Sharing Innovative Approaches to Delivering 16-19 Study
Bishop Auckland College
Matching Learner and Employer
The mission of Bishop Auckland College is:
“To promote social inclusion, fulfil aspirations and
develop the potential of individuals, communities
and employers through excellence in teaching,
training and learning.”
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 in the area are high and the number of incapacity benefit claimants
within the Wear Valley and Sedgefield areas has also been high. Levels of literacy and numeracy
among the adult population are low. Several wards in the area are within the top 10-15% on the
National Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) and in some of the more deprived wards within
the College’s catchment area, 71% of the population is below Level 2 in literacy and 80% is below
Level 2 in numeracy.
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. Just over 51% of the college’s students are from disadvantaged areas. An
increasing number of 14 to 16 year old pupils attend the College on a part-time basis. As Study
Programmes are further developed these pre-16 students can be better prepared for the learning
opportunities on offer when they leave school.
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. It works with over
250 employers who employ both young people aged between 16 and 24 and adults over 25 on
apprenticeships. 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 value of excellent careers information, advice and guidance is
“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
recognised by the College through 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”.
All areas of the full-time curriculum at the College have embraced the Study Programme concept
since September 2013, and careful curricular planning has been adhered to, to ensure courses are
fit for purpose and cost effective. Curriculum planning has been carried out with entire teams,
including representation from current learners who give invaluable input as to what has worked
and what changes would benefit their particular course in a positive way in the future.
All Study Programmes have been made up of a Core Aim, Maths and English, Enterprise activity,
a Group Tutorial and external Work Placement. The hours attributed to each programme
varies depending on the level the programme is taught at, but as a rule of thumb, all programmes
are based around a minimum of 540 hours delivery. Reasons for any variation are dependent on
course content. In some cases the work placement may be a larger requirement for certain
Foundation Learning programmes, in preparation for being able to apply for future
Study Programmes at Bishop Auckland College are continually analysed to ensure that the learner
journey and end-outcomes match learners’ expectations, as well as the expectations of future
employers. Wherever possible Maths and English are embedded into all classes, and weekly
teaching and learning workshops are attended by all teaching staff to embrace new themes, and to
analyse any student feedback regarding class delivery that may need to addressed. This
constitutes a dynamic, student-centred and interactive form of continuing professional
Students play an active role in shaping programmes and ensuring quality across Bishop Auckland
College, with regular attendance at all senior management team, Corporation Board and weekly
departmental team meetings. We are very proud that the learner voice in our college provides the
springboard to facilitate change for the better.
Mandatory work experience through Study Programmes has been successful, and we have found
that many learners who have attended have been offered apprenticeships on the back of it. In
addition to this, we invite employers into the College to give an external overview of what
additional content or learning styles would enhance our vocational Study Programmes. This is
invaluable for learners as they are
able to see opportunities through
learning to access meaningful
employment in their preferred
vocational area. The College’s
timetabling of Study Programmes
also enables learners to access
All learners are offered free gym
membership, supervised by
personal trainers, and in-house
competitions are introduced early in
the year so that in the Spring Term learners may enter regional and national competitions, which
has improved their social, employment and interactive skills.
Finally, the College constantly analyses Local Market Intelligence data, to ascertain what new
Study Programmes we should be developing in line with employment opportunities and
business growth within the area. This LMI related career information is shared with all our
learners through student forums, held termly on all campuses.
English and Maths
Vocational tutors also deliver integrated Functional Skills to their learners on Study Programmes,
through a pilot approach developed for 2013/14. This has been a great success in both
achievement to date and attendance. Embedding Functional Skills has impacted positively on
learners’ perceptions of Maths and English, which are now seen as useful and relevant to their
An example of where integration of Maths and English has worked extremely well this year is
in Painting and Decorating, where the vocational tutor is also an English teacher; learners have
covered their entire Functional Skills syllabus from trade- specific tasks. This has also happened in
some of our foundation learning classes, where both English and Maths have been totally
embedded into Vocational Access and Aim to Work programmes.
By embedding Functional Skills as a college we have seen a marked improvement in attendance,
which has also allowed to us to set entry criteria for courses for learners wishing to progress onto
a higher course. This in turn has helped to us to re-model our curriculum regarding work
experience and industry related placements, raising aspirations of our learners to move into
apprenticeships and/or worthwhile employment.