Sharing Innovative Approaches to Delivering 16-19 Study
Bishop Auckland College
Matching Learner and Employer
The mission of Bishop Auckland College is:
“To enhance the economic prosperity of young
people, adults and employers through high quality,
work-related education and training.”
Bishop Auckland College is the main vocational
learning provider in South and West Durham, an
area which combines industrial towns such as Spennymoor, Bishop Auckland and Newton
Aycliffe, together with the remote rural villages of the Durham Dales. The population of South
West Durham is around 180,000 and is spread across the three former districts of Weardale,
Teesdale and Sedgefield.
The levels of worklessness are high and the number of incapacity benefit claimants within the
Wear Valley and Sedgefield areas is also high. Levels of literacy and numeracy among the adult
population are low. Half of the wards in the area are within the top 20% on the National Index of
Multiple Deprivation (IMD).
When Ofsted reported on the College in 2012 it found the overall effectiveness of provision to be
“good”, which highlights our commitment to providing a quality learning experience for all of
our students. Ofsted noted that the percentage of Year 11 pupils in the region achieving five GCSE
grades at A* to C, including English and Mathematics, is improving but remains below regional
and national averages. In 2012/13, 57% of our 16-18 year old cohort, were from disadvantaged
Students joining the College may select from a comprehensive programme of full and part-time
courses in a wide range of disciplines, e.g. Catering, Music, Art & Design, Construction, Childcare,
Hairdressing and many more, with the majority leading to nationally validated qualifications. We
currently have over 800 students enrolled on full-time courses.
The College has an extensive range of apprenticeship training opportunities for both young
people and adults and works with over 250 employers. The College also offers HE programmes
and has well established links with the University of Sunderland.
Members of staff are highly qualified and experienced, regularly updating their qualifications and
industrial experience to ensure the quality and relevance of our provision.
Given the high levels of disadvantage in the area the importance of making the right educational
choices post-16 is evident. The College’s approach to excellence in careers information, advice and
guidance is reflected in its Careers Entitlement Statement:
“The College is committed to ensuring that high quality, timely, accurate and impartial careers
education, information advice and guidance is provided to support people to make informed
decisions. This involves making realistic choices about future plans and developing skills to
prepare for progression into further study or employment”.
“Our approach to Study Programmes has enabled our students to see
the value of English and maths for their future careers.”
Richard Hinch, Director of Curriculum
Naturally, robust labour market intelligence forms the foundation of curriculum planning at
Bishop Auckland College, ensuring that Study Programmes are preparing young people and
adults for real employment opportunities. This is a challenging area and the College sees its
primary role in enhancing the economic prosperity of individuals and businesses and supporting
the economic development agenda more generally.
In line with policy, Study Programmes were introduced in September 2013 and careful
curriculum planning has ensured that courses are fit for purpose, cost effective and promote
progression. Through the College’s Skills and Enterprise Committee, employers and governors
play a strategic role in shaping the College’s curriculum offer, with staff course teams and students
playing a central role in shaping the more detailed curriculum design. Staff course teams and
students play a central role in shaping the more detailed curriculum design.
The many opportunities for students to influence improvement and development include
involvement of student representatives and ambassadors in a wide range of College activities.
Students are represented in Senior Management Team meetings, Corporate Board and key College
committees and team meetings. Students make a fantastic contribution to the College’s
marketing activities, where they demonstrate real pride in the College and in their role in College
life. In terms of spreading our message, we find that there are no better advocates than our own
passionate, committed and successful students.
All Study Programmes compromise a core aim, maths and English, enterprise activity, a group
tutorial and external work placement. There is some variation in the teaching hours
allocated to Study Programmes, depending upon the level of study, the specific curriculum
content and the needs of individual learners. Whilst all courses include a significant external work
placement, these form a more substantial element for certain programmes, and in particular those
that provide a direct foundation for apprenticeship routes.
The introduction of Study Programmes, with their emphasis on external work experience, has
provided a valuable springboard for development of the College’s approaches and systems for
securing meaningful work placements and also ensuring that opportunities for learning and
progression are maximised. We are finding that many students have secured employment or
apprenticeships as a result of very successful work placements. As the range of employer links is
extending through work placements, this is providing further opportunities for employers to
provide input into Study
Programmes and careers and
employability activities; in this way
subjects are really brought alive
with real industry examples. In
an allied development, the College
has really stepped up its
involvement in regional and
national skills competitions over
recent years; we see these as a
brilliant way to promote vocational
learning in a wide range of industry
specialisms, to raise the aspirations
of our students and to benchmark
our technical standards against the
very best. Our students are having
some fantastic successes and staff
English and Maths
A cross-College weekly thematic approach has
been taken to embedding maths and English
into vocational learning. Embedding
Functional Skills in this way has impacted
positively on learners perceptions of maths
As for many colleges, there are considerable
challenges around building students
competence and confidence in maths and
English and helping them to work towards
the all-important grade C at GCSE level.
We are making good progress and an example
of very successful integration of maths and English is in painting and decorating. Here the
vocational tutor is also an English teacher and learners have covered most of their functional skills
syllabus through trade- specific tasks. We know that embedding maths and English skills is critical
and it is an approach that we are strengthening across the College. Naturally, students see these
skills as more relevant when placed in the vocational context and this is reflected in attendance
and achievement levels.
really value the opportunity to pick up new ideas and good practice from other colleges too!
There is a strong focus on CPD to support teachers in developing teaching and learning
methodologies, with a weekly workshop, facilitated by Advanced Practitioners and Learning Area
Managers, ensuring that appropriate resources and time are allocated for ongoing development of
professional practice. Quality assurance mechanisms are well developed at Bishop Auckland
College and the views of students, employers, parents and other stakeholders are central in
informing improvement and developments.