Profile 13 welsh government award for engaging learners who are not in employment education or training - neath port talbot college
2012 – 2013 WELSH GOVERNMENT AWARD FOR ENGAGLING LEARNERS WHO ARE NOT IN EMPLOYMENT,
EDUCATION OR TRAINING
NEATH PORT TALBOT COLLEGE
RAISING THE QUALITY OF SUPPORT FOR LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN AND CARE LEAVERS
The Planning: Purpose and Process
Following a Barnardo’s Quality Report, the College recognised that looked after children and care leavers were a
particularly vulnerable cohort that generally had poorer outcomes than the wider population in relation to
educational achievement. The College is based within the local authority with the highest proportion of looked after
children in the UK.
The College had already developed a protocol between the Local Authority Looked after Children Education
Coordinator and the Leaving Care Team to ensure continuity in the planning and provision of the most appropriate
educational, training, careers and support services to meet the needs of looked after children and care leavers.
The aim of the project was to raise the quality of support for looked after children and care leavers, providing the best
possible opportunities for them to enter and continue on programmes of study and achieve their chosen qualification,
improving their access to employment and HE.
Planning into Practice
In 2009, the College participated in a pilot with Buttle UK to expand the existing Quality Mark for Care Leavers in HE
into the Further Education sector. In developing the project plan for the FE Quality Mark it was evident that, although
the College practise was meeting many of the criteria, it helped identify gaps in the support and focused attention on
activities to address the shortfalls in provision.
As a result, the Senior Officer in Learner Services was appointed as the Designated Contact with responsibility for all
looked after children and care leavers. This role would further develop the partnership and protocol with the Local
Authority Leaving Care Team and other Local Authorities, and provide guidance, support time and advocacy pre-
entry, during enrolment and throughout the young person’s time in College.
In addition, the Head of School for Pre-Vocational Studies had the responsibility for the Looked After Children (LAC)
with additional needs and the Director for Learners played a strategic role in overseeing the implementation of
processes and chairing the monitoring group.
The appointment of a Designated Contact helped to facilitate the confidential sharing of information of looked after
children and care leavers who could potentially enrol or who were studying at the College from the Local Authority.
To ensure that all LAC were identified and offered the same level of support as those under the Local Authority, the
Designated Contact promoted the service and developed relationships with out of county Leaving Care Teams. This
has resulted in LAC and care leavers from eight Local Authorities being supported at the College. To further help
identify those young people out of county, the question whether a young person is a looked after child or care leaver
has been added to the Interview Checklist which is completed during the enrolment process.
In partnership with social workers and the LAC Education Coordinator, the Designated Contact developed early
links with the young people prior to the start of term; this included attending consultation days arranged by the local
Leaving Care Team. This provided opportunities to meet the young people and give information about the kind of
support and financial assistance they will receive at the College as well as advice and guidance on courses and
careers. The Designated Contact also arranged visits to the College prior to the start of term to help young people
with the transition to FE; the Head of Pre-Vocational Studies arranges pre-induction days for young people with
additional needs to facilitate familiarisation with the College campus and staff.
Through social workers, the Designated Contact arranged meetings with any young care leavers not engaged in
employment, education or training to ascertain their aspirations and barriers to learning and facilitated meetings with
careers advisers, lecturers and the College Work-Based Learning staff to establish the most appropriate learning
Applications from LAC and care leavers were tracked to ensure any issues are resolved early and, where necessary,
provide extra support including facilitating meetings with Careers Advisers and lecturers if they are unsure of their
choices. This also provides a way of identifying those young people that have not applied, attended interviews or
accepted their offers, so that barriers can be identified and the appropriate support, advice, guidance and
encouragement can be given to help them continue their education.
The College prioritises (amongst others) this group of learners with financial help from the Learner Support Fund.
The Designated Contact arranges early completion of the applications to ensure that help with College transport,
meals, course equipment and clothing is all in place before the start of term. This has helped remove financial barriers
to starting College, thus raising opportunities for learners to engage with and continue their education.
Enrolment has been made an easier process with dedicated days and rooms with their social workers present to
support their young people. The Designated Contact oversees the enrolment process including support with
interviews, careers advice and guidance and the issue of free bus passes. The Designated Contact also facilitates the
agreement of flexible admissions processes including discretion where course entry requirements have narrowly been
Whilst on programme, the young people have an accessible main point of contact who can advocate for them on all
College matters, someone who knows their individual social workers and carers and provides consistent and
dedicated support throughout their time in the College. Working in Partnership with social workers, housing support
workers and lecturers, extra support can be provided through challenging times, for example for those moving from
residential care or foster placement to independence.
The Designated Contact tracks the recruitment, retention, achievement and progression of this group of learners and
reports to the Senior Management Team. In academic year 2010-11, there were 43 looked after children or care leavers
identified on programme studying at all levels and subject areas across the College. This was a 79 per cent increase
from 2009-10. This was due to the combination of both the retention of learners from 2009-10 and the expansion of the
support service to out of county Leaving Care Teams.
The Quality Mark has provided the College with the framework to measure the quality of the service it provides and
the opportunity to work at a national and local level to promote a framework to assess the quality of the service
provided for those highly vulnerable young people.
The College has begun to extend this support model to other vulnerable groups including young carers, young
people estranged and independent, those from the travelling community and young people disengaged from
mainstream education. This is being achieved through further development of partnership working. For example, to
support young carers up to the age of 18 the College works closely with Crossroads Young Carers project. The
College also works closely with the Youth Service to engage young people who are NEET or disengaged from main
stream education by offering tasters and flexible learning programmes.
Outcomes/Benefits to Date
The immense benefit to learners is demonstrated by how the recruitment, retention attainment and progression rates
have improved dramatically since the project began.
The College had already been awarded the Buttle UK FE Quality Mark. Receiving the AoC Beacon Award, however,
has raised the College’s standing even further in this area of work, and the robust support network through all stages
of recruitment, retention and achievement for this vulnerable cohort is having a positive impact with local authorities,
learners, carers and other support agencies who work with vulnerable young people such as the homeless and young
The award money went directly to the learners in the form of a monetary award given at the end of each academic
year for young people from this cohort who are nominated for outstanding academic achievement or outstanding
contribution to College life. This means that the Beacon Award money has the potential to last for at least ten years
Relevance and Replication
The sharing of good practice has resulted in another FE College developing a similar protocol for looked after
children and has been awarded the Buttle UK FE Quality Mark. A further four Colleges have appointed a Designated
Contact to support this particular cohort and one has gained the Buttle UK FE Quality Mark.
The project is considered to be of value for many in intervening early with looked after children, as without this
engagement some young people might have continued their path resulting in extra demands being put on health,
social services and police resources.
The anonymous integration of care children into mainstream courses, investment in time to consult with foster
parents, care staff and each student and voluntary peer mentoring are all key strengths in this project. The FE sector
would benefit greatly from learning about this project.
For more information, please contact:
Tel: 01639 648376