The Bedford College Group has taken another national award which demonstrates how it has risen to the challenges of 2020.
Fresh from it success of being voted the TES FE College of the Year, it took the new Best of the Best 2020 title, decided by educational peers in the FE First College Marketing Network Awards.
It also won the Gold prize at the same competition on November 30th, for its Targeted Recruitment Campaign developed for the new look £10m Wellingborough campus, part of Tresham College, and was Highly Commended for its Group-wide Virtual Open Days held this year as an alternative to the face-to-face events held for prospective students.
When Bedford College merged with Tresham College in August 2017, to create The Bedford College Group, one of the first priorities was to deliver on the historical promise that had been made to redevelop Tresham’s campus in Wellingborough. This campus had been considered unfit for purpose since 2015, but Tresham’s financial position at that time meant they were not able to provide the investment needed to redevelop it.
By the time of the merger in 2017, Wellingborough was the smallest of Tresham’s campuses with 60 students studying full-time motor vehicle courses at Level 2. In the past, Wellingborough had offered a wide range of courses including: access to higher education, computing; electrical installation; engineering; hairdressing and health & social care.
The Bedford College Group immediately recognised the importance of honouring the promise that Tresham had previously made to the Wellingborough community. Acting quickly, they commissioned extensive market research and undertook local consultations to fully understand their needs. The research confirmed that Wellingborough was the only town of its size compared to 15 comparator authorities that did not have a dedicated further education provision offering a range of curriculum areas. In addition, the community of Wellingborough had very low levels of attainment and was below the average for East Midlands and England at all levels, from Level 1 to Level 4. Wellingborough also had four Lower layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in the top 10% of most deprived LSOAs in England.
By July 2018, The Bedford College Group’s Finance Team secured £7.5 million of SEMLEP support from the Local Growth Fund for the redevelopment of the Wellingborough campus and building work started with planned completion for September 2020.
Ian Pryce CBE, Principal and CEO of The Bedford College Group said: “We are especially proud of the work undertaken to reach out to the community and help us on our path towards welcoming 1,000 students and staff at the new look, town centre campus. None of this would have been possible without the support of SEMLEP Local Growth Fund and Wellingborough Borough Council who share this success with us.”
Once the building works began, the marketing team were tasked with ensuring that the local community were kept fully up-to-date with the latest developments and, most importantly, that recruitment targets for the courses starting in September 2020 were met.
The teams involved in the campaign faced further challenges in March 2020 with the Covd-19 pandemic and lockdown. The marketing team reacted quickly to reassure the local Wellingborough community that the redevelopment of the campus would continue, with strict adherence to government guidelines and that courses would still run from September 2020.
The key target audiences for the Wellingborough Redevelopment Recruitment Campaign were:
- 16-18 year old students living in Wellingborough and East Northamptonshire
- Year 10 and 11 age groups.
- Adults (aged 19+) in Wellingborough and East Northamptonshire looking to study their first full-time Level 2 or Level 3 qualification (excluding Access courses) within the wards above.
- Employers in Northamptonshire
The Wellingborough Redevelopment Recruitment Campaign was designed to reach all these target audiences and ensure the enrolment targets were met and was also supported by a major communication campaign. Focusing on those wards in East Northamptonshire and Wellingborough that were within a 10-15 minute drive from the campus or on a public transport route. It also took into account the quality of education provided in those areas and the growth in population expected from new housing developments.