Learner Voice in Pembrokeshire College

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Learner Voice in Pembrokeshire College

After taking part in the national pilot, Pembrokeshire College implemented its Learner Voice Strategy in September 2010. The strategy was developed around existing good practice and related national standards. Learners and staff were consulted, demonstrating their continued commitment to consult and engage with learners in relation to all aspects of college life.

Number and age range of learners: 10,000 16+
Date of Estyn inspection: 14 – 18 February 2011

Brief contextual information about provider/partnership

Pembrokeshire College has sustained growth in student enrolments since 1993. Provision includes full and part time FE and HE, work based and commercial programmes, outreach, community courses and on-line learning. There were in excess of 10,000 full and part time students enrolled during 2009/10 and the College expects a similar recruitment figure for 2010/11.

The student enrolment total for 2009/10 is made up from the following categories:
Full time Further Education: 1758 Full time Higher Education: 133
Part time Further Education: 7448 Part time Higher Education: 337
Work Based Learning: 665

In addition the College enrols over 120 international students on an annual basis.

The main campus is in the county town of Haverfordwest (population 17,000). A £3.2 million Innovation Centre building, specialising in advanced technology, was officially opened on the site in November 2003. A new Construction Centre has also been built and this opened to students in September 2008 enabling the College to withdraw from less suitable leased offsite premises. A £4million refurbishment and extension of the engineering wing was undertaken during 2009 and building works were completed in January 2010. These new facilities provide state of the art renewable, oil, and gas energy resources for delivery of a curriculum to meet local industry need. There is another campus in Milford Haven where computing, boatbuilding and engineering courses are delivered and other LEA centres and community venues are used for delivery of the College’s STEP programme. The College has in the past franchised all of its HE provision from the University of Glamorgan though is now developing its relationship University of Wales Trinity St David’s in order to provide progression to HE on a regional basis on a range of vocationally oriented degrees.

Please identify how the area of excellent/sector-leading practice, identified during the inspection, relates to a particular key question, quality indicator and/or aspect

Learner Voice activity relates to key quality indicators 1.2.3 and 3.2.1. At Pembrokeshire College the Learner Voice focuses on how students can contribute to life in the College, through their participation in a range of different activities. Students consider the development of the College’s strategy for Learner Voice, its implementation and the impact that the delivery of the strategy has on the learning, support and service delivery for all College students.

Context and background to excellent/sector-leading practice

Pembrokeshire College has always encouraged its learners to contribute to the decisions that affect their lives and learning. As an institution the College places a strong emphasis on learners contributing to all areas targeted for improvement including teaching, learning, service provision and support. For many years the College has involved learners in the strategic and operational planning processes. Through the Learner Voice Strategy the College has demonstrated a commitment to build on current practice and further consult and engage learners in relation to all aspects of College life.

The College participated in the national pilot for Learner Voice and as a consequence proceeded to complete its Strategy a year ahead of schedule. The writing of the strategy involved learners and staff and related to the national standards. The strategy was also developed around existing good practice and incorporates an action plan which includes the dissemination of the Learner Voice within the College and the specific roles of all staff involved. The Strategy was approved by the Board of Governors and implemented in September 2010.

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

There is a comprehensive Learner Voice programme in the College which includes: proactive Learner Voice committees, student talking days (resulting in reports and action plans monitored through the Senior Management Team), democratic elections of 96 course representatives, anti-bullying mentor training for 70 learners, focus groups, 2 NUS trained student governors, learner selected Enrichment and Enhancement opportunities, learner led clubs and societies, student ambassadors, representation and Chairmanship of the Youth Assembly and the involvement of the Youth Assembly in Learner Voice Committee, learner comments box and responses, participation in national and regional initiatives, affiliation and membership of NUS Wales and links with Higher Education Partners. The Learner Voice is delivered and signposted via the College’s Intranet system (Nexus) which includes information for students including an interactive forum.

From this range of Learner Voice activities there have been many examples of changes made following constructive contributions from students. Examples include:

  • Changes to Induction and tutorial programme
  • Healthy options within the canteen
  • Learner led enrichment activities
  • Moving of the smoking area
  • LRC opening times
  • Use of SMS to inform/remind learners of key events
  • Revision of laptop policy
  • Implementation of cash back facilities
  • Refurbishment of the canteen.

The College is further developing technological resources for the Learner Voice and is implementing a web based communication system to capture College wide learner views which act as a pilot for the FE sector. Through Curriculum Cluster and the Senior Management Team meetings the College will continue to monitor the implementation of the strategy and its delivery. The Learner Voice Committee Chair and Student Governors will continue to be supported to attend external training facilitated by NUS Wales and ColegauCymru. Accredited training for course representatives will be introduced and the inclusion of learners in all key College processes will be extended.

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

There have been numerous benefits from the implementation of the Learner Voice strategy. The College has seen increased student participation, retention, progression and achievement alongside a better understanding of learners’ perspectives which are used to drive professional and organisational development and quality improvement. Learners have helped inform decisions on resource allocation and investment which has ensured involvement and resulted in students having greater motivation and a desire to put something back into the College. Enrichment and Enhancement activities have become learner driven.

Student engagement with the Learner Voice strategy has provided them with a more rounded learning experience, transferable skills have been further developed which can be utilised in future careers. Learners have been involved in strategic and operational planning and have also developed counselling and mentoring skills. The fact that students have had involvement in the decision making processes has led to improved interaction and working relationships with staff. More recently there were opportunities to be involved in an external inspection and learners were pleased to be able to
contribute to the process.