Preparing students for their next step after college

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Industry expert helps college students prepare for their next step

Students at Gower College can access support from experts to prepare them for their next step after college. Learners looking to go into higher education are able to use workshops , talks and mock interviews with industry experts when writing their university applications. Learners who wish to go into employment after completing their studies receive specialist tutorials and support to help them progress onto their chosen career path.

Number of pupils: 12,000 
Age range: 16+
Date of inspection: January 2018

Information about the school

Gower College Swansea is a further education college with over 4,000 full-time and 8,000 part-time learners from across Swansea and neighbouring counties.  The college employs approximately 1,000 staff.  It operates from six locations across the City and County of Swansea.  Swansea is the second largest city in Wales, with a mixed economy including engineering, retail and hospitality, health, leisure, tourism and university sectors.  Around a quarter of the college’s learners come from the most deprived areas, as characterised by the Welsh index of multiple deprivation.

The college offers a curriculum from pre-entry to higher education level.  It is the largest provider of A levels in Swansea, with around 40 A level subjects. The college has a large proportion of level 3 learners with around 1,400 learners on AS or A level programmes and 1,700 on level 3 vocational and access programmes.

Context and background to the effective or innovative practice

This case study relates to the inspection area of care, support and guidance, where learners benefit from a very wide range of activities including personal coaching, visits to outside institutions and wider academic enrichment, resulting in strong progression to higher education.  Industry professionals also deliver valuable masterclasses to vocational learners.

The college has a large proportion of level 3 learners and feels it is vital to fully support their ambitions to progress into higher education.  The college has invested significant time and effort into developing and delivering a range of support mechanisms that encourage high aspirations and enable each individual to reach their potential in terms of progression.  A key feature is the support provided to more able and talented learners, resulting in strong levels of progression into high ranking universities and onto highly competitive degree programmes.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

For many years the college has run an extensive programme of specialist tutorials for learners applying to the most competitive universities and courses.  Two examples of these tutorials are those for learners applying to the universities of Oxford or Cambridge, and those for learners applying for medicine, dentistry or veterinary science.  These specialist programmes add two particular strengths to the college’s general tutorial programme.  Firstly, learners are linked with the most knowledgeable and experienced staff for their chosen field.  These tutors lead focussed sessions on studying and working in the chosen area and support the production of high quality UCAS applications.

The second strength is the use of experts from outside the college, who provide a programme of specialist talks and workshops.  External experts from local universities and relevant professions take part in mock interviews, allowing each learner to have the experience of a competitive interview.  This gives learners invaluable preparation for the interview process and provides detailed individual advice on the presentation skills and knowledge of the learner, as well as boosting the learner’s self-confidence as they face the actual interviews at Oxford, Cambridge or medical schools.

The college is a partner with Cambridge University for its HE+ scheme.  This outreach programme encourages learners from the state sector to consider applying to Oxbridge or other research-intensive universities. Through the HE+ scheme, AS level learners with a strong GCSE profile attend regular workshops and a broad range of specialist masterclasses, led by experts from the college and other local schools and universities.  These masterclasses explore exciting topics and skilfully nurture more able learners’ passion for their chosen subjects.

The college’s HE+ scheme is now the Welsh Government’s Seren Hub for Swansea and, with attendance of over 300 AS learners, is the largest hub in Wales.

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

The excellent guidance and support given to learners as they make choices and apply for higher education courses have had a significant positive impact on progression success.  UCAS acceptances are consistently very high.  

The work in specialist tutorials and HE+ also results in consistently high levels of success in supporting learners into universities and the most competitive courses.  Typically around 200 learners progress to Russell Group universities each year, including a relatively high proportion taking up offers to study medicine, dentistry and veterinary science and to study at Oxbridge.

In addition to these strong progression rates, the college’s work in this area has a broader positive impact.  The advice learners receive as they research their options and go through the application process also improves employability skills such as independence and self-awareness, and encourages them to evaluate the range of options and progression paths in their academic or vocational career.  Learners who wish to go straight into employment on completing their level 3 programmes also receive specialised tutorial support.  This work helps to ensure that the college’s learners are well prepared as they progress on to the next step after college.