West Suffolk College has consistently demonstrated good practice in supporting their students’ achievement, particularly in their Access to HE Diploma (Counselling) course. Over the past three years, they have achieved an impressive average of 94.8% for their achievement rates, in comparison to the QAA national benchmark of 78.4%.
To explore West Suffolk College’s consistently outstanding achievement, our Quality and Development Officer spoke with their course team. There are a wide range of reasons West Suffolk College has done so well and maintained high achievement rates, including: their Interview process, introductory courses, course induction, tutorials and support, buddying-system, teaching practice and their approach to late starters.
The college demonstrates good practice by using a robust interview process that incorporates the Warner technique. This technique enables the college to dive deeper into candidates' motivations, attitudes and aspirations for becoming a counsellor. Within every interview, candidates are asked how they spend their free time. This query not only offers insight into their personal interests but also presents an occasion for the college to emphasise the significance of prioritising mental well-being and the value of self-care.
This practice showcases the college's commitment to nurturing counsellors who not only possess the necessary skills but also embody a holistic approach to their own mental health, thereby promoting a culture of self-care within the profession.
The college has implemented a comprehensive introductory course that plays a significant role in supporting their high achievement rates. They offer a 10-week taster programme, which prepares students for their Access to HE Diploma. Within the introductory courses, the college sets clear expectations aligned with the principles of the British Association for Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP), and students are required to sign an agreement acknowledging these principles. This ensures that students are aware of the professional standards and ethical considerations associated with their field of study.
They also offer a Pre-Access course that focuses on developing skills that will be beneficial for students at Level 3, regardless of the subject area. This course covers various aspects such as IT proficiency and writing skills.By providing a supportive and comprehensive introductory course, the college creates a solid foundation for students, setting them up for achievement and facilitating a smooth transition into their Access to HE Diplomas.
The college's induction programme is another key factor for their high achievement rates. It is structured to align with the regular weekly timetable, ensuring that students have a dedicated time to familiarise themselves with essential aspects of their academic journey. Students receive an overview of the Access to HE program, gaining a clear understanding of its purpose, structure, and the opportunities it presents. Additionally, they are provided with a thorough induction to the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which is an essential digital platform for accessing course materials, resources, and interactive tools.
Students are made aware of the extensive range of academic resources, such as libraries, research databases, and study spaces, empowering them to make the most of the college's facilities. A well-rounded induction programme ensures that students have a solid understanding of the Access to HE programme, the college's resources, and the tools necessary for success. This approach supports their overall achievement rates.
Tutorials and support
Tutorials and support from staff are contributing factors to West Suffolk’s success. Regular communication and progress monitoring takes place and students have the flexibility to request tutorials as needed, allowing for personalised assistance and guidance. The college offers the support of two pastoral workers who are available to address any concerns that students may have. They take a collaborative approach to support all students, exemplified by a recent example where multiple departments collaborated to assist a learner, showcasing the benefits of teamwork and cross-college cooperation.
West Suffolk College recognises the importance of peer support and has implemented a buddying system. This system facilitates support among students during times of absences or other challenges. Students share resources and give peer feedback increasing their skillset.
The college's teaching practices are designed to maximise student engagement and practical application of theoretical knowledge. The timetable is structured such that students have dedicated theory days followed by practical sessions. This arrangement allows students to immediately apply the theoretical concepts they have learned in a practical setting. The course tutors, who are practising counsellors themselves, share real-life experiences with students, illustrating the relevance and practicality of the content. This approach ensures that the curriculum remains modern and up-to-date.
Tutors actively foster empowerment and resilience-building in students. The team emphasises the supportive nature of the student cohort, where mutual support and respect thrive. Tutors act as role models, setting clear boundaries and expectations while exemplifying good practice. This fosters a positive learning environment where students aspire to emulate their tutors' professionalism and expertise.
All of these areas contribute to West Suffolk College’s successful achievement rate.
The CAVA team would like to congratulate West Suffolk College for their hard work and thank them for sharing their good practice.