Establishing partnerships to help students with additional learning needs develop independent living skills

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Pembrokeshire College has established strong partnerships that have allowed its students with additional learning needs to develop the independent living skills that they will need for their future.

Number of learners: 1800
Date of inspection: January 2017

Brief contextual information about provider/partnership:

Pembrokeshire College is the county’s largest provider of post-16 education and training.  Situated in Haverfordwest, the college has approximately 1,800 full-time and 12,500 part-time students including vocational, A levels, apprenticeships and degrees routes. 

Most of the college’s full time learners come from within Pembrokeshire, with a small proportion coming from the neighbouring counties of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.  Approximately 3% of the college’s intake are learners with moderate to profound additional learning needs.  The college’s independent living skills (ILS) provision ranges from pre-entry through to level 1 courses.  Underpinning this provision are strong multi-agency partnerships, which support the offer of a rich and comprehensive curriculum experience for the learners.

Context and background to excellent/sector-leading practice:

For some time the college had identified that the emphasis on qualifications within the ILS provision was not appropriate to the future needs and destinations of many of its learners.  In 2015, it reviewed its curriculum to reduce the number of credits that learners needed to achieve on each course.  This has allowed the department to develop and embed an enriched curriculum for learners and to focus on the development of learners’ life skills.

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as excellent/sector-leading practice:

The college has a culture of inclusivity, partnership work and is committed to offering care, advice and guidance based on individual learner need.

A central element of this partnership work is the college’s schools link programme.  As part of this programme, pupils from Portfield School come to the college for vocational taster sessions on a weekly basis.  This helps to build strong relationships between the school’s pupils and the college’s teaching and learning support staff before the pupils join the college.  Strong and effective links with the school, the schools’ additional learning needs co-ordinators, the local authority transition team, advisory teachers, Careers Wales, Action for Children and the Pembroke Autistic Unit have evolved over a number of years.  Transport, including specialist transport for individual learners, is provided by the local authority and enables weekly attendance at the taster sessions.  As part of their experience, learners stay for lunch and integrate with the whole college student community.  This strategy ensures that there is a smooth process when the time comes for transition into the college.

This partnership working is replicated internally within the college, enabling ILS students to access a truly enriched curriculum, undertaking vocational education and training opportunities in routes as varied as catering, carpentry, brickwork, animal care, information and communication technology (ICT), horticulture, hairdressing, beauty therapy, engineering, art & design and sport.  The enriched offer is adapted on an annual basis, with the support of all faculties, to meet the particular interests of the incoming groups of learners.  As a result of this experience, two ILS learners have represented the college in the UK Worldskills inclusive skills competition held at the NEC Birmingham - both achieving a Bronze medal placing.  Other achievements include a group of learners participating in a 5 a side football competition, learners winning the 2D Artwork National Urdd competition for four of the last five years; learners successfully participating in the college’s enterprise fairs and activities, holding regular cake stalls and book sales.

These partnerships continue throughout the learners’ time at college and support the work placement experience that all ILS learners undertake.  Learners undertake work experience with a wide range of local employers, agencies and charities who work in partnership with the college to enable a wide range of opportunities.  Multi-agency reviews help learners to progress on to employment, further courses in the college or into adult provision and training.

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

This approach raises learners’ awareness of the range of vocational routes available to them and enables learners to develop realistic and achievable aspirations.  As a consequence, many learners progress successfully onto traineeships or mainstream courses at the college.  The internal support services, for example the college nurse, counsellor, safeguarding team, learner coaches and the learning support team, work together very effectively to enable these learners to integrate successfully with the main college community.

Further information on the ILS provision at Pembrokeshire College is contained in two case studies: ‘Flexible curriculum planning creates purposeful learning experiences for ILS learners at Pembrokeshire College’ and ‘How work experience leads to positive outcomes for ILS learners at Pembrokeshire College’ in Estyn’s recent thematic report: Learner progress and destinations in independent living skills learning areas in further education colleges