College’s work-based learning programmes are highly rated

ONE of Wales’ leading further education colleges has been praised by inspectors, who hailed its “excellent” relationship with employers.

Deeside College, which operates in Flintshire, Denbighshire and Wrexham, was rated “good” overall with “excellent” prospects for improvement.

Education watchdog Estyn said Deeside’s work-based learning programmes were well suited to the needs of learners and employers including Airbus, Flintshire council and UPM Shotton Paper.

The innovative use of technology by students and staff was also highlighted as a key strength of the college’s provision.

Reporting inspector Mark Evans said: “Overall, the college delivers a comprehensive range of work-based learning programmes that meet the needs of learners and employers very well. Learners benefit from very good progression opportunities on nearly all courses.

“The college has developed and maintains excellent relationships with a very wide range of employers, including multi- national and small to medium enterprise.

“These relationships give learners excellent opportunities to develop their practical competence and theory knowledge. Those learners who undertake training at a large local aerospace company benefit from an outstanding learning experience.”

In their evaluations, inspectors rate on a four-point scale of excellent, good, adequate or unsatisfactory for three key questions.

Deeside was rated good in two and excellent in one but Estyn also recognised the college’s excellent progress in areas of leadership and resource management.

Following a thorough assessment in February, officials ruled that work-based learning at the college provides good value for money.

Deeside has a £4.9m contract to deliver apprenticeship programmes across North Wales, which has a higher employment rate than the all-Wales average.

At the time of inspection, the college had more than 2,000 work-based learners enrolled on programmes funded by the Welsh Government.

Mr Evans added: “Overall, most learners receive very good support from their workplace supervisors and mentors.

“Employers are committed to improving learners’ practical competence and theory knowledge. Nearly all assessors have developed very good working relationships with a wide range of employers.”

Mr Evans said the majority of learners make good progress but in a few cases, assessors do not provide the effective challenge required.

And while inspectors found there was “very little evidence” of the use of Welsh, they said the college was starting to make progress in developing its use of the Welsh language.

Principal and chief executive David Jones is a key part of Deeside’s management structure, which “helps to ensure an effective, shared understanding of the college’s planning and development priorities”.

Mr Jones, who has overseen mergers with Coleg Llysfasi in Denbighshire and the Welsh College of Horticulture, said: “The inspection process was very robust and was conducted under the new and more demanding inspection framework.

“We are delighted that the hard work and high standards achieved by our learners, staff and partners across all four college sites and in the workplaces has been fully recognised in this report.

“We are very pleased to be setting the standard for work-based learning in Wales and the inspection outcomes are testament to the professionalism and dedication of the staff and the determination of our students and their employers to achieve the highest possible standards.”

Inspectors singled out the clear vision of the college and its ability to help meet the training and development needs of local industries.

Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant said: “Deeside College has consistently maintained high standards of education and this report is another endorsement.

“Under increasingly demanding inspections, Deeside has set a benchmark to be followed by others and I am delighted that they continue to demonstrate their commitment to high quality education and training.”

Paul Champion

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