Good practice from Standards Management: Truro and Penwith College

Due to the cost of living crisis, retention is an ongoing issue across the country. CAVA members continue to implement a range of support for their students to counteract these issues and ensure their students can achieve to the best of their ability.

Over the past five years, Truro and Penwith College has supported their Access to HE students to have a high retention rate and strong grade outcomes. Recently, their Access to HE Coordinator met with Georgia Green, CAVA's Communication and Events Officer, to discuss their effective practices.

Support from application

Truro and Penwith College begin their support for students before they are accepted onto one of their Access to HE courses, by engaging with students via a phone call during the application stage. Within this discussion, students are encouraged to look into career exploration and consider different higher education (HE) progression routes which they may be interested in. This focuses students on the reasons why they are studying and serves as a key motivator throughout their course.

Additionally, Truro and Penwith College encourages students to explore the UCAS website, to gain a thorough understanding of the requirements of their preferred HE options, such as specific GCSE grades in particular subjects. This comprehensive approach ensures that students are well-prepared for their interviews, the course, and their chosen progression route.

Support for additional needs

To enable student success, it is important that the right support is in place from the start. At the application stage, college staff review each students’ application form to identify any additional needs of the student. This may include; exam concessions, coloured paper, a quiet room, or medical conditions which may impact their ability to attend college or submit assignments. Staff focus on both the physical and mental needs of the student.

During the interview, the students have an opportunity to disclose any information they would like the college to be aware of and contribute to their picture of need. If needed, the exams office will follow this up by sending the picture of need to tutors and lecturers, so that they gain a wider understanding of the student to further support them throughout the course.

There is also a chance to discuss the course, explaining the structure of the units alongside the method of assessments. The college expectations are also clearly outlined, including coursework which will take place outside of the classroom, the different deadliness and the attendance expectations. This supports the students by ensuring they fully understand how rigorous the course will be before they begin.

The college also uses this opportunity to share the variety of additional support for the students including literacy, numeracy and finances. Different bursaries including the adult learner bursary is also explained during the interview stage, to remove any barriers for the students around payment. This support is emphasised throughout the year to ensure all students are aware of it and understand how to access it.

Pastoral support

During induction, students have a chance to meet other students as well as lecturers who they will be working closely with during the course. A team of learning mentors are also accessible at this time for students to understand what they offer. During the course, students can arrange meetings as often as they need to, to discuss academic support or strengthening study skills such as time management or organisation. A student can self refer at any point; a lecturer or tutor can also refer them if they feel it would be helpful.

Truro and Penwith College also offer tutorials and have a personal tutor for their students. The tutorials focus on a range of topics including health and safety, wellbeing and prevention. These are often given by local university lecturers as well as internal tutors. The students also have one and a half hours each week with their personal tutor to ensure a strong relationship is built.

Learning development

Truro and Penwith College credits their students doing so well due to the structure of their units. Within their Access to HE Diploma (Science) course, students receive weekly homework which gives them an opportunity to practise the skills they will be graded on at a later date. Due to this, the students develop skills such as how to research, write reports and reference assignments before they have to demonstrate it on a graded unit. They also have ungraded lab skills where they secure their knowledge around practical skills and vocabulary to support their graded units later in the year.

Personal tutors also work with the student to monitor their learning throughout the year, using an ongoing review document which is created at the start of the course. This is used to support students with topics such as their assignments, writing personal statements and applying to UCAS. After the UCAS deadline, these tutor sessions focus on a range of study skills which are beneficial for the course, HE, and post-education.

Progression support

During induction, students are given a wide range of information about enrichment opportunities, student services, UCAS and their safeguarding officers. This information is revisited throughout the course, to ensure nothing is misunderstood or forgotten.

Throughout the course, students are encouraged to work towards their career progression and have the opportunity to have conversations with different career advisors and visit both the FE and HE careers zone where they can gain more information and support. This year, Truro and Penwith College have also introduced an online employment platform called Careers Connect. This supports and offers advice to Access to HE Diploma students around different career and progression routes.

Truro and Penwith College also offer ‘Mature Access Pathway’ which is a course run by Exeter University which includes multiple university visits, a chance to talk to mature students and an opportunity to break down misconceptions and increase their confidence around progressing to HE.

The CAVA team would like to congratulate Truro and Penwith College for their hard work and thank them for sharing their good practice.