From education to employment

Exclusive: Richard Emmett

Thirteen colleges and other learning providers were praised for their hard work, dedication and commitment to improvement earlier this week when they were awarded Learning and Skills Beacon status.

Presenting the awards at a ceremony in London on Wednesday 29th November, Bill Rammell, Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, told the new Beacons that they were a shining example to the post-16 education sector.

“Your innovation, leadership and management has helped to inspire learners and delivered consistently high levels of performance,” he said. “For many of you, this is the culmination of years of work; real graft to ensure you meet the learning needs of your students, employers and communities as effectively as possible”.

The Minister reminded the Beacons that their pursuit of excellence must be a continuous endeavour and he hoped they would work with the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) in its drive for improvement in the Further Education system.

QIA Chief Executive Andrew Thomson emphasised that the work the new Beacons were doing was very important, not only to the future of the Further Education system but also to the country. They were now well placed to act as ambassadors for quality improvement in the sector.

“It strikes me that organisations that are as good as you are, are innovative, enterprising and motivating places to work,” he said. “People need to get out of bed in the morning feeling that they really want to do the training and courses that your organisation offers”.

“There will be other organisations out there who will want to learn from you, as Beacons, how to do things better. What we have to do is to orchestrate the systematic transfer of that knowledge to the system so that people can access the information”.

Mr Thomson added that this was an exciting time for the providers to be joining the Beacons network. This year the QIA has invested £1 million in innovation projects developed by Beacons to test new and innovative approaches to learning.

There are now 99 Learning and Skills Beacons in England. They include general FE colleges, tertiary colleges, sixth form colleges, work-based learning providers and adult community learning providers. Beacons are required to work with QIA to help improve the performance of colleges and other providers in the sector.

Among the new Beacons is The British Racing School, a Newmarket-based organisation which provides and promotes training and education for people employed in the horse racing industry. According to its Chief Executive, Rory MacDonald, achieving Beacon status is a tremendous acknowledgement of the hard work done by his staff.

He said: “I would like to think that it recognises our approach to training. It is important that training provision is geared to the market and we are hooked up to the requirements of employers in the industry”.

And Andrew Taylor, Managing Director of Mercia Partnership, based on Merseyside, said the award of Beacon status was recognition for his staff who help around 4,500 people a year to improve their literacy, numeracy and IT skills.

“It’s fantastic and we all feel very motivated”, said Mr Taylor. “Beacon status is very important to us because we want to grow as an organisation.”

The full list of organisations awarded Beacon status yesterday is as follows:

Manchester Training Ltd (Middleton, Greater Manchester)

Mercia Partnership (UK) Ltd (Prescot, Merseyside)

North East Worcestershire College (Redditch, Worcestershire)

Reynolds Group (Bexley, Kent)

Sir John Deane’s Sixth Form College (Northwich, Cheshire)

St Dominic’s Sixth Form College (Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex)

St Francis Xavier College (London SW12)

Telford College of Arts and Technology (Wellington, Shropshire)

The British Racing School (Newmarket, Suffolk)

The Oxford School of Drama (Woodstock, Oxfordshire)

Trackss Ltd (Whitstable, Kent)

Walsall Housing Group (Walsall, West Midlands)

West Suffolk College (Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk)

Richard Emmett, Communications Manager, Quality Improvement Agency.

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