Since it was established in 1993, YMCA Wales Community College has established itself as one of the leading providers of offender learning, youth work training and community development learning.
Number of learners: ~4550 Learners (~6500 enrolments)
Age range: Post 16 part time
Date of Estyn inspection: May 2011
Context and background to sector-leading practice
YMCA Wales Community College (the College) is the smallest of the Welsh Government funded further education institutions in Wales. The College operates across Wales working in partnership with other organisations to provide part time learning opportunities in community settings. (57% of learners are recruited from the most deprived areas across Wales).
The College has expanded dramatically since 1993 both in its funding, increasing from £12,000 per annum in 1993 to £904,000 in 2010/11, and its learner cohort from, 100 enrolments in 1993 to 6500 in 2010/11.
Many of the College’s learners come from vulnerable groups, and many have not always been successful in their past learning experiences. The College offers learning to offenders and youth workers. There is also a limited range of provision offered to community learners. The College operates a flexible delivery system, with most learners attending short courses or learning experiences. All courses are accredited.
The College is the largest provider of initial training for youth workers in Wales and of training for offender learners on unpaid work orders. The College delivers learning in all local authorities across Wales, works with a wide range of partners and delivers most of its work in partnership with the Wales Probation Trust and local authority and third sector youth services across Wales.
During the College’s period of growth i.e. 1993 – 2003 the College struggled to find its identity within the further education market place. Initially branding itself as an Adult Community Learning provider, over a period of time it became evident that the College was one provider amongst many with the only identifying features being its all Wales status and its parent organisation’s traditions of working with vulnerable people through a youth work model.
As a small organisation with limited funding it was necessary for the College to find means whereby it could maximise on its areas of expertise.
Description of nature of strategy or activity
The College’s strategy was to focus its provision offer on its three main areas of expertise – offender learning, youth work training and community development learning. To ensure that it maintained an all Wales status the College established key strategic partnerships with the four probation services in Wales, more recently branded as the Wales Probation Trust, and the local authority and voluntary sector youth services in Wales.
The College and its partners regularly review the curriculum, taking good account of new educational and policy developments. Using the experience of partners, such as the Wales Probation Trust, the College has developed an appropriate range of customised skill-based accredited courses for offender learners, which enable these learners to develop new knowledge, understanding and skills, whatever their educational background.
All of the College’s central systems for governance, management of staff and provision and interaction with learners are based on sound principles whereby the learner remained at the centre of the College.
Over a period of six years the College has ensured that the learners’ voice is heard at all points in the planning and delivery of provision.
The College has taken the lead on the development of youth work qualifications at further education level in Wales.
What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?
The College has increased its delivery of Welsh medium youth work training across Wales by 250% since 2006/07 and planned a modular based qualification for offender learners.
The principles and procedures which the College has adopted have enabled the College to maintain high levels of learner completion and success over a lengthy period.
Since 2006/07 completion rates have been no lower than 99% and success no lower than 94.8%
Two Estyn reports in December 2006 and May 2011 have identified the College’s provision across all key questions (in 2006) and all key indicators (May 2011) as excellent.