Free Thinking

Corporate social responsibility


The Northern College Free Thinking Programme:
Education for the survivors of Modern Slavery

We provide outstanding adult residential education for the empowerment and transformation of individuals and communities

We achieve this on our Free Thinking Programme through our outstanding teaching and the philanthropy of people like you.


As one of the country’s leading adult colleges, we have gained the expertise and the experience to make real, lasting change to survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking lives and your donation will help us to do this.

Northern College in South Yorkshire has launched a pioneering ‘Free Thinking Programme’; this programme, the first of its kind in the UK, will prepare survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking for living and working in the UK. These survivors have very little or no access to further education. This lack of access to education could be a significant factor in their re-entry into modern slavery or exploitative work.

Northern College’s response has been to develop the ‘Free Thinking Programme’ for students who have experienced significant trauma through modern slavery and human trafficking. The students will stay at the college for short intensive periods, in a supportive learning environment which allows them to focus on a future of freedom either in the UK or in their country of origin.

The programme is responding to an educational need for survivors, its aim is to rebuild self-confidence and trust and encourage independence in people who have often been subject to appalling treatment at the hands of traffickers.

As well as aiming to rebuild self-confidence and trust and encourage independence, the Free Thinking Programme will provide survivors with opportunities to develop their English Language and ICT Skills, Applying for Work, Interview Techniques, Rights and Responsibilities in the Workplace, Team Skills, Dealing with Conflict and Living in the UK.

An overview of the media profile

The college appreciates that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a key element to any business, giving back to society, investing in communities and people’s futures. Part of any good CSR policy is a positive and vibrant media profile and involvement in a prominent, national project such as the Free Thinking Programme can only add to that. Partners to the Free Thinking Programme will be invited to share in publicity and success stories arising from the programme.

As part of the programme we will be monitoring student progression and the long term effect on students and communities; we are happy to provide you with these case studies, taking into account safeguarding and confidentiality issues.

You may be interested to note that Northern College is a charitable company limited by guarantee and therefore, any donation or contribution to this programme would be regarded as charitable giving.


Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is the acquisition of a person, by means of deception or coercion, and transporting them illegally from one area to another for the purpose of exploitation. This exploitation is often termed as modern slavery and takes many forms. In the UK, modern slavery is most commonly forced labour in the agricultural, construction and fishing industries, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude; and forced criminal activity. Recent figures from the 2018 Global Slavery Index suggested as many as 136,000 victims are trapped in modern slavery in the UK alone.

Wentworth Castle

Northern College is housed at Wentworth Castle, a historic mansion set in Grade 1 listed parkland. The former owner of Wentworth Castle built up its estate and grounds using money made from the slave trade. The Earl of Strafford, Thomas Wentworth, was Britain’s representative for the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which included an agreement for Britain to sell African slaves in the Spanish colonies. A statue of a slave still remains within the castle grounds. In more recent years, the Grade I listed building has had a happier history. The college Principal said “There is welcome irony in the college hosting this programme as the Wentworth Castle estate was built on profits from Britain’s involvement in the slave trade. We are proud that this unique programme will help to redress the balance. As an adult residential college specialising in helping those with the greatest of needs, we feel that our environment is the best setting to trial this programme.”

Changing the lives of survivors

Funding for the programme has initially come from the college’s own reserves, with only some of the students eligible for government funding. However, this work cannot be sustained in the long term without the generosity and social conscience of organisations. The college is actively seeking sponsors to help support this incredibly exciting and valuable work.

What would your donation provide?

As donors we’d like to explain to you how the funds would be used. Northern College provides an exceptional quality of additional learning and pastoral support to students, vital for those who have very low levels of personal confidence and self-esteem. The residential setting, coupled with these high levels of support enables students to make maximum use of their time spent at college. Survivors often have children and Northern College provides an on-site, Ofsted inspected children’s centre, which delivers care to children aged 6 months to 5 years during school term time. To gather these necessary funds, Northern College will be setting up a bursary scheme and inviting partner organisations to make a donation which would support students whilst they are on the Free Thinking Programme.

If the programme stops

If we are unsuccessful in securing sufficient funds then, ultimately, the Free Thinking Programme will cease. This would significantly impact upon survivors of human trafficking, as well as the wider, social network of dependent children, family, friends and the wider community where they live. They will lose an opportunity to use education to successfully rebuild their lives and enjoy a positive, fulfilling future. There is also evidence that when survivors see no hope for the future, there is a serious risk that they are then drawn back into the slavery that they have escaped. Finally, without the testimony of these victims, law enforcement agencies will find it very difficult to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice, leaving them free to destroy the lives of many others.

More information

Please contact the Free Thinking Programme
with the details below.

Tel: 01226 776000

Please mark the correspondence for
Jane Williamson or Paul Gibson.

Press and media

ITV News feature of students

House of Commons (EducationQuestions)

Stephanie Peacock paying tribute to the Northern College Free Thinking Programme

Parliament Briefing

MP Steph Peacock talking in Parliament about Northern College‘s pioneering ‘Free Thinking’ programme which offers a blueprint of how we can support survivors of modern slavery.

The Yorkshire Post

How pioneering college course is liberating victims of modern slavery – 07/06/18. Click here to read the article.

Radio Sheffield

The Northern College Free Thinking Programme featured on BBC Radio Sheffield – 02/06/18. Recording via iPlayer unfortunately now unavailable.

The Barnsley Chronicle

Launch event – 23/03/18. Click here to read the article.

Stephanie Peacock – w/c 10th Sept.  Click here to read the article.

Huffington Post

Slavery Survivors Worked Without Pay And Lived Without Freedom, Denying Education Is Cruel – 07/08/18. Click here to read the article.


Graduation ceremony BBC Online – 27/07/18. Click here to read the article.

Free Thinking at Northern College