A holistic approach to supporting college learners

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At Bridgend College, wellbeing officers, learning coaches and skills coaches holistically support students in all aspects of their college life.


Number of learners: 2,600
Age range: 16+
Date of inspection: 29 February 2016

Brief contextual information about provider/partnership:

Bridgend College is a further education college with approximately 2,600 full-time learners.  It employs around 600 staff.  In terms of full-time learners, the college is one of the smaller further education colleges in Wales.

Context and background to excellent/sector-leading practice:

The college serves a region with pockets of high social deprivation.  Eleven 11 of the 85 areas in Bridgend are in the 10% most deprived areas in Wales and the percentage of the county’s population over 16 years of age with a reported mental illness is higher than the average for Wales.  Economic inactivity rates are high and above the Welsh average.

Many learners have poor basic skills on entry, with 92% at Level 1 or below for numeracy and 71% at Level 1 or below for literacy.  In 2015-2016, over half of full time learners declared an additional learning need on enrolment at the college.

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

To meet the needs of the challenges facing many learners, the college has invested in a number of roles to support learners in a more holistic way, including wellbeing officers, learning coaches and skills coaches.  These key staff form a wellbeing and support team that is linked to curriculum areas and support learners in all aspects of their learning and wellbeing.  They provide or signpost learners to appropriate advice and guidance, on a range of issues such as counselling, community clinics and safeguarding issues, as well as supporting the progress of the learners.  In addition, they monitor and support student attendance, in partnership with curriculum teams.  The wellbeing and support team ensure that support is offered to learners at the earliest opportunity. 

In addition to staff support, the college has a comprehensive range of resources to help learners.   Specialist services available to all learners include dyslexia screening, irlen screening, sign language interpreters, visual impairment and sight loss services, as well as a disabled student allowance and assessment service.  A wide range of assistive technology is also available, such as magnification devices, dictaphones, spelling aids, communication aids, specialist input devices and literacy support software.  These services are offered to ensure that all students make suitable progress and have the opportunity to realise their full learning potential.  

The college has also established beneficial links with many external agencies to ensure the increasing proportion of students with mental health issues receive the best support.  For example, ARC (Assisting Recovery in the Community) hold regular support clinics at the college while other support is provided by groups such as the Samaritans, Young Adult Carers and Llamau housing support agency.  “A Brighter Future Altogether, Benefiting Bridgend” acts as a source of help for transgender young people in need of support.  The college also has excellent links with organisations to help victims of domestic violence.

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

Over the last three years, results have consistently improved despite the relatively low starting points of many of the college’s learners.  During this time, the overall rate at which learners successfully complete their qualifications has risen from 77% to 85%.  This upward trend is consistent across nearly all learning areas.

Links: http://www1.bridgend.ac.uk/