Additional support inspires success in Wales

There are lots of reasons why it can be a challenge to keep students engaged with vocational education. Sometimes meeting students’ needs means not only delivering an excellent course, but also providing more tailored and holistic support. Students might require extra help to stay focused or encouragement to continue their course when things feel difficult. Learners can be distracted by non-academic worries about housing, welfare, health and wellbeing. Schools and colleges that offer pastoral care and extra support to students, however, may find that learners are able to stay more engaged.

This is certainly the strategy of a school in Wales, which has been inspiring success by offering additional support to students who are experiencing difficulties focusing on their learning. The school has started to identify students that are at risk of disengagement and has employed mentors with a wide variety of expertise in, for example, housing, to help students concentrate on their learning. Sara Williams, ADTRAC Regional Project Manager at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, has written about the project. 

Grŵp Llandrillo Menai (GLLM) is a Welsh Government funded college located in North Wales, UK.

It aims to inspire success by providing excellent education and training. The Grŵp supports the economy of North Wales by equipping people with the skills, attributes and qualifications needed to ensure the competiveness and success of the region and themselves.  Further to the organisation’s goals and priorities, the operation of the Grŵp is underpinned by the Welsh Government’s Youth Engagement and Progression Framework.

GLLM is dedicated to ensure that all learners are able to maximise the opportunity to progress and sustain the appropriate pathway. Under the organisations’ Learner Services pastoral care system, it is recognised that some learners may require additional help and support in order to deal with any difficulties they are experiencing to stay on track with their learning.  

In response to this need, the organisation has established Learner At Risk Panels (LARP) which focus on those learners who are at risk of disengaging from their learning, so that interventions can be deployed to enable them to maximise their potential to achieve their academic goals. 

At the LARP’s, the panel reviews the data from the Early Intervention Tool, which has been developed by GLLM in partnership with key stakeholders. The tool uses key indicators from learner data including attendance, basic skills, behaviour and welfare needs to identify a learner’s ‘at risk’ of disengagement status. These indicators are then used to form a score. 

The Early Intervention Tool is run for all full time further education learners aged 16-24 across GLLM twice a year. For those scoring in the top 15 per cent, a review is undertaken of the support package in place for the learners, to review what support is in place and what could be offered in order to improve the learners’ status. For those learners scoring in the top 8% of the full learner cohort, a review is undertaken to determine whether they can receive additional support from the EU-funded TRAC project.

TRAC 11-24 is funded by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government, and offers targeted support to reduce the number of young people aged 11-24 who are most at risk of becoming not engaged in education, employment or training (NEET) in North Wales. This support is through a range of interventions that will complement but not duplicate mainstream services. The project is being led by Denbighshire County Council, and works in partnership across the six local authorities with Careers Wales and local colleges. How the project is delivered in each organisation differs based on existing structures and provision already available. 

At GLLM the project works with learners aged 16-24 who are in full time further education and are identified as being the most at risk of disengagement and supports where no other funded provision available is suitable to meet the needs of learners. The aim of the project is to ensure that the learners are supported to stay on programme and to complete their course.

The project delivers intensive support from the delivery team consisting of TRAC welfare mentors, academic mentors and counsellors to address the barriers or concerns which are affecting the learner’s engagement.

This includes regular personalised ‘SMART’ action plans which complement the existing quality measures in place within the organisation and a review of soft outcomes. Throughout the project, the learners Early Intervention Tool score is reviewed on a ten weekly rotation to measure the distance travelled by the learner as a consequence of the score and to also analyse the score in comparison to their peers. Our mentors and trainers are equipped to help with a range of issues such as housing, welfare, health and wellbeing all of which have impact upon learner engagement.

At GLLM the project is in its first year of delivery and will be operational until 2018.  Already TRAC is supporting learners and whilst it is early days to start measuring success, the indications are very positive for helping our at-risk learners on their way to achieving their potential.

To find out more about TRAC’s work at GLLM contact: Sara Williams, ADTRAC Regional Project Manager, GLLM.