 5 of which have been at ELATT. He has qualifications in counselling for both young people and adults, has trained in coaching and mentoring, and is currently training as a SENCO.

Whether you need information on how to improve your practical life circumstances, coaching sessions or solutions for learning challenges, Oran is here for you. He offers one-to-one sessions to find the tailored support you will need to complete your course to the best of your ability.

Although it can be a challenge to find the time to study, if you want to get ahead in your career or change direction, we are here to help you find ways to balance your life commitments.

Ask Janet about your options

Martina’s advice as a student is to “talk to one of the advisors to get out of the negative place you may be in. The services can give you a wider knowledge of all the different resources, help and advice out there.”

Speak to Janet and she can advise on your choice of courses and the support you may need to take that next step. Feel free to set up a one-to-one meeting with her to discuss your options in more detail. 

Call Janet

Don’t just take our word for it, hear from our graduates:

Fundamentally, our students graduate thinking differently about themselves and their future.

"Instead of saying I was too old, ELATT helped and encouraged me every step of the way..."
Mike, Marketing Strategist

"I don't think I would be where I am today if ELATT hadn't helped me take those first steps..."
Frankie, Game Designer

 "ELATT gave me the confidence and new technical skills that were so valuable to me for my studies and at work..."
Charles, IT Manager

ELATT is a community created by students who take the lead with their future. Let us help you develop your skills and potential that will get you where you want to be.

Join our learning community today.

Browse our courses


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5 Steps to develop an Apprenticeship Strategy


So, your company are paying the Apprenticeship Levy and you are thinking about employing an apprentice or two before the money in your Digital Account expires.  You’ve read the rules, you understand about training providers and external assessors …. But where to start?  Do you just employ a young person, pick an apprenticeship that looks vaguely useful and hope for the best?

As with all new projects, the more you put in to the planning stages, the more likely you are to benefit from it.  Writing an Apprenticeship Strategy can help you identify and communicate across departments what it is you want to achieve and how you are going to get there. Here is where you can pick up some useful tips to get the ball rolling.

Benefits and Challenges

No-one says it was easy to plan an Apprenticeship Strategy.  Apprenticeships add complexity to the planning process because you are employing unskilled recruits who simply have potential.  This means that you have to be thinking about recruiting for skilled people 6 – 12 months BEFORE you actually need those skills.  You also need to think about resources to supervise the apprentice or apprentices and you need to recognise that although you are paying less for the apprentice than a fully qualified member of staff, they will need time off for training – which, of course, needs to be covered too. 

Are you put off yet?!

To get started, it’s important to understand that Apprentices are not a ‘quick fix’ skill solution.  To some extent they go against the fluid mobile workforce model that has become common in today’s UK economy whereby HR identify a specific job role and then appoint someone that more or less meets its key requirements.  We know this model has its problems.  In as many as 50% of cases the employee leaves or is dismissed within a few months. HR starts again.

In contrast, apprentices come with little baggage and employer research shows that apprentices start paying their way as early as 6 months in to their apprenticeships.  They can be easily developed to work in your organisation’s desired way of working. You can tailor their training pathway to exactly match your organisation’s needs.  For many businesses, apprentices are the pathway to senior management and will be taking higher and higher apprenticeship courses as they progress. Out of all your workforce, they are likely to be the people that are going to stay with the company.  The core backbone that will move and develop within your company as it grows.

Apprentices are also a brilliant tool for developing in-house resource.  Think about all the capacity that your company outsources.  Will you be in a better position if you brought this resource in house in the future?  Apprenticeships are a great way to manage that transition.

Finally, apprenticeships are an opportunity to diversify your workforce – to employ talented people that you would normally not have access to.  Put bluntly, if you are constantly recruiting from a pool of trained and experienced staff, you are recruiting from an ever decreasing pool.  Widen that to include people who have potential – then you are suddenly looking at a much larger pool. 

So what does an apprenticeship strategy look like?

Step ONE: Do your research

Writing an apprenticeship strategy is very similar to an HR one and indeed should be embedded in to it.  As with your HR strategy you will be asking yourself, has your organisation got the internal capability to deliver its business goals – the difference being you need to act on it 1 year in advance.

To start off with, identify roles that are likely to need recruitment over the next couple of years?  Ie either new roles or existing roles where you know there is a natural turnover.  Can you restructure departments so that instead of getting another experienced and trained person, you can employ a much cheaper apprentice and spend some of the other resources on the apprentice supervision? 

Think about skills you are currently outsourcing.  Is this something that you will want to bring in-house as your company expands?

Have you got existing staff who are not equipped with the skills that you think they will need for the future of your company?  This is particularly true with tech departments and companies who have constantly changing skill needs.  Remember, you can use money from your Digital Account to start existing staff on to Apprenticeships.  Can you embed your learning and training strategy with your apprenticeship strategy?  Instead of providing a training course, can that learning be mapped on to an existing apprenticeship which would then help you to make savings on your training budget?

Research the apprenticeship frameworks and standards by going on https://findapprenticeshiptraining.sfa.bis.gov.uk/

On this site you can tap in words like ‘IT Network Engineer’ or ‘Accounting’ and search for the apprenticeships on offer.  The site provides information about the apprenticeships within those sectors, the level they are at and a 1 pager on the course content.  This site will also provide you with information about the training providers you can choose from in your area who deliver this apprenticeship.

Once you have established your needs for the future 2 years - the number of apprentices, their courses and the levels that you want them to start at, imagine your company in 4 / 5 years’ time with this cohort of apprentices.  How many more first rung apprentices would you like to take on after that and how many of the existing apprentices will you want to develop further? 

Step TWO: Get Senior Management ‘Buy in’ and Set your Business Goals

Apprenticeships will often engender a cultural shift within the company and for that reason it is important to have senior management ‘buy in’ and to involve them as much as possible in the research process.  Remember, they are likely to be as much in the dark as you are.  Give them a list of the benefits of apprenticeships such as those I have named above and provide them with case studies of how other companies have used apprentices to develop their businesses. 

You can find case studies on https://www.managers.org.uk/insights/news/2017/june/three-case-studies-of-how-the-apprenticeship-levy-will-help-employers

Get them to identify what it is that they want to achieve through apprenticeships - the business benefits and goals.  Pin this down at the beginning so that you can use it to evaluate your progress as your strategy unfolds.

Step THREE: Appoint an Apprenticeship Champion

Companies who are most successful with apprentices have an Apprenticeship Champion (even if they are not called that).  This is someone (perhaps you) who will be the expert within the company and who will communicate the apprenticeship strategy across the company’s departments – helping internal managers to see the benefits of apprenticeships within their teams and supporting them to re-structure around it.  If you have only a few apprentices within the company, it doesn’t have to be a full time job, but it still needs someone to manage the strategy and to ensure that it holds momentum.

Step FOUR: Write an Action Plan

As with all project planning, you need an action plan – it can be quite simple – of who is doing what and when.  By this time you will probably have established which apprenticeships you want and how many new people you want to recruit.  If you want to recruit school leavers, take in to consideration that recruitment is obviously best through the summer when there are plenty of school leavers, though in fact, it is best to alert young people of the opportunities available even before their exams – sometimes as early as October.  Again, its all a process of thinking well in advance. 

You are also likely to be in contact with one or two training providers.  Make sure they are involved in this Action Plan.  Get them to come up with suggestions of actions that you haven’t thought about.  If they are good, they are likely to be able to carry out some of the actions, such as apprenticeship recruitment.  They may be able to provide seminars for your managers so that they are better prepared and know what to expect.  At ELATT we recognise that for some employers, this is the first time they have employed anybody under 25.  Younger people come with their own challenges and benefits. We produce handy guides on how to recruit and get the best out of young members of staff. 

Step FIVE: Evaluate and Develop

.As you instigate the strategy, check to see if it is working towards your desired results. 

Communicate with managers to find out how things can be improved.  How the process might be made easier or more productive.  For instance, perhaps the managers need more support and training in working with this different cohort. 

Praise good practice and disseminate that through the departments in order to ‘big up’ the successes of both the individual apprentices and the teams that have supported them.

Good Luck!

We hope that you have found this blog useful. ELATT are a charity that helps Londoners – old and young – to achieve their potential through top class training.  (We are Ofsted Grade1).  We also help London employers to achieve improved Diversity and Inclusion within their Workforces.  Apprenticeships are just ONE of the areas that we work in. 

If you would like some more help in your Apprenticeship Strategy or you are interested, in ELATT as a charity, please go to either www.elatt.org.uk/apprenticeships or www.elatt.org.uk/employers

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Apprenticeship Levy Breakfast Seminar


4th July, 8.30 a.m. at techUK

If you’re having trouble spending your Apprenticeship Levy, you are not alone. Only 8% of the Apprenticeship Levy taken from businesses this year has been spent on apprenticeship training.
The downside is, any funding that remains in your National Apprenticeship Service accounts after 24 months (i.e. after 6 April 2019) will expire.
This is why we’ve put together a FREE breakfast seminar designed for people who are responsible for allocating their company’s Apprenticeship Levy.

Join Our Free Breakfast Seminar

By attending the seminar, you will learn about how other companies have engaged with apprenticeships through case studies and how you can embed an apprenticeship strategy into your company’s existing recruitment and training plans.

The Seminar Includes:
1. Brief Overview of Apprenticeships and the Levy
2. Incentives: Government assistance and added incentives to help you get the most out of your Levy
3. Looking ahead: Writing an Apprenticeship Strategy that can be embedded into your existing recruitment, learning and development strategies. Case Studies of different approaches that other employers have used
4. Diverse Workforce: Using apprenticeships to diversify your workforce
5. Logistics: Step by step guide to the process

Date: 4th July 2018
Time: 8.30am-10.00am
Location: techUK, 10 St Bride St, London, EC4A 4AD

As there are only a limited number of spaces available, it’d be great to know if you’d be interested in attending, but in the meantime please don’t hesitate to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like any further information.

More about ELATT

ELATT is an education charity based in Hackney, East London, that has helped disadvantaged Londoners move into technology jobs for more than 30 years.

Watch a brief introduction to ELATT Read our Impact Report

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ELATT wins Festival of Learning President's Award


ELATT staff and students were thrilled to see our Equal Voices  project win the President's Award at this year's Festival of Learning.

The project also won the Contribution to the Local Community Award at this year's TES FE Awards
You can read all about it here. Congratulations to all the other winners!

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