Coleg Sir Gar in Carmarthenshire works closely with a range of partners in order to widen the opportunities available to their learners. Partnerships include the local authority, schools, regional learning partnerships, employers and other providers of education and training.
Number of learners: 3,000 FT, 7,000 PT
Age range: 16 +
Date of Estyn inspection: May 2013
Context and background to sector-leading practice
Coleg Sir Gâr is a large, multi-site, Further Education College. It has approximately 10,000 learners of which about 3,000 are full time and 7,000 are part time. There are approximately 950 higher education learners.
The College is based in South West Wales and has five main campuses at Llanelli (Graig), Carmarthen (Pibwrlwyd and Jobs Well), Ammanford and Llandeilo (Gelli Aur). It also offers its provision on-line, via partnerships at community locations and in the workplace. The campuses vary in size and nature and offer a variety of subjects. Generally, subjects are not duplicated across campuses unless very high demand warrants this.
The College has a comprehensive and broad range of academic and vocational education, and training programmes. These range from pre-entry to postgraduate level, providing a service to the whole learning community. It offers further education, adult and community learning, higher education and work based learning. It also provides for large numbers of 14-16 school pupils who attend the College or are taught by College staff at their schools.
The College has an annual turnover of £30m and employs a total of 854 staff. Of these, 451 are directly involved in teaching and 403 in support and administrative functions.
According to the Wales Index of Multiple Deprivation (2011), there are a number of areas of deprivation in Carmarthenshire, with a small number in the 10% of most deprived areas in Wales. These are mainly around the larger centres of population in Carmarthen, Llanelli and Ammanford. Data from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) shows that around 14.8% of learners live in the most deprived areas of Carmarthenshire.
Welsh Government data for March 2013 shows that 66.2% of the residents of Carmarthenshire aged over 16 are in employment compared to the Wales average of 67.3%. The data shows that 72% of working age adults hold a qualification at least at level 2 compared to 74% for Wales. Thirty-three per cent of the working age adults hold a qualification at level 4 or over compared with the average of 32% for Wales. The percentage of working age adults without a qualification at 13%, is slightly above the Wales average of 11%. There are around 8,500 business units in Carmarthenshire. The highest proportion of businesses are in landbased, retail, construction and administration.
The principal and senior management team place a high strategic priority on working in partnership.
The college works very effectively with a wide range of partners that include the local authority, schools, a regional learning partnership, employers and other providers of education and training.
The partnerships are well-established and there is a high level of mutual trust between partners. The college works very effectively with these partners to provide a wide range of learning opportunities across Carmarthenshire. As a consequence of partnership working, the College has reduced its reliance on core Further Education (FE) funding which is the lowest of all FE Colleges in Wales.
Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice
The college is a major partner and provider in 14-16 and 16-19 developments. It works very well with the local authority in planning new developments, such as the re-organisation of secondary schools in Dinefwr and the provision of vocational courses in secondary schools in Carmarthenshire. It contributes significantly to reducing the number of young people not in education, employment or training in Carmarthenshire by providing effective programmes that meet the needs of these learners.
A formal joint governance arrangement with the local education authority has been established for three learning clusters and the Welsh medium cluster in Carmarthenshire. This is a highly innovative and effective governance arrangement consisting of staff and managers from the college, the local authority, schools and employers working together to manage the provision. This arrangement promotes co-operation, removes unhelpful competition between providers and enables the college, schools, employers and the authority to plan and deliver the 14-19 curriculum effectively to meet the needs of learners and employers.
The extensive vocational provision for pupils aged 14-16 is strongly supported by the secondary schools within the three geographic catchment areas and county-wide Welsh Language cluster called y Partneriaith. This is highly successful and provides increased opportunities for learners to progress to further education. It contributes significantly to transition arrangements and includes provision for more able and talented learners. As a result, approximately 1,000 school pupils access courses at the college every week.
The College is a main partner in the Regional Learning Partnership (RLP). This is a partnership that brings education and regeneration partners together to help provide a better future for learners and potential learners across the central and South West Wales region. It helps ensure that publicly-funded learning providers and associated organisations work collaboratively, effectively and efficiently across the areas of education and regeneration to meet the needs of the learners and the regional economy.
The college has beneficial and long-established links with a wide range of employers across many learning areas, including Engineering, Construction and the Built Environment, Health and Social Care, Landbased Studies, Sport, Leisure and Tourism and Performing Arts. The college works in close collaboration with these employers to meet their training and development needs. A good example of this is at the working farm at Gelli Aur where the College engages effectively with the Dairy Development Centre. These relationships have significantly improved outcomes for learners and increased the number of learners in sustained employment. Local and national businesses work in partnership with the college to provide a wide range of work experience for learners.
The college works in partnership with six secondary schools and a commercial partner to operate a vocational skills centre for construction. This partnership provides learning opportunities within the shared apprenticeship programme and the creation of excellent job opportunities and career paths for construction learners.
At higher education level, the college has responded well to the Welsh Government’s regionalisation plan. It has developed an excellent partnership with University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The university validates the higher education provision for around 950 learners. Through this relationship, the college has successfully developed the first Joint School of Creative Arts. This programme bridges further and higher education by providing additional resources and progression opportunities for learners through the medium of English and Welsh. The partnership raises the aspirations of college learners by working closely with them on higher education programmes.
Impact on provision and learners’ standards
Around 1000 school pupils access the College or its staff on a weekly basis across a wide range of disciplines and campuses. In Llanelli, a Vocational Skills Centre has been established between the College, Schools and a Commercial Partner (TAD Builders). This has provided facilities for vocational skills to be delivered to pupils of six local secondary Schools. The 14-19 network undertakes joint self-assessment exercises and peer observations across providers, with College staff going into Schools and vice versa. There is now an accord for sharing personal information of learners across the network.
The College has worked extensively with a number of partners to provide its Further Education learners with an improved learning experience. Some examples how key partners have improved learner experience include:
Carmarthenshire County Council
- provided opportunities for learners in Sport to coach in school settings in English and Welsh;
- the use of the Beacon Centre as physical resource for Enterprise learners;
- learners in Childcare have school placements for their course;
BBC (It’s My Shout)
- have mentored learners in all aspects of film making;
Dyfed Powys Police
- provided learners with access to vehicles with new technology to ensure learners are working at the cutting edge of development;
- have provided opportunities for our learners to ‘see inside manufacturing’ and provide placements and taster sessions;
Stradey Park Hotel
- provides support for learners in competitions, work experience and helped facilitate a French exchange;
- use of the Stadium and Training Barn facilities for College Sports Teams;
- provide access to sports performance software and expertise;
- work placement for leisure and tourism and catering learners;
- worked very closely with the Agriculture team to provide a range of opportunities for learners including exposure to current and best practice;
- provides part-time employment for learners and provides work experience placements.