Coleg Cambria - building a new identity

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Strong leadership and effective governance helped to create a successful and robust new identityfor the newly formed Coleg Cambria. A shared ethos and culture underpins the college’s excellent current performance and prospects for improvement.

Number of learners: 6,500 full time and 15,000 part time learners
Age range:
Seventy-six percent of learners on full time courses are aged 16 to 18 years
Fifty-one percent of learners on part time courses are aged 25-49 years
Date of inspection: November 2015

Information about provider

Coleg Cambria was formed in August 2013 following the merger of Deeside College and Yale College to become one of the largest colleges in the UK, serving three local authority areas.  Deeside College had merged previously with The Welsh College of Horticulture in 2009 and Coleg Llysfasi in 2010.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The two critical factors in ensuring an effective merger and formation of Coleg Cambria are strong leadership and effective governance.  Twelve months prior to merger, Deeside College and Yale College formed a shadow governing board, which acted quickly to appoint the Principal and Chief Executive, shortly followed by the senior post-holder team.  Early appointments, expert governance and detailed planning enabled critical operational infrastructure to be in place well before date of merger, including data management systems and the wider leadership team for Coleg Cambria.  Prior to merger, the college developed a Vision for Excellence following extensive staff, governor, student and stakeholder consultation events to develop the vision and values for the new college.  This Vision for Excellence clearly outlined the mission statement, the vision and values of the new organisation, plus strategic priorities.  Staff created the college name and governors agreed the brand, based on the concept of diversity and cohesion.  Coleg Cambria was created as a clear over-arching brand, but with sites still able to retain their unique identity with local communities.  This extensive pre-merger work by leaders and governors ensured that from inception the new college had a clear strategic purpose that staff were aligned to, plus the critical infrastructure that enabled the college to operate effectively immediately post-merger.

Immediately following merger, the senior leadership team prioritised the professional development activities that would bring staff together and have quick and clear impact.  All teaching and assessing staff undertook training, which helped in sharing an agreed understanding of what makes effective learning.  Business support team training focused on improving learner/customer experience and developing maximum efficiency of processes in a large college.

Merger enabled the college to look afresh at core policies and, rather than adopting the strongest practice from the pre-merged colleges, leaders took the opportunity to seek out new approaches and used staff task and finish groups to develop these into policies for implementation.  These groups enabled purposeful opportunities for cross college team building and created quick wins with high impact.

Communication has been critical to establishing a clear ethos in the college.  The Principal’s weekly updates share college and sector news, and senior leaders communicate regularly and very effectively with their teams using a range of social media tools.  This enables all staff to feel connected and to be part of what the college calls, ‘team Cambria’.

Within six months of merger, the college translated its new core values into a set of ten behaviours.  These behaviours enabled staff to see how the values they had chosen and included in the ‘Vision for Excellence’ were integral to the college’s daily operations and could be demonstrated in their actions.  The behaviours quickly became a very useful tool for staff, managers and governors, supporting leadership and informing decision-making at all levels.  They are visible in all areas of college; all new staff have induction based around the college’s behaviours and staff regularly reflect on how they have demonstrated the behaviours in action in team meetings and in their appraisals.  The college recognition scheme also celebrates and rewards staff and teams that exemplify a particular behaviour.  The use of behaviours has enabled the college quickly to establish a strong ethos and culture.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The actions outlined have ensured a very successful large scale merger.  The college has demonstrated high success rates over time, which place the college in the top quartile of all colleges in Wales, and which demonstrate an upward trend over three years.  The college has made effective progress against all its key results and has an A grade financial health categorisation.  Effective pre-merger actions, and the establishment of a robust identity, ethos and culture, underpin the college’s excellent current performance and prospects for improvement.