The Bedford College Group has won the title of FE College of the Year in the prestigious Times Educational Supplement (TES) Further Education awards.
The awards were held on Friday 16 October 2020.
The Group, which comprises Bedford College, Shuttleworth College and The Bedford Sixth Form in Bedfordshire, and National College for Motorsport and Tresham College in Northamptonshire has risen to become one of the top FE establishments in the UK and a leading provider of employer-related education.
Ian Pryce CBE, Principal and CEO who has steered the Group to this success said:
The awards night was a wonderful celebration of the work of our extraordinary sector. I’m still in shock.
The shortlist for College of the Year was very strong, so to be judged the winner is one of the best moments of my two decades at The Bedford College Group. It has been a very special year for us on so many fronts.
“The congratulations of so many friends and colleagues in the sector is overwhelming. I am so proud of our 1,200 staff and 16,000 students and so privileged to be allowed to be their Principal. I never thought an online event could be so emotional.”
Bedford College took on a huge challenge merging with Tresham College in 2017. Tresham was a large college in a different county, rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2016 and with extensive financial deficits. However, passion, determination and exceptional hard work from staff at all levels of the College has culminated with Ofsted’s recent announcement that The Bedford College Group, (including Tresham), is rated Good in all areas, with adult and young learners developing “excellent” study skills. The Skills Funding Agency has also formally confirmed the College’s status as Outstanding for financial health with a £1million surplus.
According to the latest DfE’s Overall Institution Achievement Rates Tables 2017-18 the College is first in the Eastern region with overall achievement at 89%. The Group is also above national average for achievement in GCSEs, English, maths and apprenticeships. In addition, 2019 recruitment for Tresham College exceeded targets by 15%, with 2,543 students enrolling against a target of 2,215 and overall Group recruitment for 2019 was 13,709.
The College evaluates professional practice through learning walks, drop-ins, observations, student feedback and assessment reviews. New staff are given teacher toolkits and are supported by Advanced Practitioners. The Group invests at least 1% of total income on staff development each year, which helps develop teachers of outstanding calibre, who win national awards.
In 2017 Judith Larsen won TES FE Teacher of the Year, in 2018 Keith Haynes was named TES FE Assessor of the Year and in 2019 Samantha Jones won TES FE Teacher of the Year.
The College has invested in its seven campuses, including a £3.65 million Zoological Education Centre at Shuttleworth which opened in September 2019, the first of its type developed with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and providing a unique learning environment for students. The College has also been awarded £7.5million from SEMLEP to redevelop the Wellingborough campus, enabling 1,000 additional students to study locally.
The College’s new Buchanan Centre for advanced engineering opened in October 2018 and is specifically designed to meet the needs of businesses in the region. The building received £2.5 million funding from SEMLEP, £170K from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund and the Connolly Foundation of Bedfordshire funded a virtual reality suite. In 2018 the College was also granted membership of the Chartered Institution for Further Education under its Royal Charter in recognition of its exemplary position in the sector.
At the 2020 event, The Bedford College Group also won the Professional Services Team award for the fabulous five who have overseen these developments.
Our Estates Team is so unassuming, yet so committed to making the student experience special from the minute they arrive on campus. This year they have performed exceptionally in the most difficult circumstances, keeping us safe, yet still managing to complete three major construction projects on time and budget. I hope every college estates team will feel the award recognises their work too.
*Ian is known in FE circles as the singing principal, having put his long-term musical hobby to good in re-writing lyrics of well known songs to contain educational themes. The Dolly Parton character, serenading the e-audience at the TES FE Awards, made a special reference to Ian as part of the show.