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The AoC Award for Widening Participation Synopses 2023/24

Lancashire Adult Learning (Nelson and Colne College Group)

Libraries are universally seen as cultural centres and safe spaces where people can access information, enhance learning, and develop skills. By harnessing that status in society, and taking advantage of their geographical position at the centre of communities, Lancashire Adult Learning’s unique partnership with Lancashire Libraries has developed an impactful and comprehensive learning programme for communities across the county. This is transforming lives through widening participation as the most disadvantaged people in Lancashire are able to access a breadth and depth of high-quality provision on their doorsteps through a partnership unlike any other. It has also been a partnership that completely aligns the strategies of two entirely separate publicly funded organisations. This synergy has enabled bespoke and tailored learning programmes to be delivered in libraries to suit respective community needs, all while adding value to public sector services by enabling them to better utilise capital and resources by targeting them at those that need it the most, and at the same time more efficiently using public space.

Capital City College Group

CCCG is the only College in London to adopt the policy of offering all adults free education up to Level 2 and this has now been extended to higher levels via the Greater London Authority and Free Courses For Jobs policy. The impact of this initiative is profound, particularly within the community CCCG serves, where more than 80% of individuals have annual incomes falling below the London Living Wage. Additionally, most residents reside within a 2.5-mile radius of the College centre they attend. At the heart of CCCG's curriculum design and development is the dedication to a free, flexible, and locally accessible "step on, step off" approach for lifelong learning at Levels 1 and 2. The College has crafted a substantial offering of short, complimentary and easily accessible courses designed to enhance adult learners' skillsets. Leveraging real-time labour market data on job vacancies in London, CCCG has developed a diverse portfolio comprising over 620 free part-time short courses. These courses are tailored to achieve specific employment outcomes and have attracted more than 22,000 learners in the past five years. The course selection spans a wide spectrum, encompassing areas such as Accounts and Bookkeeping, digital skills like HTML/CSS, Web 3 & Metaverse, sports nutrition and massage, construction trades, hair & beauty, health, care, counselling, data analysis, sciences, mathematics, English, modern foreign languages, and many more. Remarkably, 74% of last year's adult learners continued in education, with 47% of subsequently pursuing further, more substantial study after completing these short courses, reflecting the impact and effectiveness of CCCG's education offering.

New City College

A bold, exceptional whole-college curriculum strategy to fully establish progression pathways for adult ESOL students to higher level vocational qualifications, opening up secure, good careers for marginalised, under-represented groups. Resulting from this initiative individuals who speak English as a second language now get unrivalled life and work opportunities, communities are upskilled and migrant capabilities across the region are unlocked. ESOL at this college is self-assessed as outstanding and an identified area for development was to better facilitate progression for ESOL students to meaningful vocational qualifications. A full college curriculum review identified that progression routes from ESOL were inconsistent and were not always aligned to students’ skills, location and the local employment opportunities. The previous (and sector common) approach of low level vocational content embedded within ESOL courses was not effective for career progression nor particularly well recruited. This new ESOL PLUS model of cross college specialisms and integrated curriculum, strengthened with bespoke activities and support has quickly proven to be a success. Career routes now range from teaching assistants and health care through to service industries, accounting and specialist computing subjects.  More students are progressing from entry level ESOL to higher level vocational qualifications. Individuals are realising their career goals.

Gower College Swansea

Exhibiting outstanding commitment to raising awareness of apprenticeship opportunities and providing tailored support to individuals with disabilities, ensuring their optimal success. Dedicated efforts have resulted in a substantial increase in apprentices with disabilities, from a mere 1.6% in 2015 to an impressive 10% (141) of apprenticeship starts in 2022/2023. We have undertaken a comprehensive overhaul of our approach to identifying and supporting apprentices with disabilities and those presenting potential additional learning needs. This proactive approach extends to promoting the extensive support available to learners with disabilities, sensory impairments, additional learning needs, and work/life-limiting health conditions. Furthermore, we have cultivated robust external support networks across the country, facilitating diagnostic assessments in close proximity to the apprentice and their employer. Our commitment goes beyond the minimum expected standards of screening and support for our disabled learners. Many of these individuals have faced learning and working challenges without formal diagnosis or support until embarking on their apprenticeships with us. In summary, Gower College Swansea is at the forefront of championing inclusivity and equal opportunities, exemplified by our remarkable achievements in increasing the participation and success of apprentices with disabilities. Underscoring our commitment to creating a supportive and accessible apprenticeships for all.

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